Like many of you, our team at Leading Women is navigating in different and challenging work environments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a global company, our team is accustomed to working remotely and delivering our programs virtually, but we too are having to find new rhythms and practices in order to navigate this season of the Coronavirus.
We asked two of our leaders, Erin Defoyd, Director of Strategic Client Solutions (based in the US), and Samantha Furbush Taraskiewicz, Manager of Program and Client Relationships (based in Luxembourg) to share some of their observations, tips, and tricks for finding stability and productivity while confined to home. Erin and Samantha are both married with young children and are, therefore, navigating what it means to have husbands who now work from home 100% of the time, and children whose daycare and schools have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Here is what each of them had to say…
I’ve had the benefit of working from home in some capacity for over 10 years, so this environment is not completely foreign to me. What is foreign, is doing it side-by-side with my husband, without outside care and schooling for my children, while living in fear of a virus that is sweeping the planet. We are about one week in, and most certainly still adjusting. But my biggest piece of advice, so far, is the age old adage–one thing at a time.
It’s not lost on anyone in our home, and with my colleagues, that where and how we are getting our work done is different these days. In our home we are nowhere close to instituting a mandated new schedule. It’s simply not going to work for us in these early days that are filled with so much uncertainty and change.
Also, we wake up at different times. My husband and I have conference calls and deadlines at all kinds of different times. We work with clients and colleagues in different time zones. We only have one home office, so sometimes work is at the dining room table, bedroom, or from the outdoor patio while the kids play. My kids aged 13, 11 and 7, have various levels of independence, access, ability and motivation for self-directed learning. Their personal interests range from basketball in the driveway, to getting lost in a book, to playing with dolls, to staying connected via social media with their friends and classmates who they dearly miss. Oh, and we are bombarded with reminders and encouragement to limit technology while making the most of our time at home with family games, hikes, projects and activities that enrich our days and keep us distracted from the fears and uncertainty that surrounds us.
But guess what? There is absolutely no way, we can do all of this at one time, or during a prescribed and scheduled time. Not yet, anyway, especially when the timelines and expectations for normalcy keep shifting. We therefore must let go of expectations to do as we have done in the past, and the pressure to have this all figured out in the first week. Let’s embrace and appreciate an opportunity to do – and do well – one thing at a time.
So make the lists of assignments, activities, goals and must do’s for the days and weeks to come. Share them with your family and colleagues. Listen and have an ear for the priorities of others. Carve out a desired time where you can make them happen. Pay attention to the new daily rhythms in your days. Adjust and adapt as required. Give yourself and those around you (in your home and virtually) a break when things get off course. Reflect and appreciate what you have accomplished. Take a deep breath, and start again.
One thing at a time – do that well – and then move on to the next thing.
Samantha Furbush Taraskiewicz
I’ve been working remotely for a number of years, so forced social-distancing should be an easy transition for me, but I will be the first to admit that daycare/school makes me a better parent and a better employee. Having my husband and children (5 & 3 years old) home in our tiny, 3rd floor apartment, has been an interesting exercise in flexibility.
Even under normal circumstances, flexibility is the key to a work from home situation. In our house, we have instituted a very loose schedule that is reminiscent of my 5 year old’s Montessori school’s daily routine, but within this schedule, we move things around to fit our needs. For example, yesterday, I had a conference call at 3pm, so my husband took our kids outside at 3pm instead of 10am. Today, he was on a call at 12pm, so the kids and I had a picnic lunch on our balcony. Getting through a busy work week means we have to be flexible and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Here are some sensible, real world suggestions I’ve adopted to help maintain my own sanity and productivity while working from home -- hopefully, they’ll help you, too!
- Talk to your employer about your home situation. This is uncharted territory for the majority of organizations, many of whom have been resistant to allow employees to work from home. Your boss should know what other demands and distractions you will be facing. Setting achievable goals and expectations is key.
On this note, if you have a partner at home who is taking on the majority of the childcare while you are working from home, be sure to give your partner credit. Let your colleagues and bosses know that your productivity is high because you have support. You owe it to your colleagues who do not have support at home to give them kudos, too. We are all in this together.
- Change out of your pajamas and put some real pants on. I know that the idea of ‘no pants’ sounds like a joy, but you are much more productive once you’ve been properly dressed. Better yet, take a shower, brush your teeth, get ready for the day like you are going to the office. Keeping this one small routine in place will help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
- Be professional on conference calls. This should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway - be careful to pick a location that reflects well on you. If you call from a bathroom, the acoustics are terrible and people will know you are sitting on a toilet. Think about what laying in bed says about your professionalism. A pile of dirty dishes behind you while video conferencing a client? Eek! So find a clean, quiet corner of your house to make your calls from.
Start each call by letting people know that you are working from home and that you have kids at home with you -- that way, if your little ones do make an appearance you don’t panic and can take a moment to settle them again in another room.
- Social-distancing does not mean you can’t go outside. Be safe and avoid people. Do not go to places where you will come in contact with others. But make sure you get outside. Take a walk around your yard or neighborhood. It is important to stretch your legs, clear your mind, run your kids around so you, and they, do not get cabin fever.
- Be careful about over-multitasking. Multitasking may be the norm, but know how much you can take on and do not push it. (I am currently writing this bullet point and making chocolate chip cookies from scratch with my kids… this may just be over my limit)
- Take it one thing at a time. Make your plans, but bend and be flexible when you need to. You know what needs to get done every day, tackle what you can when you can get to it. It may not be in the same order that you would normally do, but your kids may need more attention or your partner may need to be on a call, so you need to adjust.
Tell us, what is helping you find stability and productivity in this period of self-quarantine and work from home?