Unprecedented times lead to unprecedented changes. While for many of us, the idea of working from home while caring for our children or other dependents was laughable only a few weeks ago, here we are, doing just that. And it’s for the public good.
We don’t know how long this new arrangement is going to last. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worry about the state of our children’s education or our own jobs and companies. But for those of us lucky enough to be able to shift work to home, this is an opportunity to create new routines and find creative solutions to new challenges.
To help everyone adjust to this new reality, we have gathered tips from experts within our community on how leaders and employees can find perspective and a sense of balance as you prepare to work and parent within the confines of social distancing.
We need to take care of ourselves in order to support others. You likely wear various hats in life — you could be a co-founder and a parent and a team lead. In order for you to feel that you’re doing your best in any of those roles, you need to take the time and space to find balance — to let go of your worries and frustrations. This could mean taking walks, doing (online) exercise classes, reading, meditating, speaking with friends and family, getting online coaching or therapy. Whatever it is that helps you get through the lows and find grounding and balance, you need it now more than ever.
To help you and your team with this, we’ve compiled this list of (mostly free) fitness classes and meditation apps, as recommended by our team at Real:
- Nike Training Club (Training app — free)
- Nike Running Club (Running app — free)
- Peloton App (Various — app — free 90-day trial)
- Fitsquad Training (Instagram training — free)
- Fitness Blender (Various training videos — free)
- Downdog Yoga (Yoga App — free)
- YYoga at home (Yoga videos — free 14-day trial)
- Lululemon (Various training videos — free)
- Blogilates (Video — free)
- Ride Cycle Club (Video — free)
- Essentrics (Dynamic stretch & barre videos — free 14-day trial)
It’s also likely that many of your local gyms and fitness centres are offering classes via video, so make sure to look for and support them!
One other important note: if you suspect you may have COVID-19, please do a self-assessment and/or go get tested.
Discuss and set expectations
It is crucial that teams and leaders are open and honest about family situations in order to mitigate stress and unnecessary crises. You will help everyone by being flexible and creative in finding ways for employees to create their own balance between parenting and work.
Great companies recognize that for most of their team members, family comes first. And while there are already some examples of companies announcing flexible policies during social distancing, we urge founders to look at what makes the most sense for your own company.
Flexibility might mean that some employees work in short bursts throughout the day and get most of their work done after their kids are in bed. It could mean offering employees with kids reduced hours as a way to extend your runway or reduce layoffs. Whatever it is, the key is making sure that employees feel heard and understood and that you have open communication about when they are and are not able to be at their desks.
We also recommend shifting from viewing productivity through the lens of hours of work to considering priorities and deliverables. That way, employees can focus on being more productive when they are working rather than feeling like they’re not putting in enough time.
Social distancing doesn’t mean abandoning our communities. Finding ways to maintain and strengthen our relationships will help us all feel less isolated. In fact, given our incredible levels of online connectivity, it’s easier than ever to support each other from a distance.
For some that might mean setting up family video calls or exercising at the same time (we did a team run on Saturday!) For the parents in our teams, that could mean creating virtual playgroups or taking turns doing activities or reading stories via video conference for kids in the same age group. Older kids could play video games together or make art or write stories collaboratively. Parents can also call on their closer communities to help out with virtual babysitting (i.e. storytime, “virtual baking” and other activities) from grandparents, friends and other family members.
What’s crucial is that we recognize that we don’t need to do this alone just because we’re physically separate. Teams that embrace this new reality and support each other through it will be stronger and more connected when we do get back to working in the same space again.
Create a routine
The advice from educators and homeschoolers is to create a routine that includes some academic time as well as a lot of time for outdoor activity and creative play. For my family, that translates into arts and crafts free-for-alls in the mornings, followed by about an hour of work before lunch and then afternoons that involve online schoolwork sandwiched by outdoor time. Then we finally let them watch whatever shows or play around on tablets. (Much to everyone’s relief!)
This is the schedule I created when we started working from home last week. We’re not religious about it but it’s been a helpful guide. I have also added the “family walks” and “academic time” in my work calendar so my colleagues know when I’m not available for work.
Schedule low-supervision activities
Parents with very small kids will likely need to take turns watching the kids and working while they nap. For parents with older kids, it’s most practical to schedule activities that are reasonably self-directed to fill their time while you’re working and don’t have a virtual babysitter.
When it comes to online classwork, in many places this isn’t yet a thing, so parents are largely having to fend for themselves. Fortunately, there are reams of online educational resources and activities available, not to mention activity kits and online exercise classes. We created this resource list that covers educational resources in both English and French, as well as kid-focused online exercise and dance classes, art activities and tutorials, apps and games, and more.
Innovate and iterate
There is no right way to do this. These are challenging times but they also give us an opportunity to be more creative about how we juggle the various demands in our lives. While our old routines might have felt like the only way, our new reality requires trying new things and going with the flow as we figure out what does and doesn’t work for us — and being open to helping our employees and colleagues do the same. Innovate, test and iterate. These will be the keys to making progress in the next few weeks, as they are in all we do in life.
Lauren Jane Heller is the Director of Communications at Real Ventures. A passionate storyteller, communicator and connector, she thrives on adding value and making change in the world through her words and ideas.
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