Supporting moms working from home during a pandemic

With schools closing across the U.S. in response to COVID-19, working mothers are struggling to manage their children’s education at home, on top of fulfilling professional and ongoing household responsibilities. To identify ways to support their members in meeting the increased professional, domestic, and educational demands of the home, HeyMama teamed up with architecture studio SOUR and Openbox to investigate the situation.

Openbox conducted a mini-research sprint with seven families that we designed to take place entirely on the WhatsApp messaging platform. Distributing our conversations over the course of one week allowed participants to respond in the moment—and moments that worked best for their schedules—and us to take a deeper look into the challenges they face.

(1/3) We asked participants to respond to our prompts with a range of media—from audio and video recordings, to photos of maps and drawings—giving us a rich picture of their experiences.
(2/3) This video prompt led Sarah to discover that she had been making some wrong assumptions about how Atticus feels when she is working at home.
(3/3) We checked in with moms throughout the week to capture any reflections in real-time.


Our learnings helped moms reframe their challenge from how to manage an excess of demands to how to co-work with their children in a home office. Many times, their children did not share the sentiment that their moms were doing a bad job of parenting—and in fact were quite aware of and worried about their mom’s stress levels.

Equipped with our research insights, HeyMama will embark on the next phase, to design solutions for these moms and families who are working from home.

Honoring children as participants

Key to our approach was creating a research plan that allowed for children to be included as equal participants. Each child took their own photos, interviewed their mom, and had their own dedicated time to reflect on the week with us. Activities were designed to reinforce their ability to voice their needs, with the week culminating in the co-creation of house rules between mom and child, which almost all child participants said was their favorite "homework” assignment from the week.

Stealing time from busy moms (thoughtfully)

We designed our conversations to be asynchronous. From early morning prompts to evening check-ins, the text-based interactions meant that moms could respond when time allowed. This flexibility ensured that moms and their children were able to fully participate.

In fact, some moms found the experience a worthwhile use of their time: “It was a lot more fun than I expected. I was kind of expecting that it’d be a lot of crafting and very intensive. But it was easy, and it prompted some good conversations between me and the kids.”