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Working from home with kids presents all sorts of challenges, and it’s not just the threat of your child interrupting your latest video call. There’s the time management, interpersonal conflicts, frequent distractions, and more.
As someone who’s worked from home for over a decade, and the last few years with a little guy at home, I learned quite a bit about managing my remote team from it. Both my wife and I work from home, and we’re surprised at how much we’ve learned about management by helping our little guy grow up.
Here are a few of the management lessons I’ve learned from being a parent that works from home.
1. Set and stick to a schedule.
Every parent who’s had to get their kids ready for school again at the start of the year knows how hard it can be. A routine helps kids and parents stay on track and keeps everyone organized.
Managers should do the same thing and create a schedule for their work to be more productive. It doesn’t need to be a rigid timetable that must be followed at all times. Use it as a guideline to keep you focused on the right things so you can best use your time while working. A daily checklist can help you work through essential tasks every day, and a timer can help you schedule out your day. Prioritize your tasks based on previous experience and then work through them. Adjust them based on different seasons or time tables for work and keep moving forward.
2. Learn to say thank you.
Kids often need an incentive to finish their chores or other mundane tasks. Some call it bribery, but for most parents, it’s just motivation. As adults, we’re not that different. We need rewards for accomplishing goals, too, and they can be effective management tools. It’s called a goal-setting theory, which states that when we match appropriate feedback or rewards with specific and challenging goals, we’re more likely to achieve those goals. The bigger the reward, the harder we’ll work for it.
Rewarding all goals, big or small, can help us achieve more at work. A simple reward many managers forget about is saying thank you to their team. A well-placed “thank you” can go a long way to reinforcing positive behaviors at work, foster a sense of team and make people feel better about their contributions.
3. Prioritize communication.
Parents with kids are often happy when their child finally reaches the talking age, so they can finally communicate what’s causing the latest tantrum. It might not always make sense, but it’s a milestone in your child’s development and your relationship.
When it comes to managers and employees, the key is to prioritize communication and to remember not to overshare. Employees need to know what’s going on, but not all the low-level details about the situation (unless they’re directly involved, but that’s another story). Communicate as often as needed to keep everyone in the loop to set and manage expectations.
4. Forget the bad stuff.
Kids have a built-in resiliency that makes most of them forget the bad stuff that happens. They internalize the lesson from the situation but are often able to forget the exact details. As adults, we remember more, so we tend to replay all the mistakes we made in the past. It might keep us up at night and can even lead to severe anxiety.
Instead, take a page from the kid that tripped over his own feet while learning to walk and then forgot all about it the next day. Distract yourself from the situation or thing that made you feel bad. When your brain doesn’t stop spinning, think of something completely different. Go for a walk, do a couple of jumping jacks or count something. These activities pull your brain out of its emotional state and will help avoid the anxiety from it.
5. Play well with others.
One reason parents sign their kids up for team activities is to help them learn how to play cooperatively. They have to learn to share, delegate, accept instructions and work with others towards a common goal.
It’s the same for adults at work. Managers must create a collaborative environment where their team feels heard, respected, and valued. A collaborative team creates a welcoming, supportive company culture and can spread outside of just your team too. Managers can encourage collaboration by encouraging communication between themselves and employees through one-on-one meetings, delegating tasks throughout the entire team, and valuing the input of the team.
Kids learn a lot from adults, but we can also learn from them. By applying some of their behaviors to our work, we can become better managers and employees. And since it looks like we’ll all be working from home for the foreseeable future, we’ll have ample opportunity to learn from them.