Soam Lall’s daily schedule has changed dramatically in the last week. Like many in the ad world, Lall, senior director of platform strategy and growth at SocialCode, is working from home each day instead of commuting to the Los Angeles office where he normally works.
But he’s not home alone: He, like so many others adjusting to working from home, now is also doing triple duty as dad and teacher.
In the three days since the new reality set in, Lall has worked with his wife to come up with a schedule — one that’s clearly visible to everyone in the house — that manages their duties as well as their seven-year-old daughter’s schoolwork. While that means longer days for Lall so far, as logging back on between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. to catch up on some work later in the day is a new norm, there are also new additions to Lall’s schedule like running a physical education class of sorts at noon and a photography class at 3 p.m. for his daughter to help break up her day and have something for her to look forward to.
“As parents, trying to balance work and home-school, I think it’s important we all realize there is no roadmap here,” said Lall. “We’re all doing the best we can, giving the most we can to both our work and family.”
Lall is one of a number of agency employees adjusting to the new work from home reality for the foreseeable future as many agency executives and employees are now pulling double duty: Balancing work for the agency and caring for their children simultaneously. Less than a week into doing so, agency execs and employees say they are adjusting to new schedules and realities about balancing work and home — namely that work and life will have to blend during this time — but that figuring out a structure that works for their family and their work is key.
“My nanny is still able to come for a few hours a day (she is only going from our house to her apartment) so that is helpful and I try to crank out work during those hours if I can,” said Blair Ramsey, svp and group director of connections planning at Havas Media. “But my kids need structure, so have been trying to set a loose agenda for the day with a list of activities for them to do. They don’t have to do everything in order or at a set time, but they do have to check everything off the list. And when all else fails, there is Disney+.”
Some execs say they are now waking up earlier and going to bed later to manage work they had to put off in the hours their children were awake. For those with school-aged children, keeping track of their assignments and e-learning class schedule as well as making sure that there’s still some sense of a schedule to their children’s day can be taxing. Whatever the case may be, agency execs and employees say that there’s a general acceptance from clients and coworkers alike that children will be heard on calls, interrupt video chats and divide the attention of workers at this time.
“As a parent, the biggest thing in these early days of working from home has been trying to get a good routine going and finding the right rhythm for our family,” said John Caruso, co-founder, partner and CCO at MCD Partners. “Kids not only need structure and a sense of what their day will be like, but they also need a little something to look forward to. So we try to plan it out and have a rough outline for our day. Time for school, time for reading, time for family activities — games, music, nerf guns, dance offs — and yes, screen time.”
Some agency parents shared that their children’s schoolwork is generally self-guided — with help from teachers via Zoom sessions — but that they are trying to help their children stick to a schedule by finding ways to make it exciting to finish a task. For example, Kari Shimmel, chief strategy officer at Campbell Ewald has blocked out dance party breaks with her daughter between calls and meetings when her daughter finishes a section of school work. “It’s definitely added some fun to my day too,” said Shimmel.
Beyond figuring out a rhythm and schedule, accepting that there’s no real control over managing your day when your family is all at home has become standard for clients and agencies alike. “I had my eight-year-old daughter interrupt a video chat with clients by passing me a handwritten note asking if I wanted a snack,” said Joe Corr, executive creative technology director at CPB. “Life will cross over to work, and we all need to be extra empathetic with each other during this period. During these weeks, we’re not just teaching our kids what we do, but how we do it. Stay classy, your clients and teammates will appreciate it.”
That said, clients are generally understanding about interruptions from children as they often are at home with children dealing with the same issues. “The clients that I’ve spoken with are in the same boat with kids at home,” said Amanda Cosindas, director of marketing and communication at The Many. “It’s another common ground that we have with each other as humans that allows us to transcend the roles of client and partner and realize we are all in this together—we are all more alike than we even realize and we are all grappling with this new reality. Despite being isolated in my own home, I don’t feel alone in this.”
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