The New Normal
5 February 2021
How we’ve adapted to living, working & educating children at home
Employee strategies for dealing with the new norm!
Over the past year, so many of us have had to drastically change the way we live our lives. When COVID-19 hit in late 2019, it was hard to envisage the massive impact it would have on the world, or how we would need to adapt most aspects of our lives to ride out the storm as comfortably as possible.
Many homes have become multi-functional spaces, accommodating offices and places for working, quiet corners for video-conferencing, areas for children studying and homeschooling, and a ‘home’ that can still be a sanctuary, all whilst trying to maintain some semblance of normality.
We’ve taken a look at how Frog employees have modified their environments to provide a living, working and learning space, and the strategies they use to best contend with the limitations of their home, maintaining a sense of order, keeping mentally healthy and making the most of what’s available.
Ways we’ve adapted our homes
For a great deal of us, our homes were our hideaway from the busy life of work and school and didn’t necessarily offer the technology, functionality, lighting, space or furniture to be able to work from home, or home school easily. When the lockdown was announced and schools were closed, making alterations to the home was high on the priority list!
Jim, European Sales Manager said,
I now have a dedicated workspace, with a desk, double monitors and a proper chair, and I try my best not to work from other areas of the house.
Val, Head of Marketing commented
We’ve painted the study to make it brighter and added a rug to help with sound. The dogs now have more beds so that they can choose who they want to hang out with, depending on how noisy meetings and lectures are!
Many team members are having to work from their dining tables or have created make-shift offices in other rooms in the house. Adding desks, office chairs, extra monitors, headsets, desk lamps and increased broadband capabilities, not just for home working, but for their children who are homeschooling. The home truly has become a mixed-use space!
Some of our team have even reassessed their homes and were fortunate enough to be able to move to something bigger and more functional.
Josh, R&D Manager, who has recently moved house stated
The pandemic forced us to re-evaluate our house buying options. This subsequently led us to purchase our first home, a lovely 4-bed townhouse near friends and family that we are over the moon with. We now (dog included) have the space we need to manage a good living and working environment. We have a designated double office on the top floor, away from the rest of the house. This has allowed us to make it a professional environment as the room doesn’t share its role with anything else, making it feel a lot more like "going to work" and means we can separate ourselves from the rest of the household.
The team at Frog are very fortunate to have an excellent Office Manager, who ensures that we are regularly assessing our workspace and sourcing equipment for those that need it. Sarah commented
During this time, it is essential that we prioritise health and safety for all team members at home. We had to adapt quickly and efficiently to ensure that the needs of the team were met, in order to work from home as comfortably as they would in the office.
Tips for staying organised
Juggling the pressures of working, living and educating from home, means we have all had to become more orderly. We asked the team for their tips for keeping their homes and daily lives in check:
- Set an alarm and get up early - Start the day as you mean to go on. Waking up at the same time every weekday to create a structured routine, especially if you have children at home. Don’t snooze, or get up late, as this can have a knock-on effect for the rest of the day.
- Fixed start times - Start work/school etc at the same time each day, to try and replicate a similar structure to your old daily routine.
- Organise everything the evening before - including scheduling break/snack times, materials required for the day, food, smoothies and lunches in advance.
- Use a calendar for all the family - for meetings, video-conferencing, homeschooling, breaks, lunches so that each family member knows what the other is doing and when lunchtime and breaks will be possible.
- Storage, storage, storage! - At the end of each day put school supplies and school work in boxes, file paperwork, tidy away work documents and turn your house back into a home again (as much as is physically possible).
- Prepare or plan meals in advance - Make sure you have the ingredients and know what the family will be having for lunch and dinner. And, if you haven’t already purchased a slow cooker, now is the time, as you can prep in the morning or at lunchtime and dinner can be ready whenever is most convenient, freeing up evenings for family time and unwinding. Weekends can be used for batch cooking so that meals are more readily available throughout the week.
Nadine, Marketing Executive DACH & Scandinavia, suggests
Prepare snacks for the week on a Sunday (e.g. cookies, cake, savoury snacks), this saves time during the week and helps get away from processed food.
Tom, Head of R&D said
With my wife working long hours in the hospital and the children being at home more, my working pattern has changed significantly to balance the various constraints. Specifically, I mop up any to do's and e-mails in the evening, so I can have a fresh start in the morning.
Staying physically and mentally healthy
Breaking the day up has been key to many of the team, to ensure that they take time away from the screen, enjoy some fresh air, have time with the children, and to switch off from work. It’s the metaphorical ‘commuting time’ that you would usually use to adjust your frame of mind, or unwind.
Ben, International Growth Executive, DACH commented
Personally I go out for an hour cycle late at night normally around 8 pm - 10 pm and clock around 16 miles each time I go. Throughout the day I make sure I get up and stretch my legs regularly and take a wander around the house. With my son at home from school, I take him out on my lunch break for a bike ride along the shore being his P.E lesson. Or we all go out as a family for a walk to get some fresh air!
Even by taking a short walk first thing in the morning, and after work or homeschooling, can help with getting you in the right frame of mind, as being in the same space day-in and day-out can take its toll.
Blocking out time in your calendar for daily exercise is a great way to ensure that you take the time to leave the house, work out and release some feel-good endorphins!
Freya, UK National Account Manager, suggests
Set goals for the day. eg. 10k steps a day or a 5k bike ride. Have a big water bottle on your desk so you have to get up and go and refill. It not only gets you moving but ensures that you stay hydrated too!
And, it’s not just us we need to worry about. Helping our children to be more active will also improve their physical and mental wellbeing, by taking long walks, going on bike rides, doing some online workout sessions, yoga, walking the dog or going for a run, can all help.
Michelle, E-Commerce and Web Content Executive, commented
I have started setting an alarm for every 40 mins to make sure I get up and move around. Although I seem to just walk to the kitchen and do some washing up each time, at least I'm moving!
Shelley, Strategy Director, recommends
STRETCHING - Do shoulder stretches regularly to alleviate stiffness (reach up really high with both hands clasped, then draw 8x clockwise circles, then 8x anti-clockwise. It really helps with mid/upper back and shoulders and feels REALLY nice).
Staring at computer screens for long periods of time can cause eye strain and discomfort. Val, Head of Marketing points out
It is recommended to follow the 20/20/20 rule: look away from the screen every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds, and blink often to keep eyes moist!
Homeschooling made fun
Being with the children at home has opened up new, fun and imaginative ways of educating them. Many have taken the opportunity to teach kids domestic chores, like cooking, cleaning, making lunch, and vacuuming. Whilst others have utilised this time to hone in on key areas of interest.
We as a family took homeschooling as an opportunity to look at extracurricular topics and use the time that we had together to explore different and exciting phenomena - mostly science-related as my husband is a Scientist. Those activities included kitchen science (e.g. make your own fizzy drink, extract DNA from a strawberry) and astronomy. We used our telescope to explore the pink supermoon during the first lockdown and the Saturn and Jupiter conjunction just before Christmas.
The new ‘Family’ time
Dedicating quality time to the family is now more important than ever. Children also need to understand the changes that are happening and are having to adapt their lives too, so taking time to support them, spend time together and be a family is vital to their wellbeing. And, it’s just as important to spend quality time together, even if you don’t have children. However, quality time now comes in all manner of guises...
We make sure at least one of us has breakfast or lunch with the children so they get a bit of face to face time during the day. Supper we always have together as a family. We make the kids aware when we can be interrupted and when we need some time to focus. We wrote a list over Christmas of films or TV that we will all enjoy, and are having fun working through them. We have two lockdown kittens who now rule the whole household (including the dogs) and are a very welcome presence in our studies during the day.
Eating together is now much more commonplace, whether it be for one meal or all three meals throughout the day. Leaving the desk/place of work and escaping screen time to take time to eat and catch up with family members. Even sometimes followed by a brisk walk or a short meditation session.
COOKING & BAKING
Cooking together, and trying new recipes that have been hiding in the mountain of cookbooks for many years is a great idea to break from the working environment and wind down… Baking is also a favourite, with many parents baking with their partners and children, using it as a fun way to educate the kids on measuring and recipe reading, and of course, to enjoy the fruits of their labour!
Taberna, Social Media & Comms Executive, commented
Baking is a go-to activity in our house. My daughter enjoys following recipes and measuring out the ingredients, and of course, licking the spoon and bowl afterwards! But more importantly, it’s a great way for us to spend some quality time together, share our love of baking and then have a valid excuse to have a little treat after dinner!
The garden has become a real haven, offering fresh air, outside space and a little speck of freedom. There has been a huge upsurge in gardening, growing vegetables and making compost, since lockdown 1, with many turning their hand to something new, even if they don’t have outside space. Supplies of seeds and plants are now more adequate, with people hailing gardening for its mental health benefits. And, let us not forget the joy of chomping on your freshly picked produce.
Sandrine, Marketing Executive, France & Benelux, said
We grew all our vegetables from seeds: cucumbers, tomatoes and corn. We also have lots of woodland strawberries (small ones) all over the garden. Watching them grow, watering them and checking every day which ones were ready to eat was a wonderful distraction and activity with my son. Spending so much time in the garden also allowed us to think of how we use the space and the changes we wanted to make. We enjoyed growing our own food so much we have bought a greenhouse and are planning a vegetable garden with fruit trees. Gardening is great for homeschooling too, mixing maths, science and of course observing nature.
One of the main things we have learned from speaking to the team is that our days are more unpredictable! And, that no-one minds if your child pops up in the background of your video-call, no-one comments if they can hear someone asking when lunch is ready, or if the doorbell goes, or Amazon is delivering yet again! We’ve even got to meet many of the team’s pets and family members, which all help to build bonds with our colleagues!
This is the (hopefully temporary) new norm, and people are very accepting of others' circumstances, even if they differ from their own! So, drop the hang-ups of trying to remain as organised and as professional as possible, we are all in this together, experiencing different times and we are all having to learn and to adapt.