January 5, 2021  |  by Melanie Martin

2020 hit us hard. And to be clear, US = EVERYONE. Shuttered schools, canceled social activities, hindered family interactions, and significantly altered work schedules—this is 2020. At Bloom, 2020 changed a lot about the way we work and interact with each other and our clients. We’re not experts in all the things, but we’re working parents and singles isolating alone—all experiencing different struggles while navigating daily life. As we look forward to 2021, we want to share some tips and tricks on how to best manage remote work going forward, while juggling everything else.

While some companies offered work-from-home options before the pandemic (estimated at 4.7 million people, which is roughly 3.4% of the U.S. workforce), those numbers exponentially increased in summer 2020. Now, it’s estimated that 42% of the U.S. labor force is working from home full time, almost a 39% increase in 10 months.

Yes, it’s been 10 months. While it feels like those have played out in dog years, here we are—embracing a new year, hoping it’ll bring renewed hope and a bounce back to what “normal” in 2021 means. Whatever that is, one thing is certain—working remotely is here and likely not going away anytime soon. Most employees were 9-to-5’ers, waking up early, commuting into the office for a full eight hours, and then facing the long commute home. Those days are over. So, what have we learned while working safely at home? What tips, tricks, and crazy stories do we have to tell? Let’s dive in!

Working and teaching simultaneously.

While your resume may include being a dedicated room parent, troop leader, and PTA volunteer extraordinaire, nothing can prepare you for full-time virtual learning duties for one, two, or five kids while at the same time tending to your full-time job. And, all under the same roof. So, how do you navigate completing work while teaching second grade? Here are a few suggestions from some of our own Bloom team parents who are fighting the daily fight of teaching and working while attempting to stay sane:

  • Get organized. Having your ducks in a row is key—make a plan for each day. Will you 100% stick to that plan? Probably not, but having a rough idea of what you need to accomplish for work and what your kids need to tackle for school each day will help guide the ship.
  • Stop worrying so much about household chores. For better or worse, they’ll always be there. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to get the clothes in the washer, unload the dishwasher, or vacuum up the trail of crumbs your toddler leaves today. Keeping a clean house is important, but these days, it’s definitely not a top priority. 
  • Try to be as flexible as possible. We’re not talking about yoga. We’re talking about bringing the mindset that things will not always go as planned. While your kids may have been assigned a solid six hours of school work, today may not be the day to cover everything. Have grace with your kids and open communication with their teachers. Everyone knows there are limits and challenges for at-home learning, so work with the teacher and advocate for your kids. Being flexible and rolling with the punches is a lesson we can all learn and appreciate.
  • Give yourself and your kids a break. There are many more lessons to be taught right now beyond the pythagorean theorem. Overcoming the adversities of virtual learning is tough. Don’t forget that teaching your kids to be a good sibling, to help their younger sister with her coloring page, or to take out the trash if they see Mom struggling, are all lessons that are just as valuable as social studies and common core math. Feeling burned out? Tell your boss you’re going to have to take two hours of PTO today to dedicate time to your family and yourself—getting outside to unplug and play in the sunshine will make a world of difference.

Not another video call.

Sorry, I was on mute. Can you hear me now? If I had a dollar for every time I heard that since March, I would not be sitting here at work, writing a blog—I’d be isolating on a private island with spotty cell service and not a Zoom call in sight! Seeing the faces of colleagues and clients is important, but when all of that interaction happens over a computer screen, it’s exhausting. At the end of the day your cheeks may hurt as if you were grinning like The Joker for eight hours straight—either from forcing a smile or trying to keep a straight face while your kids stick fight in the background. It’s hard, but every morning, make your bed, brush your teeth, your hair, splash some cold water on your face, and at least put on a clean shirt (a business mullet is fully acceptable—business casual up top, pajama pants on the bottom). If you feel good about yourself, it’ll help you shine on calls. If you need to, play a little intro/hype music for yourself before a call to get you in good spirits—all of this will help you conquer a day of smiling in the glistening blue light glow.

Cabin fever is real.

You may be a lifelong homebody with a cute little farmhouse sign on the mantle that says “let’s stay home,” but the moment someone tells you to “stay in your home,” you begin to feel like the sign is mocking you, and you desperately need to resist. Why? It’s human nature to go against the grain. While you may feel like you’ve counted all the tiles on your ceiling and have finished Netflix AND Hulu, you can use your best judgement and break out. You can safely go for a neighborhood walk or bike ride, or even sit on your front porch, back porch, balcony, or stoop. If you have a front or back yard, the world is your oyster! Work from your patio, do some outdoor exercise, or tackle that landscaping project you’ve avoided for years. Our team has been extremely creative during this time in order to support our clients, while staying active and healthy by upping our nature walk game, exploring new trails and parks close to home, utilizing online workouts, and setting up home gyms in our garages. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to just walk outside and scream if you need to.

Are our pets sick of us? 

The Secret Life of Pets is a 2016 animated feature that shed light on what pets might do during the day. Well, we don’t have to wonder about that anymore. It’s safe to say that before the majority of us started working from home, our furry friends spent the work day blissfully snoring on the couch, nosing through the trash, and barking at every person that dared to grace our Ring camera. Now that we’re home all day every day, our pets are not only part of the family, they’re also our Bloom office mascots—and our personal trainers. Being walked more than ever, dogs are probably thinking, “OMG, not again, Steve!”, and cats are missing the quiet days of solitude at home, being cats.

Make time for friends.

Is it a good time to meet up for happy hour at your favorite restaurant or bar? Probably not. But, you can likely order food and cocktails-to-go and sit in a parking lot or neighborhood park for a physically distanced but friendly outdoor meetup. If that’s outside of your comfort zone, you can always pick up the phone and call your BFF to dish on the latest celebrity gossip or even, dare we say it, schedule a Zoom happy hour with your friend group. Or try writing a letter! And yes, we mean the kind that requires pen, paper, an envelope, and stamp. Human touchpoints and social connection are super important right now—even if they are virtual or from afar. At Bloom, we connect every day on a personal level through our Pet Slack channel, sporadic socially-responsible work sessions, and by sharing GIFs and memes. All the memes—thank you 2020 for that glorious gift. 

Be a good neighbor.

While we can’t all be Wilson, that neighbor you “see” daily through your shared fence, available for quick conversations and witty banter, you likely have a neighbor or two. Yes, everyone is trying to stay physically distant but that doesn’t mean forget about those who are closest to you. This includes your neighbors that live above, below, or next door to you as well as your local business neighbors down the street. Check in on those who may be impacted more greatly than you by this pandemic—give them a call or leave a note at their doorstep. And, be certain to shop your favorite local coffee shops, delis, and boutiques. You can also volunteer or donate to an organization that is close to your heart. Small businesses and nonprofits are hurting, and your business and friendship means more to them than you’ll ever realize. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Despite what your go-to coffee mug says, you’re not a superhero. Not all heroes wear capes, but they certainly wear pajamas until they have a video call. If you feel like you are drowning, reach out. It might be to a coworker, a family member, a friend, your neighbor, your daughter’s music teacher, or a local organization or group that can lend a helping hand. The point is… ASK. You are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has some great mental health resources for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit https://namicentraltx.org/.  

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