This article was originally posted on Prowess Project, a female-founded company that both vets and certifies working women to virtually match them up with business owners and team leads.
What does remote work really look like? There is always that one image of someone typing away while sitting by the beach or in a beautiful, clean white office with a warm cup of coffee….
Well, your remote work might not look like that at the moment, to put it lightly. Most of us are setting the computer on the kitchen table to keep one eye on the living room-turned-ball-pit with sofa cushions. Kids home + remote work = one crazed mama.
In stressful times like these, it is easy to either avoid our work altogether or throw ourselves all in to prove we are still that valuable employee. So how do we keep our stress levels, anxiety and lifestyles in check while we continue with our responsibilities? It's important to focus on a few key concepts: know your boundaries, be proactive, and stay consistent.
So normally I recommend working behind a closed door, but that might not be possible if you are day-lighting as a home-school teacher. Let’s talk ground rules. Kids of all ages can understand colors and symbols. Come up with a system with your children to let them know when you need the uninterrupted time or quiet.
When it comes to phone calls/meetings, most parents will tell you that every time they get on the phone, kids act up. Typically this is our little one’s way of expressing a need for safety, because when they are not getting all of your attention, it sparks fear. A few good ways to calm your child if you do need quiet for your call is to set them up with their comfort items, their lovey, a snack, and a favorite show, game or toy. Sit where they can see you, but enough distance that you can not worry about every sound they make disrupting your call. It also helps to be proactive with those on the call and let them know you need to utilize the mute button.
If your child is old enough to play in the other room, a sign on your door can let them know you need to focus on your work. A red circle can mean “only enter in an emergency”, green means “yes, you can come in but quiet is required”, and blue is “feel free to come in”. Use characters from movies, hand-drawn images of you or photos. Anything that helps clearly define what you need. My children got really good at passing a note back to me, usually with a picture of goldfish that they were in need of.
Also, take advantage of your child’s routine. If you can wake up earlier than your household to free your mind of emails that need responding, calls to be scheduled or any other tasks that are “busy work”, DO IT. Schedule a designated electronic time during your calls or busy times so that they can watch a movie, use electronics or other favorite activities that keep them occupied for extended times.
2. Be Proactive
Utilizing a checklist of ways to start and stop your workday can be helpful. Know what tasks might spark an urgent need, confirm attendance on the zoom call (or making sure Zoom is downloaded), and ensure all documents are loaded to the cloud/sharing system. Make sure all equipment is charged - headphones, phones, computers.
Prowess recommends starting your daily routine, but also closing out your day. At the end of the workday, make sure your schedule is set for the next day. Make sure your to-do list for tomorrow’s schedule are completed.
Also, have a designated place to capture those “I need to mention…” items so that when you are on the call, you can look at one place to review the list and make sure it’s up to date. This could be in a google - task list, designated notebook, or notes on your phone. Anything that helps you keep track of it and you know when you need a reminder.
Finally, utilize a messaging system like Slack to organize conversations that flow through the day. This helps others keep track of items they can not get to in the exact moment.
Keeping a consistent schedule helps our own stress or anxiety levels in a time of uncertainty. Keep the same nightly routine of going to bed as if you need to get up for the office. Don’t change the alarm clock and instead use that drive time to check to make sure everything at home can run smoothly for the day (or as smooth as possible).
Stick to your normal routines! Keep your office hour schedules. Take a lunch break. End your workday as you would have before. Your family also needs the consistency of you being mentally present at dinner, evening family time, and bedtime.
Yes, we all need to be flexible and nimble in times like these but we need to also take care of our mental and physical self. Keep your workout routine, if you can’t go to the gym - find a video online.
If you had standing appointments with friends or colleagues that helped build rapport, utilize a video call for a casual conversation. Some of us need face-to-face interaction and seeing others on the screen can help provide that element of the community.
By following consistent schedules, it helps children feel grounded in what they know. If they are used to bonding on the ride to school, keep that time open to them. If they valued playing around you while dinner was prepared, close the laptop and provide that time with them just as before.
4. Use amazing resources available to you!
Lastly, you don’t need to go through this alone. There are many resources available to you for advice and support during this difficult time. Here are some ideas:
- Lean on your spouse, other family members, or friends if you can.
- Use Prowess Project to help you reach your at-home work goals, especially during a time of such uncertainty. They can get you certified to enter a job pool to be matched with your next job!
- Download an app for moms like SocialMama, which sends you personalized mom matches for you to talk to and build friendships. You can even ask career coaches and experts on the app for advice on working from home as a mom.
Things as simple as a quick online yoga class will help you tend to yourself and your mental well-being. Remember, we are definitely all in this together!
Until next time,
Leah, COO, Prowess Project