How to Manage the New Normal of Blended Family & Work?
The work life balance has become increasingly stressful and difficult to manage for many knowledge workers for quite some time. The dream and promise of technology to deliver less stress, fewer hours in the office, and more family time has been a modern-day farce.
The recent weeks have only exacerbated the scenario as we try to multiply ourselves and our output – Again! The good news, our technology is now the one thing to help us continue to be productive even in sub-optimal circumstances.
How then, do we deal with taking life by the horns all at once? The short answer: We don’t, but we do have to pay close attention to how we conduct our days. Here are just a few recommendations to set proper priorities and expectations when life is overwhelming on all fronts.
Find Time for Family
Family comes first. End of the day, we work to live, not live to work. Normally, it is easy to compartmentalize the multiple different hats worn throughout a day. For example, I put on my husband/dad hat while getting everyone ready for school and making breakfast. I then transition to my work hat as I commute to the office and then the reverse on the way home.
Being suddenly remote and constantly close, have clouded and compressed (to minutes and seconds) the transition and multiplied the switches between work and family behavior to dozens of times throughout a day. Practically, this means we are now responding to emails, taking calls, producing materials AND we are teaching and/or entertaining kids, cooking meals, cleaning the house and taking no breaks at the same time.
Take a breath. Remember your family is most important. Your children don’t understand and they are stressed too because of the changes too. Be there for them. Try to communicate boundaries and give them your attention in chunks throughout the day. Use the “extra” time to be together. Use these unusual circumstances to do unusual things. Let them see how hard you work but also let them see how much you care for them. Quality time is often seeded with the quantity of time.
The Right Way to Work
For Remote Managers
It’s so important to be a thermostat here and set the temperature. Set sustainable and healthy expectations and guidelines for appropriate work practices. Reduce anxiety and fears of over-communicating and checking in. Provide training, guidance, clearly defined goals for the work to be done – Lead by example.
Understand your people are under a lot of pressure and stress. Care for them and they will take care of you. Give some flexibility, communicate, extend grace, and document everything.
Schedule time to build your employees and build relationships. I’ve always been a big fan of virtual coffees and scheduled times to get to know new people and talk non-work topics.
For Remote Employees
It is self-evident we are dealing with sub-optimal working conditions. There is no question most are working in uncomfortable ways and relying on new methods, modes, and crazy schedules. Here are a few reminders to help you focus on delivering results while at working from home:
It’s OK if your children interrupt you from time to time
It’s OK when there are strange noises from behind you
It’s OK to schedule time for you (go for a walk or workout, take a break, at meals)
Use some of the time to continue to learn new things and experiment
Use the Right Tools
We are very fortunate to have all the technology we do, so why not use it?
Start with the digital workplace. What better way to improve employee connection, collaboration, and situational awareness when people are everywhere? Some benefits are:
Allowing employees to self-manage Q&A which ultimately saves people from answering the same questions in email 10x.
Reduce siloing. By working out loud, improving communication, and allowing people to work together in collaborative fashions we can work more efficiently and effectively. We can reduce waste and increase our go-to-market.
Increasing employee awareness. Always know what others are working on. Your digital workplace lets others see and contribute to work, hence reducing cycles and gives employees the ability to support each other even across team lines. Let others see the sausage be made and ask for feedback along the way. This is even more important when working digitally.
Centralizing and highlighting important information, policies, procedures, and POC information. Additionally, encourage commenting and comments on your news.
Building relationships and culture by having communities of practice and interest groups. Let people be human, connect, and have fun with some crowd-pleasers, like Cat Corner, Food, Classifieds, Help, Events, Special situation (even crisis situations like COVID-19) to share experiences.
Beyond your digital workplace, always turn the video on when using your video conferencing software. Nonverbal communication is still really important. And know the appropriate time to mute. This has been a game-changer for me as a full-time remote worker.
Lastly, use a chat service (Hangout, Slack, group text) to stay connected and get quick answers. This is a great way to replace those hallway, breakroom and drop-in cub conversations. Remember, over-communicate and embrace emojis, memes, and gifs.
If you aren’t used to it, all the above may feel over the top and unnatural, however, I promise they will help you stay connected, engaged, and productive.
Our days are now blended and stressful. Compartmentalizing and having a narrow focus isn’t a luxury many of us have and everything is undermined by unknowns. My challenge to you is to leverage these already uncomfortable times to try new and uncomfortable things. Use these unconventional situations to try unconventional things.
Be gracious. Be kind. Be courageous and use technology to fully connect with those around you. Yes, it’s an important time to keep your physical distance, however, now is the time to stay socially connected (digitally) more than ever.
Director of Consulting
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