De Volkskrant on working from home with a Charly Cares babysitter

In the following article, De Volkskrant writes about how a business babysitter can be a solution to parents who work from home:

Home, with a business babysitter

Working from home with children is far from ideal, especially if the kids also have to follow online lessons. Some employers offer their staff a solution: a paid daytime babysitter.

An almost-eaten cream cake with coloured speckles rests on the counter. Its preparation formed the first project that Laura van den Ing (21) used to occupy the two children she babysits this afternoon. Now, she whirls through the living room holding a blond 6-year-old girl in her arms, while the big brother (9) looks on laughing from the sofa. You wouldn't say from the way in which the children clamber all over the student, but this is only the second day that Van den Ing is working in this seventh-floor Amsterdam apartment, ‘like a one-man animation team on a campsite.’

In the bedroom a little way down the hall, mother Willemijn Koert stands next to a high table that in better times was used to display drinks and snacks at birthday parties. Now, it has found a new purpose as an improvised standing desk, from behind which Koert performs her work as a personal assistent at law firm Freshfields as well as possible. From the edge of the bed in the same rather cramped bedroom, her partner Jeanne has just started her new position as team manager at the municipality of Amsterdam this week.

No, the conditions for working from home are still far from ideal this second lockdown, but what is new is that the couple can quietly concentrate on work for at least part of the day while the children are being entertained by a babysitter in the living room. Freshfields, an international law firm situated on Amsterdam's Zuidas, is one of the employers that make use of the business service of babysitting app Charly Cares. Companies use the service to pay for a babysitter at home, which employees can choose themselves via the app. A company babysitter instead of a company car, as it were.

According to Charly Cares, dozens of employers are already active on the platform, from the Amsterdam OLVG hospital to the BijlesAcademie and a large international consultancy. ‘Some companies only use the service for emergencies, whereas others make a 2.000 euro budget available that employees can spend as they see fit,’ says Xander Koenen, co-founder of Charly Cares. ‘During the first lockdown, parents found solutions for combining homeschooling with working from home on a day-by-day basis. Now that it is all taking a bit longer, companies are looking for a more structural solution, so that their staff can still work productively.’

Charly Cares started as an app for parents looking for a babysitter for a night out. That marked has almost entirely dried up this past year with the closing of the hospitality industry, says babysitter Laura van den Ing. ‘People are now mostly looking for a babysitter for weekdays during the day.’ Normally, she would be pouring over the books for her study in Business Administration at this hour and spend the weekends earning a little extra on the side, now it's the other way around. ‘I think I should do some catch-up reading on Saturday.’ In the meantime, she is happy to be earning something again, seeing as how her prior part-time jobs in the hospitality industry have all stopped.

A Charly Cares babysitter in Amsterdam often costs around 10 euros per hour. Freshfields is making 60 euros per day available, initially for five days until January 19th. ‘And, if an employee is truly finding themselves in a difficult situation, more is possible in consultation,’ says managing partner Dirk-Jan Smit. So far, ten of approximately 160 employees have taken advantage of the offer. ‘I've noticed that people really appreciate it, even just the recognition of the challenges they are facing in combining taking care of young children with work. We don't want to just throw that struggle on the employee's plate.’ Moveover, according to Smit, everyone benefits if an employee can peacefully call a client from home and can spend at least a couple of hours every day working undisturbed. ‘If our people experience less stress, that is both good for them and for the office.’

In principle, a Charly Cares babysitter can also offer assistance with homeschooling, but not all parents are happy to outsource that particular task. Marlies de Wilde from Haarlem, candidate notary at Freshfields and mother of three, says she also makes use of the paid babysitter at home so that she can help her eldest with school. ‘I can hardly teach my 7-year-old when the 2-year-old keeps poking their head in. But, if the babysitter keeps the youngest kids, busy, I can get to work with my son next to me, who will occasionally ask a question about his schoolwork.’

‘I can hardly teach my 7-year-old when the 2-year-old keeps poking their head in. But, if the babysitter keeps the youngest kids, busy, I can get to work with my son next to me, who will occasionally ask a question about his schoolwork.’

Marlies de Wilde

In Amsterdam, Willemijn Koert has consciously chosen to guide the children with schoolwork in the mornings together with her partner, so that the babysitter can be there in the afternoon to do fun things with them. Even though it is only day two of this new work routine, it already feels a lot better than before, says Koert. ‘If you have to do everything at once, you feel inadequate everywhere. You can't give your children your undivided attention, but you also can't do your job one hundred percent.’

She had to cross a small threshold to bring in a strange babysitter, but that feeling has already passed on day two. ‘It's half past four, can i show Laura that video now?’, her daughter comes to ask her in the bedroom. Once getting permission, the blond girl runs away to join her babysitter in the living, screaming and singing enthusiastically. What Willemijn can therefore recommend to any person working from home with children: a pair of those special, noise-cancelling headphones.

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De Volkskrant, by Anneke Stoffelen