Erica McMannes is the founder and COO of Instant Teams, a company that builds and manages remote teams for companies across the U.S.. At Instant Teams, military spouses can create a free profile and be matched with remote work. Erica and her co-founder recently closed a $1.5 million round of VC funding and have been able to continue expanding even in the midst of COVID-19 losses.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we were forced to toss our regular routines out the window to adapt….and adapt hard! From sudden schooling at home, summer camps canceled, working from home alongside spouses or partners, all while maintaining careers, running businesses, or reeling from sudden unemployment…. whoa, #allthefeels.
As a tech founder, mom of 2, and Active Duty military spouse, I normally feel primed and ready to roll with those punches and take on whatever is thrown my way. But this….this is a whole new ball game.
As we face a back-to-school season unlike any other, my cofounder (mom of 4 + military spouse) and our teams (130 remote working parents across the globe) were forced to reassess what was working for us over the spring and summer to determine how we’ll continue to navigate it all — from pandemic life to parenting and caregiving, and remote work.
Here are our collective top tips, bringing you the perspectives of fellow women in business, working mothers, and remote work pros who are doing their absolute best to brace for the 2020-2021 school year ahead:
1. Stay organized & set boundaries.
When it comes to juggling work and parenting tasks, a daily schedule can be super helpful to create a much-needed sense of structure for your days. This could look like a digital or printed calendar, or even a chalkboard or whiteboard hung up somewhere your family will see it every day.
Consider sitting down with your family over the weekend to lay out what your week ahead looks like, breaking it down into daily priorities. This time is also a great chance to talk about boundaries. Yes, it can look different when you have small kids who demand more attention. But designate a specific area to work in, a homework space, scheduled lunchtime, and a system so your kids know when you’re “off limits” (ex. “Mom’s/Dad’s in a meeting” sign) during important meetings or while you’re tackling an urgent deadline.
Once you enter a new week, strive to get the important things done first, and if there’s room for the other “stuff,” great. If not, know there’s always another day! No matter what, just be sure to keep the communication lines open and initiate check-ins with your kids and spouse to see what’s working (and what’s not). At the end of the week, you can always reassess and adapt.
2. Communicate: ask for help & don’t apologize.
You shouldn’t have to do all the things on your own. No badge exists for those who weigh themselves down with the most work. No big bonus check waiting on those who load on more mental labor than humanely healthy or safe. But that’s difficult to admit. The best advice? Know when it’s necessary to ask for (or accept) help. I’ve realized that if I really wanted to become the person and the entrepreneur that I want to be, I have to ask for help.
Help, for you, could mean outsourcing — from hiring a cleaner or babysitter to having your groceries delivered, and even organizing distance learning pods in your neighborhood (so both you and your kids can have a break from the monotony). Or, it could also mean teaching your kids how to make their own lunch or waking up your Roomba for a vacuum session.
What’s also important during this time? Tossing unnecessary apologies out the window! If your child interrupts you during a meeting, it’s okay. Acknowledge them and the situation, and go back to the conversation. If you have little ones at home, allow them to be a part of the work you’re doing — whether that’s showing their face on the screen to see who you’re chatting with or playing with a whiteboard calendar next to you.
Ultimately, recognize that you’re maintaining a career AND a household. There’s no room for shame, guilt, or striving for perfection here.
3. Stop comparing.
Has anyone figured out this whole parenting and working remotely during COVID thing yet? We think it’s safe to say the answer is no. Each of us is figuring out ways to make it work, despite the back-to-school conundrum.
Maybe you’ve decided on in-person learning, distance learning, or homeschooling. Whatever you’ve landed on, recognize that no one knows your family better than YOU. That’s right. Continue to do what’s best for your family, while supporting the hard decisions others are making, too.
4. Go easy on yourself.
We’re living in a constant state of change, so new hurdles will inevitably be added to your journey. Didn’t think you’d have to play the role of substitute teacher, did you? What about at-home tech guru to ensure a successful distance learning environment? Or, give in to more screen time than you ever thought possible?
Yeah, we didn’t either. And it’s okay to admit we’re not the best at it. But what matters is we’re all doing the best we can to establish the best routines and dynamics for our families. So, go ahead and lower the bar a bit. Go easy on yourself as you continue to navigate the influx of changes throughout this pandemic.
5. Don’t give up.
There will be days when you feel like you hardly checked anything off your to-do list. There will be days when you feel as if you failed as a parent.
But don’t give up and know you’re far from alone. Maybe you need to alter your schedule or revise your boundaries. Or, you need to vent to a friend or family member, or open yourself up to receiving outside help. Identify room for positive change and growth versus throwing in the towel, and keep trying because this too shall pass!
Written by Instant Teams’ founder and COO, Erica McMannes. Instant Teams proudly serves mid-market and enterprise level customers with functional remote team solutions through proprietary remote team software (Arti) fueled by a remote workforce of 10,000+ military spouses.