Working Virtually Amidst Covid-19

Work/Family Balance






Many of us have been working from home for years.  Now called a “Virtual” or “Remote” environment, with the global healthcare crisis consuming daily activities, many more of you are getting the opportunity to see that “working from home” isn’t always as glamorous as it seemed when you were working outside of the home.  However, there are things you can do to make the experience a positive and productive one for you and your family.

Logistics & Structure: Your first priority is to establish a space for each person to work in, and if you have kids home from school or college, they are going to need a place to study and do homework as well.

  • If you have the room in your home, try to give each individual their own space to work in. Whether it be an established home office or setting a card table up in a basement or spare room, make your workplace as close to your office/dorm/classroom setting as possible.
  • Establish work/quiet hours as much as you can and save your evenings for downtime.
  • Make spaces like the kitchen and family room “No Work” zones, so you still have a place to gather without interrupting someone who is trying to work.
  • If you are tight on space, work with each other to prioritize who gets the “quiet space” at certain times.
  • If your internet service is not optimal, look into other options. Many internet providers are offering WiFi packages for homes that may not have it, or may need to upgrade their speed, with minimal, or in some cases no extra fees.

Communication is Key: While the original “work from home” environment is usually one person, by themselves most of the day, that scenario has changed for many of us.  Now we have a spouse, college or school-aged kids, and even toddlers who can no longer go to daycare/school/college surrounding us all day while we are still trying to work…oh my!

  • Consider your family your new team of colleagues. You still have a job to do, and they probably do as well, so have a team meeting upfront and establish some guidelines for your new corporate office setting.
  • Communicate with your family the times you can and cannot be interrupted. A lot of professionals are still dealing with conference calls and virtual meetings, while students are having to sign into remote learning sites at specific times. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If you have a door for your space, keep it shut so they know not to bother when it is shut (as my teen just barreled through my door with a non-essential life question, clearly I failed to communicate what “when the door is shut” means).
  • If priorities or deadlines change (and believe me, they will), make sure your team is aware of these changes and lets you proceed accordingly.
  • Don’t overcommit to clients or colleagues regarding when you can complete a project or get online for a meeting. Depending on the ages in your home, you may find that your corporate colleagues and clients would rather “meet” after hours when kids are in bed, or early in the morning before the kids are jumping off of the walls and needing your attention.

Keep Work and Family Separate: We all have work and school commitments, but we all also need to remember that we need our normal family time as well (remind me of this again after our three weeks of in-house isolation is up-lol). This situation is new to all of us and navigating through it on top of each other in one space is going to take an emotional toll on everyone involved.  Stay strong and set the tone for your work and family environments.

  • Bring back the family dinner – at the table or in front of the television – at least you are having a meal together!
  • Still talk about your workday/school day so everyone has an opportunity to talk about what is actually going on in their own virtual worlds.
  • If your kids are willing (raise your hand if you have a teenager), try to do a movie or game night and leave the “screens” on their chargers for an hour or two. It may just lead to laughter and fun…you never know.
  • Have a “Project List” of things that need to be done around the house. If one of your team members has a really frustrating day, ripping out that nasty half-bath wallpaper from 2002 may be the key to feeling better.
  • When the weather allows…get OUT of the house. Take a walk by yourself or with the family, play a yard game, etc. Do something that gets you outside of the work/school environment, even if it is only for a short time period. Fresh air is great!

These are unprecedented times for ourselves, our families, our places of work, our nation, and our world.  Change is hard on many of us-and “social distancing” and “shelter in place” are not only new terms but also a new way of life for all of us.  Perseverance and tolerance will be key in guiding your family through this pandemic and time of isolation and fear in our world. Emotions will run high, but if you communicate, try to focus on your work and family needs, and keep a positive attitude, your “team” will be more productive and stronger in the long run.  This too shall pass and your working from home environment will eventually be yours again!






What Is Flex Time and Should You Ask For It?

Career & WorkplaceFamilyInterviewingJob SearchWork/Family Balance

The world is moving faster than ever. In fact, it often seems like everything about our lives is changing – sometimes on a daily basis. From online shopping to cellular phones that access the internet, technology has often driven the changes we see. Our work place is no different. Once it was expected that a 9 – 5 job was just that. Today employers have the ability to offer their staff a variety of work methods. Telecommuting is particularly popular. Less well known is the idea of flex time. While not as many employers offer flex time, those that do believe it allows their work staff to be more productive. Learning about work options should be an important part of every candidate’s research and decisions making process when looking for and interviewing for a new position.
I love the idea of flex time. When I was around 10, my mom went back to work. She was offered flex time. It went like this: she worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, and Pat worked Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. It was perfect. They both worked hard those 2 1/2 days to make sure their work was done. Their bosses never once complained, in fact the opposite. You couldn’t find harder workers. It gave both women time with their children and families while earning a little extra income. Awesome. Why don’t more employers offer it? I decided to do a little more research on it to find out.

The idea of flex time isn’t that new. Employees are offered the ability to create a schedule that works for their particular needs. The employer typically publishes a set of guidelines and then works directly with an employee to pick a flexible schedule that will allow the necessary work to take place in a timely manner while still allow the employee to be flexible. This concept has worked particularly well for working mothers or employees with unique family obligations. For example, an employee with a school age child may wish to adjust their hours in order to be home when their child arrives back from school. They may request a flexible schedule of 6 am – 2 pm. The employee will still work a full 40 hour week but will have the ability to address the needs of their child.
Typically both the employer and the employee see flex time as beneficial. Employers tend to see a higher rate of productivity in their employees; after all happy employees are productive employees. Additionally, the absentee rate typically drops as employees schedule allows them to focus their work time on work and their off hour time on other pursuits, such as family. They also note that the ability to work during off peak hours often gives them quiet time that can be used to focus on larger projects without the worry of customers or coworkers bothering them.
Deciding to ask for flex time is very much a personal decision. Anybody considering the move should first determine if their company is even open to the idea. Try approaching your manager about your particular needs–it might be the next step in creating a flexible schedule. Whenever possible this discussion should take place during the hiring process to prevent conflicts.
Flex time can be an excellent tool to keep employees happy, healthy and productive. It can also help manage that all too often forgotten balance between home and work life. If you are interested in the idea of flexible scheduling, don’t be afraid to ask. A clearly presented explanation of your request and the ability to work within the guidelines of your company often go a long way.