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April 3, 2020 / Blog / Mariposa Articles / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Working Parents + Shelter-in-Place. Mission Impossible?

by Tawny Lees, COO and Executive Coach, tawny@mariposaleadership.com

To download a PDF of this article, click here.

As I’ve been talking with clients this week, the reality of long-term school closures and shelter-in-place orders seems to be hitting working parents the hardest.

It can feel impossible for two-parent homes where both partners work from home — and gets even harder when one parent works outside of the home, for single parents, when kids have special needs, or if elder care is thrown into the mix.

Three main ideas here, curated from what I’m hearing, reading and experiencing myself as a working parent:

Set Expectations

Get radically real about short-term (now to 3 month) expectations of yourself:

As a professional. Anyone responsible for kids at home is just not going to be as productive and/or available as usual. It’s okay. This is an unprecedented situation in our lifetimes; you and your team need to figure out how to work through it together. Shift the mindset from “I/we can’t get this all done” to “here’s what I/we can get done.”

  • Assess your and your team’s current deliverables, initiatives and capabilities.
  • Reset short-term priorities and deadlines.
  • Re-assign/share the workload across the team.
  • Establish preferred times for meetings or availability for real-time interaction. (E.g. meetings only between 9-12 and 2-5.)

Proactively align on all the above with everyone who needs to know – cross-functional partners, customers, suppliers, boss, etc.

As a working parent. You will not be able to offer the same level of time, attention and expertise that your children would normally receive from teachers, caregivers, etc. during this time. It’s okay. Do your best, they will survive. Shift your mindset from “I’m being a bad parent” or “my kids are missing out on XYZ” to “we will get through this and learn previously unimagined lessons about life.”

Set Structure

Involve everyone and make a family work plan:

Figure out a schedule and division of labor that works. For all. You’d be surprised that even young kids can contribute to brainstorming ideas and making a plan. (Whip out some flip charts or post-it notes – they’ll love it!) And by involving them, they tend to be more enthusiastic about sticking with it. Things to consider:

  • Can you and your partner or older kids work in “shifts” to take care of younger kids?
  • Can you enlist or employ friends, family, babysitters, tutors to virtually engage your kids on a regular schedule that you could rely on? Via video they could talk, read, play games, sing, do dances, do schoolwork, etc.
  • What are the most engaging/reliable activities that kids can do with little to no supervision? (e.g. movies, online gaming, schoolwork.) Schedule those activities during important work time. They will be getting more screen time; get over it.
  • What work can you do while sitting near/with them? (e.g. status reports or emails at the kitchen table while they do schoolwork and ask an occasional question.)
  • As you prioritize your precious time, what is the best way for you to spend the free time you’ll have with the kids? Having fun? Relaxing? Getting outside? How do you want to “be” during that time?
  • What are your rules for the time when you need to be uninterrupted? (e.g. door is closed, don’t knock.) How can you reward them for sticking to the rules? (e.g. an enthusiastic high-five, cuddling and reading for 15 minutes, going outside to play.)

Make sure everyone in the family understands the schedule/plan and experiment! Try it for a week and then revisit – What worked? What didn’t? What to try next?

Recharge

You’ll need energy to pull off this mission:

We all know the metaphors – “put your oxygen mask on first,” “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” etc. Well, they are true. Especially now.

  • You will need to get creative, and insistent, about making sure you are getting adequate sleep and time to relax and recharge.
  • Include a favorite activity in your plan, make a pact with someone, do what’s needed to make it happen.
  • Take time off from work, use the weekend as a weekend (it’s still there, even though days seem to be blurring together.)
  • Give yourself some perspective – look ahead 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years from now. How will you feel then, how will you look back on what is happening now.

You are not alone! We are all in this together. Would love to hear what’s working for you so we can help share information with others. Often, the first question our clients ask us in a session is: “What are your other clients doing about WFH?” Let’s spread the best practices.

To download a PDF of this article, click here.

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April 2, 2020 / Articles We Like / Blog / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Four Tips to Navigate Working from Home

by Anne Loehr, Executive Coach, anne@mariposaleadership.com

I talk for a living, whether it’s through keynotes, employee trainings, executive coaching, human capital consulting, writing articles or just a chat with a client. I’m lucky enough to have clients from a variety of industries and sectors, giving me a wide view of how organizations are handling similar situations. This week alone I had the honor to chat with people from large consulting firms, start-ups, Federal government, tech firms, mid-size companies, biopharma organizations, large school systems, manufacturing firms, real estate industry leaders, and HR professionals. I learned a lot of best practices for navigating the Covid-19 work from home (WFH) situation and I’d like to share those with you here.

Schedule daily white space

Someone said to me, “It’s just telework. It’s not a big deal.” Wrong. It’s not just telework and it is a big deal. Why? Because the old paradigm of telework was that you worked from home 1-2 days/week, usually while others in your home were at work and/or school. Now everyone is working and learning under one roof, which adds complexity to the situation. I have it fairly easy; our high school daughter can self-manage her day. However, I have one client who has 3 children under the age of 5 at home while both he and his wife are trying to work. Ouch! That’s a tough situation!

So what are organizations doing to manage this? One best practice is to create intentional white space and schedule set times for team calls. One firm only holds calls from 8:30 am – noon and then 2 – 5 pm, local time. This allows people to have a midday break to attend to their own personal needs or the needs of those who live with them.

Learn together

It’s easy to disengage on employee development right now. I’ve heard “Training and development is a non-essential, so we’re cutting the live employee training we had planned”. I get it; financial stability and cash flow is vital right now. However, don’t forget about your teams who want to feel a sense of normalcy. So instead of offering a live employee development training, conduct a 60-minute virtual ‘lunch and learn’ on living through change or a 45-minute webinar about stress management instead. It’s easy to do and shows the teams that you are still there for them.

Lempathy

It’s easy to lose focus when WFH, so set clear focus on short term goals and how the goals align with the organizational mission. Create a 2-minute podcast or video to remind your team what you’re working on and use shared docs to create accountability.

It’s also easy to tilt toward excessive empathy, such as “It’s OK that Biva didn’t achieve his tasks today. He has 4 kids at home.” Giving a pass every once in a while shows flexibility; excessive empathy breeds missed deadlines. So use ‘both/and’ instead; in other words, try “Wow! Having four kids at home while working is hard. How can you achieve the biggest deadline today and have the kids home? What’s the first step? Second step?” Bottom line: show you care AND that goals still need to be completed. One of my coaching clients calls this “lempathy”: leading with empathy. It works for him; see if it works for you.

Focus on self-care

Stress manifests in different ways, for different reasons. In general, there are three pillars of health: physical, mental and emotional. Take a self-assessment and ask yourself how you’re doing on:

Physical: Maintaining the nutrition, sleep and exercise that your body needs
Mental: Focusing on the task at hand
Emotional: Self-regulating your emotions appropriately with those around you

Whatever you do to manage your WFH situation, remember to keep it fun! People want to feel connected; they are looking for the water cooler experience, where they can just have a fun chat for a few minutes with each other. So set this up with virtual coffee chats, happy hours, walks, exercise classes and even hobby times (knitting anyone?). One company in Boston creates daily entertainment videos for the employee’s children to watch while the parent is working. Another organization spreads smiles via Skype. What will work for you?

I’d love to hear how you are navigating your work from home in these stressful times. What is working for you and what is not? Let’s share experiences. Send me an email or contact us on Twitter.

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April 11, 2017 / Articles We Like / Stress / Work-Life Integration

On “Balancing Parenting and Work Stress: A Guide”

Being a working parent is tough. The stress of trying to achieve a balance between career and children can really take a toll on your personal and professional life. If you could ask hundreds of high-performing working parents for advice, what do you think they would say?

In her recent Harvard Business Review article, “Balancing Parenting and Work Stress: A Guide,” author Daisy Wademan Dowling gathered this advice to address some of the biggest working-parent problems. In her article, Wademan Dowling has come up with a list of specific actions that she believes “will work for you, your people, and your organization.”

What do you think of Daisy’s advice?

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