It seems 2020 is destined to be remembered as the year when ‘normal’ was anything but ordinary. It charged out of the gate consumed by the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history. However, on the heels of impeachment, cases of a novel, unidentified pathogen began to rise dramatically. This evolved into the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, which abruptly shuttered schools and forced many businesses to close their physical offices and implement employee teleworking policies. This newfound reality left kids learning and parents working from home.
Fast forward a few months to this article’s publishing, and most households are largely still in the same boat. With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, myriad camps and childcare organizations have cancelled their summer programs and many businesses are asking employees to continue working from home. In addition to health concerns, international and widespread protests aimed at social justice have dominated the streets in recent weeks, making mobility even more difficult and risky.
The result? Parents grappling with the environmental clash of home and work life. One of the particularly challenging elements is juggling childcare and schooling with responsibilities and workplace expectations.
When it comes to fostering an environment capable of supporting both familial and professional needs, we asked some of our remote team members what’s worked for them over the years. Here’s what AssureSign’s director of software engineering, Mike; director of customer success, Andrea; and software QA manager, Deepa say works where they live:
1. Who do you currently live with in your home?
MIKE: My spouse and our three children (ages 11, 8 and 5).
ANDREA: My husband and our two children (ages 19 and 17).
DEEPA: My spouse and our two children (ages 7 and 11).
2. Are you a single parent? Describe how you balance your day-to-day professional responsibilities with childcare and other familial needs?
MIKE: I’m not a single parent. My wife is a nurse but is currently a stay-at-home mom. She does the lion’s share of the work and has done an amazing job keeping the kids engaged and learning as they finished up the school year remotely. My in-laws are retired and live nearby; they, too, have been a great help with our kids.
ANDREA: I’m not a single parent.
DEEPA: No, I’m not a single parent. In our home, it’s a constantly evolving divide and rule policy. My spouse and I split up the day based on our meetings and work schedules. If one of us has deliverables with deadlines on a specific day, the other steps in and helps out more. We catch up on work items later in the evening after our kids’ go to bed. Additionally, because of COVID related concerns, we’re not comfortable with having our sitter back just yet.
3. How do you communicate expectations and boundaries necessitated by work schedules to kids, family members, and others in your home?
MIKE: I’m fortunate to have a dedicated office that is only used for work purposes. Our kids know that when the door is closed, I’m working, so they generally do a good job of not interrupting during work hours. I try to coordinate with my wife and the kids before I have calls so they know where to avoid playing loudly. It doesn’t always work, but letting them know about calls in advance tends to minimize issues with them being a distraction or interruption when I’m on calls.
ANDREA: In our home, we have a whiteboard that I can use to indicate when I’m on a call so everyone knows to stay on the quiet side. My overall rule is, if my office door is closed between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. it means I’m working and they know to send requests via Text unless it’s an emergency.
DEEPA: Every morning, my husband and I have a quick calendar comparison and come up with our plan to tackle the day!
4. What are some of the activities/entertainment options that work best when you need extended (1+ hrs), uninterrupted time for work affairs?
MIKE: X-Box, playing in the woods, playing with toys separately and quietly (reading, Lego, coloring, etc.).
ANDREA: During the morning hours, I enjoy a ton of uninterrupted time as my teenage boys typically sleep past noon and my husband is at work. Then, in the evening, the kids are typically out with their friends.
DEEPA: Out-school has been a very helpful resource. I signed both my kids up for at least four hours of activity each week. I try to schedule their online classes during times when my husband and I need to be heads down with work. The kids also get one hour of Minecraft / IPad / computer time, which keeps them occupied.
5. Have you made any concessions or relaxed rules during the era of coronavirus, such as screen time limits?
MIKE: Our kids have definitely been given more screen time than we typically allow. We usually limit their use of Facebook messenger and similar apps, but have allowed them to do that more (with some oversight) so that they can still connect with friends (at least virtually).
ANDREA: Not at this time.
DEEPA: Screen time / snack time has, unfortunately, been the most relaxed rule when nothing else works.
6. Do you have backup entertainment options or go-to activities for your kids when the unexpected arises? (like when the teacher cancels today’s class on Zoom)
MIKE: X-Box or movies tend to be choices that all three kids will jump for. In a pinch, that’s often our go-to strategy.
ANDREA: I have found it more challenging to monitor their schooling, but at their ages, they’re essentially responsible for handling it on their own.
DEEPA: Video chat with friends from school, biking, playing in the backyard, board games, and screen time.
7. Do you work in a designated space at home? If so, explain what expectations exist pertaining to your workspace.
MIKE: My office is known to be a dedicated workspace and the kids know not to come in unless necessary. Our kids have a clear set of criteria for what qualifies as a reason to come into my office…
- My wife asked them to bring me a message or something similar
- Fighting will not stop despite one or more of the kids having attempted to de-escalate the situation or temporarily separate from the others
- Someone is hurt or injured
- The kids need help with something and my wife is not available
Communicating to my family when i’m on a call or what my schedule is in advance has gone a long way. It allows the rest of the family to make plans–especially when they involve the basement, where my office is.
ANDREA: If my door is open, the kids are free to come in as needed. If my door is closed, they know I’m busy and need to wait until I am available. We have a small whiteboard that they can write a question for me on and can text me if needed.
The day prior, we share what my day ahead will look like in addition to what their plans might be at that time.
DEEPA: Yes, both myself and my spouse do. If either of our doors are closed, it means we’re in meetings and cannot be disturbed. If either are open, the kids know they can come and go and ask us questions.
My spouse and I stagger our breaks in a way that allows for one of us to be available while the other focuses on work.
8. Thinking of the past few months in particular, what are some ways you’ve participated in self-care or otherwise de-stressed?
MIKE: As it has warmed up, we’ve tried to get the whole family outside more. We’ve been doing more with our vegetable garden in the backyard and try to involve the kids in its cultivation and care. We’ve also been working on projects, some just my wife and I and then some for the whole family. We’ve put in some new swings and are beginning to build a large tree-fort in the woods behind our house. Doing things that get us outside and moving tend to help with stress!
ANDREA: It’s important to take breaks throughout the workday, like going for a short walk and getting out of your designated workspace. I enjoy taking walks, yoga sessions, and quiet meditation sessions by the pool to help me de-stress.
DEEPA: Every evening, we take a walk around our neighborhood or through trails that’re close by. This has been very therapeutic for myself and my family.
Mike, Andrea and Deepa are part of our remote leadership and management teams and work—virtually—alongside other members of our dedicated telework teams. While some of our AssureStars routinely work from home, others will typically report to AssureSign offices during the week. However, in mid-March, all AssureSign employees were directed to work from home indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether you’re like one of our remote AssureStars who routinely work from home, or like one doing so currently out of consideration for public health, we want your feedback…