Kids + Dogs + Zoom Meetings — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Don’t you hate it when just before your remote meeting begins, you take a quick shower, grab a towel, and suddenly your kid walks in, puts his laptop in front of you and says, “Daddy, can you talk to the teacher and tell her why we couldn’t do the assignment today?”
There you are on camera in front of a classroom of kids, suddenly taken by surprise and murmuring to yourself, “What was little Johnny thinking when he brought his laptop in here? And do I really have to tell the teacher that we couldn’t do the assignment because I had a late deadline and couldn’t pick up the supplies he needed?” (Fortunately, Johnny showed up after you put on the towel, and not before).
As you switch to audio-only and awkwardly apologize to the teacher, your next thoughts are that you don’t even have the emotional energy to ponder how to deal with this embarrassing scene any longer because you have a meeting happening in 10 minutes and the interruption impacted your schedule.
There are some clothes on the dresser that you pick up without looking too closely, and you’re able to show up for the video on time after all. Well, maybe your day will be better after all! However, in your haste to get ready, you didn’t realize that the shirt you were wearing was inside out and backward.
Welcome to the evolving world of remote working and parenting!
Now that schools are back in session in many communities, this scenario is less likely to occur. But moments like this one are probably more common than you may think. It has been a real struggle for so many parents trying to juggle their projects, while also suddenly having to alternate between work and being thrust into the role of the accidental teacher.
And it’s not just kids who impact remote work. Animals also feel the need to interfere. I was on a video conference call recently where two team members had dogs sitting quietly in their offices. Suddenly the doorbell rang, and one dog started barking. Not to be outdone, the other dog barked back continuously. It wasn’t until one owner brought out treats as a distraction that the barks subsided, and we continued our call.
Treats for dogs and for people can make meetings more enjoyable. So, think about asking people to bring their favorite dessert to their next virtual team meeting and see how that gets people motivated.
Time block but plan for the unexpected
What I’ve discovered is to always expect the unexpected. So that means I try to leave some wiggle room — maybe 1 or 2 hours a day — so that I have flexibility in case a deadline shifts, a team member requires some assistance, my child needs extra attention outside my planned working hours, or my dog suddenly needs to take a 15-minute “business” trip.
Each Friday, I look at the calendar of tasks for the following week and identify when it’s most important to meet with individual remote team members to move projects along or discuss topics that can be addressed more quickly with a call, instead of having emails or chats back and forth. I check their calendars and try to avoid scheduling a back-to-back meeting. If I see that their morning is booked solid, I’ll invite them to a meeting no sooner than 30 minutes after their prior meeting ends.
I also look closely at project deadlines and work my way backward as I schedule tasks and meetings on my calendar. This structure gives me more flexibility because it helps to guarantee that I’ll give a project the time needed and eliminate distractions.
While my son is too young to go to school, and I don’t have to worry yet about making a surprise appearance in a classroom after stepping out of a shower, I’ve learned something from this scenario. I allow enough time to get ready before a meeting and look in the mirror before I go on camera to make sure my shirt isn’t inside out.
Originally published at https://hackernoon.com on November 25, 2021.