During such an unprecedented time like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Shelter in Place order happening in cities around the country, many people are doing a million things from a place that was never set up (or intended to be) an office. Companies around the world, including Merit, are geared up and adjusting as employees work from home.
After two weeks however, COO Jacob Orrin wouldn’t exactly describe what we do as “working from home” in the traditional sense. Anyone who's worked with Jake in the past two weeks has wondered how he (co-founder of a company) and his wife (a nurse working more than usual during this pandemic) manage a home, two full-time jobs, and four kids. Well, we finally got to the bottom of it.
“The first three days were rough. The kids didn’t have a routine, the house was a mess, and work wasn’t slowing down,” he says.
After that, Jake had to figure out a plan that worked for his kids, his job, and himself. Because yes, we’re all working and taking meetings throughout the day, but we’re also teaching our children, cooking, and trying to keep ourselves sane.
“It’s more than just working from home,” Jake says. Here are the four things he found work best for him:
First, make a daily schedule for your kids. If they’re five-years-old or younger, each activity should be in no more than 15 minutes increments. If they’re older, try 30 minutes. Begin with their normal morning routine (brushing teeth, breakfast, etc.), then schoolwork, a fun activity, and screen-time.
Jake’s Hint: “Schedule screen-time when you have work calls or meetings,” he says.
As parents know, it’s one thing that can (typically) keep them occupied for long periods of time, and that quiet is perfect to get work done without having to multitask unnecessarily.
In regards to what activities to have them do throughout the day, Jake’s advice is to get creative. He plans a list of activities for them the evening before. Arts and crafts, cleaning, heck—even making lunch can be an activity with your kids. Make it fun for them! As long as it sticks to their new schedule, it works.
Second, have a quiet space. There should be one place in the house that is off-limits to kids. If your partner is also working from home, both of you may want to choose different parts of the house that is just your own. It takes a team, but some alone time can go a long way when in a full house for days on end.
Jake’s Hint: “Remember that your partner is having the same challenges while being quarantined at home. Be there for one another and support them when they need you to look after the kids a little longer,” he advises.
If you can swing it, try to plan a small dinner-date night in your off-limit quiet space for 30 minutes. Have your kids video chat with your parents or a relative to keep them busy! It’s a good way for everyone to stay connected while you and your partner have time alone during the day.
Third, over-communicate at work. Everyone is at home just like you. Many are at home with the kids—just like you. If you need to pause a meeting to attend your child it is 100% okay to do so, just let them know! Jake has done this and says no one will shame you for taking care of family when it’s needed. If you need to reschedule meetings or push a deadline, let your co-workers know as soon as possible. However, Jake does advise that you stick to your calendar if you can. Just like your kids, it’s important to keep your own schedule and have your “in office” effort remain consistent at home.
When it comes to getting things done, talk about your work with your co-workers while you’re working on it. Even though teams have an idea of what is being done, a lot can happen in a short time. The best way to keep your team up-to-date is to talk about what you’re doing throughout the day, even if it’s a simple progress update on a small milestone.
Jake’s Hint: Take a lunch break!
Lastly, take time for yourself. At the end of the workday (while the kids are winding down from their activities), remember to take a second for yourself and do something you enjoy. Go for a walk to get some fresh air, video chat with your friends to have a good laugh and a safe place to complain, call your parents to check-in, have an oversized glass of wine!
This is a tough time for everyone, so remember it is okay to cry or get frustrated. But it’s also important to figure out what best for you to make it an easy transition into working at home for a while; These are just the tools that made this odd time a little easier for the Orrin family.
“I’m a regular person who’s a father, husband, and just happens to be the COO of Merit. If I can deal, so can you. It doesn’t take superpowers to get through working from home, trust me,” Jake adds. “Remember this is not traditional ‘working from home’ and it’s not traditional school for your kids. But it is a team effort to make it work for everyone.”