Today’s Challenge: Staying Efficient and Connected During a Pandemic

Woman holds her baby while on a video chatI’ve always assumed I wouldn’t make a good “work-from-home” employee. I’m always looking to complete household chores, so I knew that trying to focus on work tasks at home would be challenging for me. But, on March 17th I was forced to adapt when my son’s daycare officially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, I was uneasy. I packed up my workspace, which fortunately only consists of a computer and a binder, and headed home. How was I going to manage working from home with a 5-month-old baby? How was I going to stay focused when things around the house needed to be done? How was I going to stay connected with my work family and continue to offer great support to our clients? My husband works in an essential industry, so I knew he wouldn’t be around much during the day to help out. I knew I had to figure it out, and quickly!

I chose a space in our home that I knew would be the best location to set up my new workspace. Fortunately, my new “office” is farthest away from the fridge and closest to my son’s nursery. It doesn’t hurt that the room has a balcony, so I can open the door for some fresh air and extra sunshine.

I’m very routine-driven, so I knew I needed to get a schedule in place quickly. Every day (ok, maybe not EVERY day), I wake up when I normally would and get myself ready before I get my son up for the day. While being home, I prioritized getting Nolan on a strict nap and feeding schedule. So, I quickly learned when the ideal times were to schedule phone meetings and when I had large blocks of time to get work done. When Nolan is awake, most of the time he is content playing on the floor behind me. Other times, he wants to be held. So, I have mastered typing with one hand. It also helps having two monitors because I can play Baby Einstein videos on one screen while I work on the other screen. Works like a charm! In the evenings and early mornings, I focus on small household chores so I don’t get tempted to complete them during the workday.

On nice days, Nolan and I take a “nature walk” around our neighborhood, and I teach him about plants, colors, and textures. I never thought I would be so excited to see strangers before, but on our walks, we eagerly greet everyone we pass. Nolan’s first word is likely going to be “Hello!!!!” Getting out, even for a 10-minute walk, can completely refresh me and keep me productive and positive for the rest of the day. Fresh air, exercise, and social interaction with neighbors (from 6’ away, of course!) are key to getting me through these long days.

As much as I love being with my son 24/7 right now, I’m a social person and I miss my coworkers! I miss our daily walks over lunch and being able to holler over our cubicles to ask a question or just to chit chat. However, I’m thankful for technology more than ever right now. Despite being physically separated, I still feel connected to the team at Scheffey. We use Google as our email platform, so we can easily message each other individually or in groups through Google Chat. Our daily tasks are done through a Project Management Software, so communication continues throughout the day, just like it normally would in the office. (Read more about the importance of a Project Management Software in this blog.) When a group meeting is needed, we use Google Meet. Once a week, we have a team video meeting to touch base on projects, get company updates, and brainstorm ideas together. At the end of the day on Fridays, we have a “team virtual happy hour” so we can stay connected on a more personal level. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse just to interact with other humans right now? So, despite the lack of physical collaboration, business is proceeding as usual for us at Scheffey, and we are staying connected as a team as best as we can!

Having a supportive leader and team is so important during these stressful times. Everyone’s home life is different, so it’s important to give grace when it’s needed. My coworkers know, and probably expect by now, they will hear a baby crying in the background during a phone call or see him trying to crawl over my head during a video meeting. What’s important right now is trusting that everyone is doing his or her best and getting the work done. I’m thankful to have a leader that I know trusts me and appreciates my work, no matter what my workday might look like right now.

So, to the leaders out there, keep communication open with your employees and offer some flexibility with schedules to avoid burnout or frustration. To employees, especially those with kids at home, just do the best you can and give yourself grace when it’s truly needed. Life will go back to normal, eventually. But for now, we need to appreciate a new kind of work efficiency and enjoy the extra time with our families. I know I am!