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Miss Telework Manners: Changing with the Times

by Mary Isner / March 26, 2020

Times, they are a-changin’. In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, many people are faced with having to telework, some for the first time ever. In an effort to stay current, I have changed my column from Miss Open Office Manners to Miss Telework Manners because at this point in time, who is working in an open office anyway? In this installment, I will offer solutions to various challenges you may be facing as you make the unexpected transition to full-time telework. Read on!

Balancing Parenthood and Work…Simultaneously

Dear Miss Open Office Telework Manners: I just went from working in an open office where we teleworked a few times a month to teleworking full time. I have always enjoyed my telework days as I find that I can be more productive without all of the distractions of the office. That is until I had to telework with my two children here all the time. They are zapping my productivity. Do you have any pointers so that I can still be productive at work with my children here?

-- A Mom Trying to Wear Many Different Hats

Dear Mom: First of all, let me start off by saying I feel your pain! I have successfully teleworked for the past 17 years (while staying the same age). But having my two awesome kids at home with me all of the time has presented many interesting challenges, even for a seasoned teleworker like myself. The school my children go to has sent home lesson plans and assignments but my children (one in kindergarten and one in third grade) are not at the age where I can just hand them the work and turn them loose. They need my guidance.

Over the past week and a half that I have had them home, I have figured out a few things that make my life (and theirs) a little easier during this difficult time. First, every day, we discuss the plan for that day and I outline what and when we will be doing things as well as any time that I have calls/videoconferences and will need to shut my office door so that they do not disturb me. It is also beneficial to do a quick check-in with your child(ren) 10 minutes prior to starting a call or teleconference to see if they need anything and to make sure they have something (quiet) to do during that time.

Second, find a time where you can be most productive and get as many of your most focus-intensive tasks completed then. I personally find that early mornings are my most productive time. I have always been like that, but now with having the children home with me all day, I tap into that time even more. I was fortunate the other day to have an 8 a.m. call…piece of cake as I only had one child awake at that time.

Third, be fully present. By this I mean if you are working on something with your child(ren), give them your complete attention. If you are working on a project for work, give that your full focus. I find that doing this increases my productivity because I am able to focus on the task at hand and complete it sooner and with more quality than if I were trying to juggle everything all at once.

Finally, try to enjoy this time as much as you can. While it is incredibly stressful to work a full day and homeschool, I feel very fortunate to have my kids here with me during this time. For additional pointers on teleworking with your children at home, check out my coworker’s awesome blog. Good luck to you and stay well!

How To Telework With Your Partner At Home…Who Is Also Teleworking

Dear Miss Open Office Telework Manners: I am fortunate enough to have a job where I telework and have been doing just that for the past few years. Everything was great until my husband started teleworking two weeks ago. He is driving me nuts! It’s like he has no idea how to telework. He is constantly interrupting me on videoconferences and popping in to see what I am doing when I am trying to focus. I can’t take the constant interruptions. He just does not get it. I am trying to work over here!

-- When I Said For Better or Worse, I Did Not Have This In Mind

Dear For Better or Worse: Well, I can see how that would be frustrating and he is certainly not minding his telework manners! If at all possible, you and your husband should have separate areas of the house where you telework. You said that you usually telework, so I assume you already have a home office. Fingers crossed that your home office has a door. If it does, you can certainly close the door before jumping on a teleconference or during times when you need to remain focused. Communication is key. At the beginning of each day, you and your husband should discuss your work schedules for the day so you each know in advance when you have scheduled video meetings or calls. You should also explain to him that it is important for you to work without interruptions, and verbalize those times when you need to be left alone. Also, if your schedules allow, maybe you could have lunch together. That way, he doesn’t feel like you are ignoring him all day long. It might also make him less likely to interrupt when you need to focus.

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and healthy telework environment! And, for goodness’ sake, wash your hands and don’t hoard toilet paper and cleaning supplies! Miss Telework Manners is running low. :-) Be well, everyone!

Tags: Telework

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.