While working from home, a shocking reality has emerged for many of us as we share space not designed for — or intended as — our fulltime office. How will we navigate this new reality? Are we doomed to daily frustration or fortunate to spend more time with those who love we most — even if they’re not ideal office mates?
We are now imminently accessible to a spouse, partner, child or pet seeking support or attention. During week one, it was a fun distraction. In week two, reality set in, things changed, and frustration emerged. The challenge of keeping children entertained (and productive) has elevated teachers and daycare providers to a saintly status. And once longed for, the extra time with spouses and partners reminds us that absence, at times, makes the heart grow fonder.
To tell you the truth, I have struggled to find balance. But after week three, I’m beginning to find fortune and shed frustrations.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned Working from Home (with Family):
1. You Need to Mark Your Territory
In this new normal, you are the intruder to your family, and you need to define your workspace in the home. I’ve found that the end of the dining room table works well, and for a stand-up option, the dresser in a spare bedroom is brilliant. The space matters less than defining it for your family. Clarity is key.
This is where you’ll be working day-in and day-out, and to work effectively, you need focus. Establish cues that reveal when interruptions are not welcome; such as, when headphones are on, you’re in do not disturb mode. Simply be purposeful in defining your space and boundaries that will help you to be most productive.
2. It can Feel like Mission Impossible
The reality of the new work from home, school from home situation is this: It’s just not all possible. And that’s okay. We can all do our best to make color-coded schedules, chore lists, and plan for every hour of the working day — but things will come up. Somewhere in between your work and Zoom calls, your kids’ homework, art projects, and video sessions (and playing chef, housekeeper, and judge and jury in the court of clashing siblings) plans start to fray or, in some cases, completely unravel.
Do your best to limit the meltdown moments but understand that we’ll all be lucky enough to experience them on a semi-regular basis. Encourage independent work, and also plan to play teacher more than you initially imagined. Scheduling my kids’ meetings or important project time in my work calendar has helped minimize some frustration, and also ensures that I’ll be available to help with technology or be present to provide support. Cut yourself some slack, cut your kids and family some slack, and do what works best for you and your family as a whole.
3. I See You; You See Me: A Lesson in Vulnerability
It can be uncomfortable to reveal glimpses into our personal lives that video calls open us up to. Let’s overcome the discomfort and be intentional, together. Consider hosting an ‘extended team’ meeting where every colleague brings kids into the frame to say hello. Open a team meeting with one team member introducing their child who then shares a story about what they like about mom or dad working from home.
Maybe have colleagues introduce their furry, four-legged, or even finned children to the team. Host a happy hour where each team member dials in from a laptop or smartphone from their porch or backyard to reveal their neighborhood. I love seeing inside the lives of our team and also sharing some of my own. It will be fun to see how this time enriches our culture and the bonds between us as colleagues.
4. Take a Break, or Three
This is a unique and special opportunity to get closer to our family. We now have the ability to eat lunch with them, take walks, or even play games. Invite them to contribute to something you are working on.
Feeling guilty? Remember, you take breaks at work to chat with colleagues and walk to lunch. Replace those with quality time that is so fleeting in life. Bear in mind, you’ve already captured productivity usually consumed by a commute to the office. A few breaks throughout the day will refresh and revitalize. A helpful tip for the power user: Identify the best time(s), then block it out in your calendar to both remind you of (and protect) your recess.
5. Embrace the Crazy
Your child will cry. The dog will bark. The toilet will get flushed. This is real life. I’m certain that we’ll all emerge from this with a few insights into colleagues that will make our relationships closer and teams stronger. Along the way, let’s spend some time and effort also get closer to family, and strengthen the family bond.
I anticipate this extended and unplanned experiment will result in a shift to embrace and encourage working from home more, as teams and companies establish and demonstrate comparable — or even enhanced — productivity.
As this shift occurs, teams will be wise to identify and adopt smart technology that enhances planning and collaboration. When ready for that, check out LiquidPlanner. We are the Planning Intelligence Company and we’re excited about helping you achieve more, with greater confidence than you ever thought possible.
In this multi-part series, LiquidPlanner CEO, Ted Hawksford, discusses the lessons learned and shares helpful tips one month after our team went fully remote due to the growing threat of COVID-19, and the mandatory stay-at-home orders that followed.