Asking, “how are you doing,” in the midst of a global pandemic, is a bit like asking a brand new parent if their baby is sleeping through the night. We kind of already know the answer.
These are challenging times, no doubt.
For those that do not have the option to work from home, who continue to be of service to their communities – thank you. We are so grateful for you.
For those of us that are fortunate to have this option – we can recognize how lucky we are – and still feel the struggle. It’s real.
Lots of people have been writing about this topic lately – for obvious reasons. Below is a collection of the best tips we’ve come across. Plus, each of our team members has shared a few things that are helping them.
We’ve scoured the web for some of the best tips. Here’s some of our favorites.
Set Clear Expectations
With your family, your co-workers and boss. Communicate more than necessary. And have grace for yourself and your colleagues.
Alternate On Times with Your Partner
If you are co-managing a household with another working adult – especially with schools and daycares closed, coordinating with each other’s schedules is a must.
Move your Body and Take Breaks
With no commute, there are fewer natural transitions through the day. Schedule in your breaks and give yourself opportunities to get up and move.
Understand that every day is different. One day might lend itself to wild productivity – the next day not so much. If it makes sense for your workflow, consider setting weekly goals instead of, or in addition to daily ones.
Wear Your Baby to Help Multi-Task
If you are working from home with a toddler or infant … WOW. This is no easy task, we get it. Multitask to optimize productivity. For example, take a call while you take a walk with little ones in a stroller and/or in a carrier.
Being a startup, we’re used to being scrappy and creative. Many of us have been working from home to some extent, even before the age of social distance. Here’s some ways we make it work.
Working from home with small children is a mixed bag. On one hand, they might come screaming into the room (during your conference call) to tell you LOUDLY that they went potty (Yay!), which can feel somewhat disruptive. On the other hand, knowing they’re safe, being lucky enough to work from home, and getting a middle-of-the-day squish-face kiss is pretty exceptional.
While working from home with two small kiddos can be challenging (because they’re little and inevitably want your attention when you’re in a meeting or really trying to focus on something that’s not their fancy ninja moves), there’s some tricks I use to help make it easier. I reserve certain things for them to do during work times only. I put away specific very loved toys, crafts or activities until there’s a time they’ll come in handy. It helps make those things stay exclusive and special–and yes, play-doh counts (However, I just realized that bunchems are like velcro to curly hair and they aren’t a craft for littles while you’re not exclusively paying attention to whether or not they’re putting 50 of those little things to their hair–it took awhile to get those suckers out).
Simple project bags are something I use too and make one for each kiddo, I put super simple office supplies like stickers, notepad, pen, post-it flags, calculator, highlighter—use your imagination, into a bag and voila. They only get them while I’m working. And sitting next to me while they do their “work,” helps them feel a part of my workday; they can be occupied for hours doing it (but some days all of those things end up being thrown all over the living room because they become “powers” in an animal spirit game they play). Also, getting outside for 30 minutes, even in cold weather, does wonders for everyone!
If your spouse or partner is also working from home, take a few minutes of break time together every couple of hours. In an office environment, when you get up to use the restroom or grab a coffee or water, you inevitably run into a co-worker and have a few minutes of conversation. This can go away when you’re working remotely.
Much like children, dogs can get bored & demand your attention too (especially during conference calls). Hide the favorite toys and bring them or a new chew toy out when you’re about to get on a call or really need that focus time. I also spend my downtimes walking around the neighborhood. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and clear my mind.
Often, working from home can make people feel like they have to be “on” all the time. In the office, you get built-in breaks to grab coffee or lunch. Don’t forget to take breaks at home, too! Even if it’s just looking out the window for a bit or walking around your house, taking breaks is proven to boost creativity plus gives your eyes a rest from screen time.
Plus, if you’re the kind of person who gets in the groove and loses track of time it will help you avoid moments like “whoa, I forgot to eat” or “OMG I have to pee right now!” …or so I’m told.
We have something at our house called F-Word Family Time (the F is for forced. Obviously!). With college and high school campuses closed, and both my husband and I working from home indefinitely – we are having LOTS of F-Word Family Time. A couple things that keep all us sane-ish (so far):
Having a way to communicate with my family from my laptop minimizes obvious interruptions if I am on a call or in the middle of something crucial. We have a family Slack channel and I can access my text messages from my computer. Noise-canceling headphones are my BFFs.
Also, grown kids eat a lot – and they eat constantly. Prepping hearty food on nights and weekends (shredding a rotisserie chicken, pre-making and seasoning burger patties, pre-cut-and-washed fruits and veggies) makes life easier for the kids, and keeps the kitchen mess to less than a complete disaster, which makes life more pleasant for me.
When faced with a tricky problem, it can be helpful to explain the problem out loud, bit-by-bit, as you would with another person. Often, just describing the problem can help you find a good solution. This practice is called “Rubber Ducking,” because the originator of this technique would speak to a rubber ducky. But I think it works equally well with dogs.
With two working parents, it’s been crucial for us to make a paper calendar for the week of our meeting times and heads down working times so we can switch off schooling and care taking for our children. Balancing all of it has forced us to adapt quickly to make it work for our jobs and for our kids. Some things have to give, but figuring out what our constants are has been helpful. One thing that has helped put an anchor in each day is to eat lunch together everyday and get outside together for a walk or running around in the yard. We also focus on doing one thing each day for someone else — supporting a local business, calling family and friends to check in, and write letters.
Remind yourself that there is no perfect way to do life and work during these truly unprecedented times. Perhaps the kids are getting hours of screen time. Maybe, despite your best intentions, you haven’t organized all your closets or finished your pile of undone projects – even with extra time at home.
Give yourself and the people in your life as much grace and patience as you can. We’re all in this together. And if you can work from home, it’s the best thing you can do to support the medical professionals and other essential workers who are risking exposure every single day.
We’ll end with what has to be one of the best Working from Home with Kids Moment. We hope it makes you smile.