WHAT: 45-minute webinar recorded on March 25, 2020

WHO: Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting’s President and CEO joined by
Laura Kapelski, Learning & Development Lead and
Jamar Gould, Digital Communications Lead

Transcript

Moderator:
Good afternoon. Welcome to the webinar hosted by Eagle Hill Consulting, “Remote Work for Parents: Supporting the Special Circumstances of Parents in the New Work Environment.” In terms of logistics for today’s webinar, all of the attendees are in listen only mode, but we do want to hear from you. During the session you can type any questions or comments into the question box or the chat function and we’ll respond to those.

We are recording this session and you will receive an email with a link to a replay of the session. The information in this webinar will be posted at www.eaglehillconsulting.com as well as other research and information from Eagle Hill. We encourage you to share information on social media about this webinar. You can find us on Twitter @WeAreEagleHill. If you have any audio or technical issues during the webinar please call GoToWebinar at 1-800-263-6317.

Our agenda for today’s session is as follows: we’ll do quick introductions of the speakers, review some survey findings, discuss some strategies for parents, and then we’ll take your questions. And with that I’ll turn it over to the panelists to do their introductions.

0:01:25

Melissa:
Hi. I am Melissa Jezior. I am CEO of Eagle Hill. I have three kids. I have a 13-year-old girl, a soon to be 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, and my husband is a healthcare worker, so he is gone during the day, so it’s just me here at home.

Jamar:
I’m Jamar Gould. I run our digital marketing. Proud father of a 3-year-old who is napping right now, but gives his regards, and my wife is also a healthcare professional, so she has a modified schedule, so there’s some days where it’s just me, some days where she’s here as well.

0:02:07

Laura:
Hi, everyone. I’m Laura Kapelski. I lead our learning and development group for Eagle Hill. Happy to be here today. My husband and I are both teleworking and we have two young boys ages two and five, and their preschool is currently closed for the foreseeable future.

Melissa:
Great. Well, welcome. Thank you so much for taking time today to talk with us. We really think this is such an important topic and something that’s such a new topic. Not that working from home is new or trying to manage kids while we are working from home, but this extreme teleworking situation that we’re all in with the extreme lack of childcare situation that we’re all in is definitely something new.

0:02:56

So we have been trying to focus on a theme here at Eagle Hill which is around we versus me, meaning we’re all in this together so let’s help each other. And I know all of us have very different experiences, different age kids, different partners or no partners and where they are, but I think the one thing that we all have is this is new and we’re all trying to figure out the collision of work and life.

And one example I’ll give that maybe you guys can appreciate is this last week we had an all employee meeting and it was a video call much like I’m doing right now, actually in this same seat, and in the middle of the video call, with all 250 employees at Eagle Hill, I started hearing from downstairs, “Mom! Mom!” And I realized that my 9-year-old, who had been baking a cake, needed me to come downstairs and help her get the cake out of the oven.

0:04:01

So I had to look at everybody and say sorry, I’m going to have to go for just a minute. [Laughs.] And I got up, and I ran downstairs, and I got the cake out of the oven, and I came back, and I sat down, and then, of course, my 13-year-old comes in and starts doing TikTok dances behind me over here.

So I think we all are just in this crazy situation and trying to figure out how to make it all work, and so we’re hoping today that we can learn from each other, we can share some best practices and some tips that we have been trying here across Eagle Hill, and hopefully all of us can try to get through this a little bit better. So with that I will turn it over, I think it’s to Jamar, to talk through some of our survey results.

Jamar:
Thanks, Melissa. So before we had this webinar we wanted to poll our invitees, just a quick hit survey to understand your challenges as parents, some of your biggest worries, and then of course any positives from your extended stay at home.

0:05:05

So we wanted to find out what are parents most struggling with. And we found that over 50% of parents are struggling with getting into a routine, keeping children occupied, and the ability to stay focused on work, which all kind of makes sense. What are the biggest worries during this crisis? Also kind of no shocker top three: health, family health, family stress, uncertainty. And that one is actually universal, so I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily only true for us parents—

Melissa:
I’d agree.

Jamar:
—true for everyone. But No. 4 is definitely true for us parents, which is worrying about your children’s learning and education. I know I live in Virginia. They just closed public schools. My son’s in preschool, but he was starting to get in the mix, so now I’m trying to figure out how to teach him at home and navigate that.

0:05:59

So I know that’s something with kids of different age groups that everyone is dealing with. And then lastly another universal one is losing my job. And that actually ties in, we did a national poll across employees in the U.S. and found that 55% of all employees are currently worried about losing their job. Of course we took that poll last week. We’re sure those numbers are changing. But that also is kind of a universal worry.

And of course there’s some positives, so the light at the end of the tunnel. More family time. There’s actually as much family time as you can stand, so embrace it. No commuting time. So wake up and get to it. Casual dress attire. I actually had on a three piece suit before we started—

Melissa:
[Laughs.] Yeah, right.

Jamar:
It was too much so I put on my Eagle Hill t-shirt to show solidarity with those that voted for that.

0:06:59

Children learning new things. I know there’s a bunch of stuff out there. Everybody’s trying a ton. And then of course fewer meetings. Can’t guarantee the validity of that one, but that’s what everybody says. And now we’ll take a quick live poll while we have a captive audience and we’d like to know how would you describe your mindset as a parent in this remote work environment. So if you’d please take a quick moment and select a choice and we’ll see the results right after.

Moderator:
Okay, we’ll give it just a minute for everyone still voting. Give you just another second.

Jamar:
All right, it looks like the prevailing mindset is, of course, the one that most of us are taking, and the best approach, in my eyes, because I’m definitely a glass half full kind of person, and that’s that this is challenging, it’s tough, but we’ll prevail.

0:08:11

So, you know, we’re in it together. As Melissa mentioned it’s the we. So tough times, of course, but we’ll get through it. I’ll pass it over to Laura who will speak through some strategies to help in these challenging times that we will get through.

Laura:
Great. Thanks, Jamar. So just as Melissa and Jamar indicated, these are really unprecedented times, and I think parents are acutely aware of this environment and sort of the challenges that we’re having. So what we did is we pulled together five relatively simple strategies that we gathered around Eagle Hill that we think may be helpful to you and your organization that you can put into practice. So the first tip is to communicate clearly and often with your partners and teams.

0:09:04

Just as an example, Eagle Hill has been 100% virtual. This is our second week of doing that. And so two Sundays ago I sat down with my husband and we literally pulled out our phones and compared schedules as far as I’ve got a meeting at this hour, you have a meeting at this hour or a call and really just sort of like piecemealed the day.

But what we also tried to do is after that day passed, after the kids went to bed we looked again and sort of reflected on how did that work, is there anything we would change, did something not go as we wanted, so trying to sort of get ahead of it and communicate, but also to sort of reflect on after the fact to see, you know, how things are going and trying to be as agile as we can.

On the business side, my boss, who’s our managing director for people and culture at Eagle Hill, she has full-blown shared her schedule with us and I can see that she’s blocked off times when she’s going to be eating lunch with her—she has two twin girls—and she has made that known for all of us.

0:10:02

And I think I’ve really appreciated that transparency. It’s reassuring to me in a very uncertain time and really kind of humanizes her as a leader. And I now know that it’s okay for me to take time off, you know, to watch my kids. Like I said, I’ve got two young boys at home. And so that give and take I see sort of embodied in her as a leader and really kind of reassures me as well in the process. I don’t know if Melissa or Jamar you have anything to add.

Melissa:
The only thing I would add is, you know, this wouldn’t necessarily work for Laura’s kids or Jamar’s kids because of their age, but I think one of the things that also has been working for me with older kids, even my 9-year-old understands, is I’ve actually been really sitting down with them and telling them about what my schedule looks like for the day so they kind of have an idea of what’s happening.

So, for example, yesterday I let them know what was happening, but I had like a big gap in the middle of the day, so we made mac and cheese for lunch yesterday, all four of us, and then played Wii bowling afterward. We had a Wii bowling tournament. So I’ve been trying to communicate with them, too, so they know what to expect.

0:11:09

Laura:
Great. The second tip is around establishing a routine and not a schedule. And the key here is that this situation really demands flexibility. Many of you indicated in our survey that establishing a routine in and of itself is a concern of yours. The concept is really borrowed from infant care. They talk about how, you know, children or babies like structure and they like having kind of a flow. It brings them ease. But that it’s a little bit hard to have a real schedule. And I think because this situation is ever changing and evolving, it can be very difficult to have a rigid routine. So for those of you that aren’t really sure about where to start with a routine, I think the first step is to do a little, you know, sort of informal self-assessment.

0:11:56

Ask yourself, you know, am I more productive in the morning, I’m more productive in the evenings. In the old world, for example, I didn’t have a problem if I needed to catch up on some things after my kids went to bed. I tended to leave early so I could pick them up from daycare, so I would sort of have that flexibility to do work at night. Right now I find I am completely exhausted by about 7:30, so that’s a little less realistic for me. So just kind of taking stock in terms of where your productivity lies.

The same thing with your kids. If you have a situation where they’re going to be taking a nap where you can get some quiet time, that might be a place where you can get some extra work done. Routine for us, sort of in the morning, for example, looks like I get them up, we get breakfast, and they know that their chore for the day is to go make their bed. Well, the 5-year-old. The 2-year-old can’t do that. [Laughs.] And so that’s time for me to log on and get things ready. And we sort of have a flow for the day. It’s not a specific schedule where if it doesn’t happen at 8:30, you know, everything falls apart.

0:12:56

It’s really a routine. And I think that routine helps to bring a little bit of reassurance to my kids. It also helps me kind of know what we’re getting into with the day.

On the work side another example is we have a lunch and learn program called the Smart 60 Series, and we typically offer that over lunch. And what we decided in this environment is that many parents that are home with their kids need to have lunch at that time, so we’re looking at varying the start time of that program just to sort of give a little added flexibility for people to log on at a time that might be better for them. So that’s my perspective with little kids. I don’t know if Melissa or Jamar, if you have anything to add on this one just in terms of kind of setting up that routine versus a rigid schedule.

Melissa:
I can go, and I don’t know if you have something to say as well, Jamar. But I think again with having older kids for me it’s been about making sure they do have a routine. So my 13-year-old is at the stage where if you let her she’ll sleep till noon.

0:13:58

And so I’ve been trying to, you know, we negotiated a get up time of 9:00, so I make sure she gets up every day. I make sure they get dressed every day. Like Laura, we have chores that they need to do every day in terms of keeping their room clean. So I have, like Laura, been trying to instill a set of routines that kind of keep the family sane, maybe, is part of it as well. So Jamar, I don’t know if you have anything to add.

Jamar:
Yeah, I think for me just having a toddler, it’s a bit of a routine, but I think also some of it is kind of teaching him some associated behaviors. So I try to show him now that like there’s a grab bag of activities that he can do when Daddy has a call. Not necessarily like during this call you’ll do this, during this call you’ll do that, but now he’ll know. I’ll be like Daddy has a call and he’ll say oh, okay, now I play a game on the tablet or, you know, something like that. So just trying to establish those behaviors in him into a flow that, you know, there’s times where I can’t give him all the attention.

0:15:03

Laura:
Those are great examples. Thanks for sharing. All right, so the third recommendation. This is a little bit lighthearted, but I actually think this is our best recommendation. Invite the kids to say hello. And this is really just all about embracing the situation that we’re in, but it’s very much a practical win-win. I find when I plop my toddler on my lap and he gets to see the video, he is excited, but then he knows Mommy’s doing something, and I can still sort of be a part of it.

But I also think it reinforces this mindset of we are all in this together. And I think again it sort of humanizes things. You know, when Melissa went to go pull the cake out of the oven, I mean, it’s like a very classic example. And the fact that our CEO is doing that I think just reinforces the core values that are guiding us through this: family, fun, all of those things really help to kind of get us through this.

0:15:56

And I think it’s a very sort of simple step that really just kind of integrates. I mean, we’re already integrated with family and work, and that’s another way to do that, a very simple thing you can do that kind of gets everybody involved with the process.

Melissa:
Yeah, I think it’s incumbent, I think, upon leaders and managers to show that vulnerability because we have—it is a whole new set of norms, right? It is a whole new way of working that all of us have been thrust into at the exact same time. And I think as a leader and as a manager what we can do for our teams, the best thing we can do for our teams and show us it’s okay, right? We’re all doing, we’re all going through the same type of things. Our stories all look a little different, but we’re all experiencing this very human problem at the exact same time.

Jamar:
I agree. And one of the phrases that we like to use at Eagle Hill is a [double line], which is when you can kind of, for lack of a better phrase, kill two birds with one stone. But one thing that inviting kids to say hello I have noticed is that it gets you a little closer to your colleagues.

0:17:02

Because there’s times where, if I have a call, I’ll invite my son to come say hi and then encourage them to do, you know, either invite their kid to say hi or to at least, you know, be more vulnerable with the fact that we’re working from home and that things are different. So it invites, you know, you can be human. We’re combining the two. So we’re working, but we also recognize that by nature of our environment you have other things going on.

Laura:
I had a conference call this morning. It had two dogs, my toddler, and a kindergartener like all… [Laughter.] It got real real. Okay, so the fourth recommendation is to take advantage of free resources. And so I think this idea kind of came to us as, you know, maybe you’re a part of social media or whatnot, but the concept is really like celebrities and artists and famous people are coming out of the woodwork to try to give back in this situation.

0:17:56

So you have Mo Willems that’s doing free art drawing classes during the day, you have Ina Garten who is asking people to tell her what’s in their pantry and she’ll come up with a recipe for them so they don’t have to go to the store. Lots of folks wanting to sort of give back and provide access to things that either can help us as parents or definitely can help kids.

I know, you know, my children are younger and so we’re getting different videos from preschool or we’re finding like, you know, a story time online or other resources that are out there that can one, keep the kids occupied, which is another concern you all had in the survey. So I think just sort of how do I keep my kids occupied? Well, there’s tons of resources out there. Try a few. See what works.

We tried Cosmic Kids Yoga the other day and my 5-year-old did it for literally 30 minutes, which was more kind of quiet time than I’d had in a while with him, so lots of different things out there that you can try that are easily accessible in this environment and things that can work as kind of a win-win to give you a little bit extra productivity time on the work side.

0:19:01

Those of you with older children, as Jamar mentioned earlier, Virginia schools have closed for the remainder of the year, so I think a lot of districts are looking into what is their distance learning plan or distance learning offering, and that can be overwhelming to parents as well. Yes, you have some structure, which sounds really nice to someone like me, but at the same time it’s a lot of material, a lot to sift through, and so I think it’s really about knowing what your resources are, taking a moment to figure out what’s going to work for you.

It may not be perfect the first day that you try it, but sort of navigating through that and relying on other parents in your community and within your work organization I think can be really helpful to navigate some of these sort of uncertain times, and all of the resources that are out there kind of helps you pinpoint what’s going to work for you.

0:19:50

Melissa:
We were laughing yesterday. We had shared an article amongst each other and one of the quotes in the article was about how some of us are feeling guilty about lots of screen time or just you’re home but you don’t get to spend all the time with your kids, like just a lot of stress. And the quote was something along the lines of like hey look, don’t feel guilty, like you’re not doing this to like cut back on childcare. Like your kid is actually your coworker and trying to save the world. Like you need to start thinking about it like that.

And so it was kind of a cute and lighthearted way, but it is true, right? Like we haven’t all chosen to be in this situation, and we’re here for very different reasons, and so we ought to give ourselves a bit of a break as well.

Jamar:
Absolutely. And then there’s the stuff out there, you know, as a parent to keep your sanity. So there’s more than just for kids. There’s exercise classes out there, the NFL is allowing you to access games for free, so there’s a bunch of things that, when you get that moment of time, you know, as Melissa alluded to, where you’re feeling this guilt, but you also have to keep yourself sane, so be on the lookout for some of those free resources as well.

0:21:01

Laura:
Yeah. Actually a perfect segue into our fifth and final recommendation which is embracing a little bit goes a long way. And at the risk of sounding too cheesy, I think giving an extra hug to your kid or taking a moment to go outside and take a few breaths or finding a way to sort of center yourself before your day starts, or to physically close your laptop at the end of the day, whatever that end time is for you I think are really…you know, it’s those small things you can do, but it goes a long way towards our own mental health, our own confidence in this new uncertain environment and the ability to navigate all the changes that we’re experiencing.

So helping to remember we’re all in this together, we will prevail, but we’re going to be stepping outside of those comfort zones, trying new things. Being uncomfortable, through that does come growth, so I think the silver lining in a lot of this is that we will learn new things, and our kids will learn new things.

0:22:03

I find my kids are a little bit—well, a lot more flexible than I am in certain situations, so I’m learning from them in all of this as well. And just, you know, trying little things, and a lot of times those little things are going to add up to really give you sort of the comfort and the foundation you need to get through this.

Melissa:
The other thing I would add to that, too, in terms of a little bit goes a long way is, you know, Laura kind of alluded to this earlier about adjusting her own schedule, but that would be the other thing to remember, is that your old schedule may not work anymore. And sometimes it’s little adjustments to that schedule that really make all the difference. So I think being willing to take a look and saying hey, I used to be able to pick my kids up and then work at night, and now that doesn’t work for me and I need to wake up early or whatever it might be. But sometimes little adjustments I think can make a big difference.

0:22:55

Laura:
Great point. All right, so now what we want to do is sort of turn it over to you all. I know we have a lot of folks on the line and we are all building this as we go, so we offered the five that we think might be helpful as a starting point, but we’d love to hear from you all and understand if you have any tips or tricks or hacks or anything that’s working well for you or maybe challenges you’re encountering, be happy to address those with the group.

Moderator:
And as a reminder, if you do have any questions just feel free to type those into the question box or into the chat box and we can read aloud your tips and tricks. So we’re getting some in. Thank you very much. My kids are six and nine and I am transparent about when I need quiet, which helps my brain rest so that I can be a better parent. I think it helps them understand why I need a bit of quiet.

Melissa:
Yeah. That’s good.

0:23:56

Moderator:
Another comment. Make it fun. Bake for science class is something that we’re doing.

Melissa:
That’s awesome.

Laura:
That’s great. Every day my kids are with—so my husband takes the early shift or that’s sort of our flow, and my 5-year-old says Daddy, what experiment are we doing today? The other day they created some ramp and they like launched things off the ramp.

Melissa:
[Laughs.]

Laura:
So my kid’s a STEM person, I guess, now, but they’re really liking the little experiments, so making it fun is good.

Moderator:
Here’s one question. Any advice on work schedules, how to manage an onslaught of meetings when trying to work and parent, ways to cut back or prioritize?

Melissa:
So that was like a question. Well, I guess in terms of prioritizing one of the things I would probably ask yourself—and I think this is something to do regardless of the situation we’re in right now—is do I have to attend that meeting, right? I think that’s the first question you need to ask yourself—do I really need to attend that meeting?

0:24:59

Two is should that meeting—there’s a meme going on around right now about something like oh, the truth is actually that meeting didn’t…there could have been an email, right? So could there be email? Do you really need to have a meeting? So that would be my first thought. I encourage people to do regardless of the situation, is to think through whether or not it does make sense to have as many meetings as we need to be having.

Other thoughts to be thinking about is if you do need to have the meeting, can it be 15 minutes, can it be 30 minutes, can it be not an hour? So that’s another thought. Another idea that we have just implemented at Eagle Hill—it’s not going to completely answer the question for you, but it does build in some more wellness time—is any hour long meetings we’re asking people to end ten minutes early and for half hour meetings five minutes early so that gives people time to get up, stretch their legs, give their kids a hug, whatever that might be. So I don’t know if Jamar and Laura if you have stuff to add.

0:26:01

Jamar:
Yeah, I think you, at this time if we think about our attention as a commodity, so our attention is one of our greatest assets, and right now our attention is a commodity. So if you think about it like you would think about a financial decision or, you know, something like that with your attention it can probably help you prioritize meetings. So start to look at it, think of your attention as a [depleting] asset and prioritize which one needs your full attention versus which ones don’t necessarily and kind of figure it out from there.

Moderator:
Here’s another tip. We actually have a morning meeting with our kids to set the routine for the day. Our kids—

Melissa:
Oh, I like that.

Moderator:
—are five and nine.

Jamar:
That’s cool.

Laura:
That’s a great tip. We’ve been having—I don’t know if this came up, but we’ve been talking about it, about the value of kind of daily stand ups and having those quick connection points. I think it helps with the communication recommendation that we had. But I love that, doing it with the family. I’m going to totally try that. I’m not sure—it’s going to be a quick meeting with my 2-year-old, but let’s do it.

Melissa:
[Laughs.]

0:27:05

Moderator:
Here’s another tip. I’m being honest and being real and letting my kids understand the term the “new normal” for us. This is [really] new and yes, it’s fun, but it is our reality for now. I’m lucky to have older kids and we can have these conversations. Another comment. I’m trying to use this as an opportunity for self-directed learning and covering topics we wouldn’t normally get into during the school year.

Laura:
That’s great.

Jamar:
Yeah, that’s great.

Moderator:
Another comment. Half of our leadership has very little children, half have no children. Do you have any recommendations on parameters for the group that can help the parents withstand this long-term? I think that right now we’re working like this, we think working like this will be temporary, but given how long it is expected to last, any ideas around things on minimizing meetings, limiting email time from the perspective of the company to help parents or that the parents can advocate for?

0:28:10

Melissa:
My recommendation, what we’ve been encouraging people to do is communicate, like communicate, communicate, communicate. And like I said, my story might look different than Jamar’s or Laura’s, but we are all kind of experiencing similar things. And if your story looks different than what your leadership story is I would encourage you to be as transparent as possible about the challenges that are coming with what’s happening and hopefully work with them to identify how to manage through this. I don’t know if Laura and Jamar you have other thoughts.

0:28:52

Laura:
No, I think I’ve just really appreciated, you know, Melissa’s done a great job, and also all of our leaders really at sort of doing a good job of embracing this new situation.

0:29:01

And even if they’re not in the exact same situation of having younger kids or whatnot, I feel like everyone’s sort of leading with an empathetic mindset. And so I think just even acknowledging that we’re all in slightly different but equally challenging scenarios I think is important. And if you hear that from the top I think that helps employees feel comfortable as well speaking up.

Moderator:
Here’s another comment, slash, question. I’m at a loss to keep my 2-year-old son occupied without having him watch a screen. I want to play with him, but I also have a lot of work to do.

Jamar:
It’s definitely tricky. But I will say a couple things that I’ve been doing is, you know, being transparent with my team about building in that time. So of course it’s rainy today, but most days I’ll just tell the team hey, I’m about to take [Austin] to the water, because they know we have a little pond behind our house that he likes to go to. And then screen time is challenging, but one thing that I’ve done for him—he’s three, so he’s a little older than two—but I got him some dry erase workbooks that he can trace letters and play with things on.

0:30:14

So I’ve tried to get him some, you know, a little bit more quote, unquote, challenging toys that can kind of occupy his mind a bit rather than having him watch TV, and can get him kind of a step up in terms of some of those learning activities so he can wrack his brain a little bit trying to figure that stuff out.

Melissa:
One article—

Laura:
That’s a great tip.

Melissa:
That is a great tip. One article I had read, which I thought was kind of interesting, was—and my kids are much older now—but would be one to start rotating toys and to have different sets of toys in different rooms. So you can go to your living room where you’ve got a certain set of toys, and then you can go to your—he or she is getting bored in there, then you go start working in your kitchen, and there’s a different set of… That was one suggestion. And then also just in general starting to rotate toys in general.

0:31:03

So you hide four or five of them and then you bring them out next week to keep it interesting as well. But it’s been a long time for me, so I’ll defer to you guys.

Laura:
My kids are really lucky. We give them each one Clorox wipe and they pick a counter that they want to clean, and it actually takes them a long time because that thing stays wet for a while.

Melissa:
[Laughs.]

Laura:
Then we wash their hands, of course. But yeah. And the other thing I would say is I’ve actually seen some articles where it’s like look, you know, it can’t be perfect. Screen time for like a month, a little more than you might want for a month or two, like in the grand scheme of things, you know, I’m not doctor, but it’s going to be okay.

And I think, you know, the best thing we can all do for our own like stress and mental health is to not be too hard on ourselves and, you know, if you’re noticing like it’s not working for the screen time then that’s a whole different thing. But if it’s working and it gives you that 20 minutes of concentrated time I think just acknowledging it’s not what you’d like to be doing, but you’re kind of doing what you can, I think that’s important.

0:32:07

And then relying on those little moments of going outside to check out the sunrise or whatever it may be I think, you know, you’ll get those moments of more fun back and away from the screen.

Moderator:
And a couple more suggestions along those lines that have come in. The open-ended toys are great: Legos, Magna-Tiles. Busy experiments like slime or homemade Play-Doh. Asking grandparents or other family members or friends to read stories to them on FaceTime. Again it’s a screen, but it’s got that human interaction to it. Our next question. How do you foresee this impacting the long-term future of work? Will there be more trust in teams to work remotely?

0:32:58

Melissa:
I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting to see what long-term impacts happen from this. I think, I hope, I would like to see that. I think I would like to see that. I don’t know. For me I think it’s too soon to tell what long-term impacts we’re going to see out of this. But I would like to hope that people become more open to it. Do you guys have thoughts?

Laura:
Nothing unique. I agree. I mean, it’ll be interesting to see. I do think, you know, this is forcing a little bit of flexibility on all of us, so I think, you know, we didn’t really have a lot of time to decide what our new behavior was going to be, we were sort of thrust into it. [It’s like] when you bring a newborn home. I’ve kind of been making that analogy. It’s like no matter—

Melissa:
That’s a good point.

Laura:
—if you don’t want it, it’s happening. You have a newborn and your life changes like in the moment you walk in the door. So I think some of those new behaviors are going to become a little more ingrained, and hopefully the super painful ones will go back to a more comfortable place and the ones that seem to work okay, if it’s built on trust, hopefully some of those will stick around.

0:34:07

Moderator:
Here’s another suggestion. Anything that you’re aware of from their school that you can continue is a great idea. For example, most early childcares or kindergartens have circle time in the morning, which is a similar concept to the morning meeting, so it’s a good opportunity to normalize things for your children.

Laura:
Great idea.

Jamar:
Yep.

Moderator:
Let’s see, the next question. Just scrolling through. One second. To build off Melissa and Jamar’s comment, there was a great article from the Harvard Business Review about managing your energy versus time.

Melissa:
Oh, yes, I’ve read that article. It is a great article.

Moderator:
Yeah, so maybe we can circulate that. I found it very helpful in building up time for a longer break and going out in the backyard and playing softball or soccer or something that’s a very active activity. We’re doing a lot of stand-up comedy, improv, role playing, so that way we understand each other’s personalities and how we are dealing with the stress.

0:35:14

Melissa:
Love it.

Jamar:
I like it.

Moderator:
So it helps me step back when I’m frustrated and remember how they view me as a parent during stressful situations as well as from—

Melissa:
[Laughs.]

Moderator:
—the adult perspective as to whining and how it sounds to us. This may be over sharing, but our motto in our family is have a gratitude attitude.

Melissa:
Oh, I like that.

Jamar:
That’s awesome.

Moderator:
Another comment. Intact teams can also create a team norm to block a certain time of day that everyone agrees to protect that portion of the day. Even if you do not have children everyone would appreciate that anticipated space.

Jamar:
That’s a great idea.

0:36:01

Laura:
That is a great idea.

Moderator:
Here’s a tough one. Any thoughts on how to deal with meltdowns while in a meeting or on the phone with a client? I don’t want to give in to my child, but I do want to have peace on the call.

Melissa:
Hmm…

Laura:
I’m curious about the age. This exact thing happened to me the other day. I was lucky enough it was a time when my husband was able to kind of take point with the kids, but the second I started the conference call that I was delivering my son threw a fit, pitched a fit. Didn’t want to have his coat on and go outside and just like was crying for what seemed like forever. And I just acknowledged and said I promise he’s not up there on his own, like, you know, Dad’s working through it. And sure enough it was okay.

I think when they’re right there I think that’s one of those moments where if they’re really little, maybe introducing them in the beginning so that they feel like they’re sort of a part of it, and then once they kind of settle down and see what’s going on over there they can go play once they’re calmed down a little bit.

0:37:07

Obviously if they’re having a full-on meltdown that wouldn’t be the best time to introduce them to your call. But I think before that, you know, like we’ve sort of been joking around the company, it’s like you almost have to like acknowledge and introduce them first because if you don’t then Murphy’s law is they’ll start to cry when you start it.

Melissa:
My advice would be to be as transparent as possible. Again, we are all in the same situation and clients are humans, too. And I probably would tell the client what was happening, maybe even some humor minute show the meltdown if it was a funny situation. [Laughs.] And then ask the client, say look, can I call you back in ten minutes, see if I can’t get this under control, or if I can’t could we reschedule. Like just, I think… I think you’ll find that most people are really truly human and understanding in the situation that we’re all in.

0:38:04

Jamar:
I agree, definitely. Transparency.

Moderator:
And then we have some time for some more questions. If you all have additional questions beyond the tips and tricks, we can take those. And again just type your question into the question box and we’ll read them aloud. It looks like the first one. How do you talk to your kids about what’s going on?

Laura:
I can take that. This is a great question I think a lot of us are grappling with. I just read an article the other day, actually, from PBS Kids, and it gave some sort of simple tips around how to talk to your kids around the coronavirus. And I think regardless of the age the takeaway I took from the article is just getting it out and naming it and talking about it is very important when it comes to anxieties or fears.

0:38:53

And so I think we try not every night at dinner, but at some point we try to pull my preschooler aside and sort of say how are you feeling about all of this? Like is it weird that we’re not playing with our neighbors? And just trying to kind of get him to talk about it. Sometimes he wants to talk about it and sometimes he doesn’t. But I think just acknowledging how you’re feeling, how they’re feeling, and getting it out can be really important. I think the other piece is to share simple facts and don’t let the sort of well, I heard this, or I heard this, like get it out on the table and sort of use simple facts that you can share with them.

And then I think both kids and adults really like to feel like they have a part in the solution and that they can take action, so one of the things that I think can be helpful is just saying, you know, we’re keeping our space so that we can keep other people healthy, or so that we can all keep each other healthy. It’s less of, well, we don’t want to be near them, so you don’t get to—you know, not inciting that fear, but more of like we want to help each other and make sure that everyone stays healthy and safe.

0:39:55

And I think kind of simple ideas like that can really help people feel like they have a part in it and can help kind of put kids at ease a little bit. I don’t know, Melissa or Jamar, if you have other tips.

Melissa:
I think that’s great advice.

Jamar:
Agree. And for the younger ones, if you make it playful. I wish he was up so I could ask. I can’t remember the exact phrase. But they say something at preschool about spreading germs and he says it all the time, so I just say that remember, you know, germ-free is the way to be, or I can’t remember. [Laughter.] So then he says oh, yeah.

Laura:
That’s a good one. If it’s not that use that. There’s that other thing going around right now. It’s you put pepper in a jar of soap or like a dish of soap and when you touch it, if you’ve got soap on your fingers the pepper spreads away. And so basically it’s showing the impact of washing your hands versus not. And so you say that the pepper’s like germs and then they just see it very vividly, sort of the impact of washing hands. So there’s like experiments you can do that just kind of help littler kids see it all.

0:41:00

Moderator:
Our next question. What has been the brightest aspect of this new way of working for you?

Melissa:
For me—I’ll start—I think it is really awesome to have so much family time. Like my kids are more willing to do things with me than the—I mean, the 13-year-old, you know, I am not cool anymore. But every day now my 13-year-old and I, my daughter and I, we go for a long walk every day, which has been amazing. Or like I said yesterday, to be able, in the middle of the day, to have a Wii bowling tournament was so much fun. So I think those things I’m really trying to treasure and hold onto, and I will miss when life gets back to normal. As much as I sometimes want to kill them as well. But for the most part I think I love the family time.

0:41:58

Jamar:
I think another added benefit—I mean, of course the family time—but another added benefit is just kind of the connection that I’ve been able to develop with my colleagues, because I’ve had to bring them into my world. So now when you might have said oh, my son’s asleep or something like that, like a call will start and they’ll be like oh, where’s Austin. So it’s just really that camaraderie.

I really do feel like one thing that Eagle Hill has done well is just that closeness. One of our core values is family, so I think that this has really like [shined] on that because it’s kind of like just by default. I mean, whether you have kids or not just by default you’re kind of like in each other’s worlds now. You’re connected in a way that would not have been possible without this.

Laura:
Yeah. Still my friend there, Jamar. I was going to say… [Laughter.] Yeah, I think, you know, definitely getting to spend a little extra time with my kids, although it’s stressful. I think it does remind you what’s important at the end of the day. And then for me very much confirming that the organization like Eagle Hill that I joined is, you know, true to its core values, and I think it’s really coming out in this period.

0:43:04

And I just feel—I feel very supported from all levels of the organization and feel connected. Even though we’re not physically together I definitely feel in some ways more connected to them. We’re all kind of going through this together and we all found out Virginia schools are going to be closed for a year, you know, people say I did cry a little bit. It’s just very…

Melissa:
[Laughs.]

Laura:
I didn’t, but, you know, I was like very vulnerable. And so I think that’s built stronger connections as well.

Melissa:
I know I felt like I was going to have a panic attack when I saw Virginia school closed and I don’t even live in Virginia. [Laughs.]

Moderator:
Here’s another question. Arguing among my teens has become an issue in our tight quarters. It creates stress when I’m trying to work and complete my tasks. Do you have any suggestions on how to address it with older children?

0:43:59

Melissa:
Sorry, I thought she said arguing between my teams. I was like oh, arguing between your teens. That’s a good question.

Laura:
Teenagers.

Melissa:
So here are a couple of ideas that I’ve been having—or not been having, but I have seen other people doing that I think has been great. In fact I can hear my kids right now outside my door. Is getting them busy. So that’s a thing I’ve been struggling with, too, so they have a lot of time to snipe at each other. And this distance learning thing is just… At least for my kids it’s not been much. It’s been by 10:00 or 11:00 every day they’re done, so they’ve got a lot of time on their hands. And there’s only so many walks my daughter Olivia is willing to take. So I’ve been…

So one of my friends and colleagues came up with the idea to have a Rube Goldberg challenge. I don’t know if you guys know him. He’s the guy who, he would roll a ball down and it would fall down, and dominoes would fall, chk-chk-chk-chk-chk, and then it would knock over a glass of water. Do you know what I’m…?

0:45:04

I can’t…if I’m explaining this very well. But it’s like how to build a better mousetrap. And so she sent out an email yesterday to say okay, teams, go build your best machine. And there were like four rules. And now my kids are outside my door, all three of them, building their Rube Goldberg machine. So I think trying to be creative like that has been a godsend.

My mom is another example. My mom sent us a puzzle and sent my sister and her family a puzzle, and now we’re all having a puzzle competition to see who can complete the puzzle the fastest. So I think trying to find creative ways to keep them busy, and then also trying to find ways to keep them working as a team. I don’t have all the answers either because it’s not easy.

0:45:56

Moderator:
Here’s another comment. Older kids have said—my older kids have said that they will ask me if they have questions, but they’ve pointed out that over sharing information was stressing them out. So interesting comment.

Laura:
Even my preschooler is saying that. He’s saying I don’t want to choose. I’m choosing too many things, Mommy. [As we try new] activities. So I think yeah, I think everybody’s feeling a little bit of stress, and yes, sometimes over talking about it. That’s a really good point. Maybe pick a time of day where you mention it and try to contain it within that period and then try to change the subject and talk about something else that brings more comfort. That’s a really good tip.

Moderator:
Another question we have. What are your strategies for staying focused?

Jamar:
I can take that one. As I alluded to earlier, just kind of, you know, treating your attention like it’s your greatest asset. And some tactics that I’ve found to be successful are creating a checklist the night before.

0:46:57

And I try not to limit my checklist to just work activities, so I’ll have something on the checklist like charge the ring doorbell, like things that I’ve forgotten to do the night before. So creating that checklist. And then from there being realistic and prioritizing the things that need to get done, so [remembering] your time is your asset.

And then also I’ve found a good tactic to kind of stay focused is having dedicated work spaces. There was a time where my two offices were D.C. and Seattle, but now they are bedroom and kitchen, so getting between those to kind of just switch up the space and kind of say all right, I need focused time, I’m going to go to the bedroom office and sit at my desk.

Or if I don’t have to focus as much I’ll go to the kitchen because then I’m in the mix of things, and my son’s in the living room and we can kind of spend that time together. So just really prioritizing your attention and then going from there in terms of how you prioritize what you need to get done.

0:48:00

Moderator:
Thank you. That looks like we’ve run through all the questions, so I’ll turn it over to Melissa to close things out.

Melissa:
Wonderful. Well, thank you all so much for your time and sharing your ideas and comments and thoughts. We wish you the best in staying healthy and staying sane as we all try to figure out how to parent and work at the same time. So thank you guys all for joining.

0:48:24
[End of recording.]