Hi, friends! This might be my most frequently asked question over in my DM in box on Instagram. Team Simplified is made up of eight women based in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Maryland. We've been an all-remote team since 2008 -- on purpose really, because we wanted to be able to work from home with our families and avoid the overhead that comes with a brick-and-mortar office. It's convenient when a kiddo comes home from school sick or when you have really little ones at home. But, it's also complicated. Working from home means the nagging laundry is footsteps away, the dishwasher begging to be emptied is nearby, and well, kids are sometimes around. It's a blessing! And its also hard sometimes. Team Simplified has figured out some really good best practices for working from home / remotely and we're sharing them with you here.
Q: I'm suddenly a full-time, work-from-home, homeschooling Mom, now WHAT DO I DO?
We feel you. Let's dig in. First, utilize fantastic tools. Here are our favorites:
- ZOOM: Video conferencing. It's free for calls shorter than 45 minutes. We use the paid version because our meetings often range from 60-90 minutes. We don't meet often, but when we do, it tends to be a marathon. Bonus: the CEO just made the ZOOM platform free for K-12 educators for virtual learning. Way to go, Zoom! UberConference is another good platform we've used.
- ASANA: We live and breathe by Asana. It's a fantastic project management system that we've used for years. It houses all our timelines, tasks, and work conversations. We have a project named MASTER CALENDAR that houses every email, social post, sale date, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, speaking engagement, book release, and more in one place. Each is a task organized chronologically by month. I'm not sure what we'd do without this specific project. It's fantastic. I highly recommend Asana. Their app is great too.
- DROPBOX: We use this at Simplified to share files and I use this personally as well.
Q: Tell me some best practices. How on earth do I work from home with kids around?
- Set office hours that work for your situation. Maybe that's 9am-5pm. Maybe that's pre-kiddo-wake, during nap time / quiet time, and post-kiddo-bedtime. Maybe that's something that changes every day. Whatever it is, outline it and communicate it to those it affects.
- Set physical boundaries. If you don't have a designated office at home, choose a space. Maybe that's a chair at your kitchen table. Maybe that's on your (made) bed. Maybe that's at a folding table in your guest room. Wherever it is, make it yours. Put a lamp there, a notepad, a cup with pens. Maybe even cut some flowers from the yard and put them in a glass with water. Set a favorite photo in a frame on the desk. Make it cozy. Make it yours. Only work there.
- Leave your cell phone plugged in (or, leave it on a particular desk if you don't want to leave it plugged in for a prolonged period of time). Seriously, pretend it's an old-school phone (remember those!? the ones with the CHORDS!?) Go to it when you need to make a call. Otherwise, leave it there with the volume turned up so you can hear if someone calls you.
- Consider setting up an auto-responder from your email. Feel free to copy / adjust / paste this into your responder: Hi there. Thank you so much for your email. I am currently working remotely. I will respond to your email as soon as I can. I appreciate your patience and look forward to responding to you soon. Warmly, YOUR NAME
- Discuss the circumstances with your children (of any age) so everyone knows that a) we are a team getting through this together and b) this is a fun new adventure... and here is how it will work!
- Make a plan and display the schedule for kids to see. Be flexible. Things will come up. Take a peek at my schedule here.
- Make a list of fun things the kids can do. Here are a few screen-free ideas as well as movies / shows they can indulge in. Display it and tell them to reference it when they say they're bored. Better yet, if they say they're bored over and over, let them help! Take this time to organize or declutter. Looking for a guide? Download our Ruthless Declutter Challenge e-book here. A Simplified Life is also a good resource.
Most importantly: Have GRACE. With yourself. With your kids. With others. Everything is thrown off kilter right now. Someone is impatient with you in a work email? They probably have a three-year-old hanging from their pant leg. Take a breath. Have grace. Someone takes the toilet paper you were going to snag at the grocery store? They may have an elderly parent at their home with concerns you don't even know about. Take a breath. Have grace. Your child throws a fit because they don't want to do the alphabet tracing worksheets you printed out for them? They're not used to Mom being their teacher or their school being located at their kitchen table. They miss their friends and their teacher. Take a breath. Have grace. A little more screen time is ok. A lag before your email response is ok. Moving the project deadline is ok. Adjusting your revenue goals is ok. Giving when you don't feel like you have anything to give is ok. Hugging your child when he's being unreasonable during this weird time is ok. Letting your kids eat ice cream before dinner... its ok. Let's just get to the other side and love each other on the way there.
Here are a few more resources that I hope will fill your cup:
- An endless supply of knock-knock jokes. Also, here.
- Cute origami ideas for kids.
- A fantastic way to track allowances and dollars earned for chores. Our kids love this. It lives on my phone. It's free! They earn a dollar for some chores and do others because they are part of the family. :)
- Yoga videos for kids.
- Lego Masters - a show my kids are obsessed with.
- A great way to teach kids about how germs spread.