The deja-vu all over again roller-coaster of this pandemic has been enough to make everyone want to crawl back into bed and wake up in whatever year will finally feel like the “next normal.”
It’s been a wild two years for parents:
- it’s only two weeks
- haha, never mind, never-ending virtual school
- switch back to in-person with less than 2 weeks notice
- lots of people quarantining
- waiting to find out about next school year
- in-person again with positive case notices daily
- Delta and thank goodness our school district offered free testing at every school
- vaccines finally available for elementary age kids
- Omicron and now we’re quarantining because we finally got it
- virtual school again
- back to in-person again
Above is an actual snapshot of my calendar during the first week of Omicron-variant induced virtual school in January 2022. All the purple stuff was my third-grader’s schedule layered on top of my schedule. I did this so I could remind him at the right times to log onto Zoom. There were also random quick checks that he was watching class instead of sneaking peeks at Minecraft videos on YouTube.
Now, I know people who have “desk jobs” are often lucky in the ability to even contemplate working remote. Many parents in my children’s set of friends work in healthcare, retail and other in-person situations. And while I crave a nap most days, they are oh, so very exhausted. There is no way to adequately express how completely worn-down they are after two years of this pandemic.
We’re now in what I’m counting as the fourth wave of return to office chatter. And, wow is there a whole lot of chatter. As a parent of two kids, some of this chatter has caught my attention more than others:
- How parents can ask for flexibility when offices reopen
- Five Ways to Support Working Parents as We Return to the Office
- Your Ultimate Return-to-Office Checklist, for Parents + Kids Alike
- How working parents can ‘game plan’ their return-to-office schedules
- Moms spent the equivalent of a full-time job on child care last year — while working at the same time
- With return to offices underway, parents experience separation anxiety from their kids
- It’s no longer about the virus — remote workers simply don’t want to return to the office
When I read these headlines I have all the feelings: I am so glad I work for a company that is now, always has been and always will be 100% remote. Can we not do all those things. Why do we have to negotiate flexibility? Why is it necessary to make a game plan? I already have to make a game plan to figure out all the activities outside of work, because that’s life. Can’t people who want to work remote do that forever? Especially parents?
I’m also grateful I have the option to not worry about return to office trends. I’ve worked 100% in-person, in-person with distributed teams, hybrid with distributed teams, and now 100% remote.
Spoiler alert: I enjoy 100% remote the best, especially as a working parent.
I appreciate that Test Double is supportive, has developed a healthy remote work culture and trusts double agents to work how they work best. This benefits both the organization as a whole, and individual employees. Here’s why.
I have gone through so many phases of working parent guilt. Even when I’ve had bosses who are supportive, it’s been hard because of the wider culture of expectations. Now every parent is on their own journey, but remote work typically makes it easier. Especially when the company creates a supportive environment that does not judge someone because of their status as a working parent.
Test Double encourages all of us in our journey towards work-life balance. When we have weekly hangouts or social activities, we build them into the typical work day, and mindfully schedule them when there is overlap across time zones. There’s also an optionality to social activities like virtual coffee time. After years of working in industries where going out for drinks after work was a big part of work culture, this is a huge weight off my work-life balance psyche.
All of that is so refreshing, but honestly, isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t all companies encourage their employees to both enjoy their work and enjoy their time away from work with family and friends? Again, for me, that’s a huge relief. Which means I’m able to bring a much more energetic, positive and open self to work.
Something else that feels hard to pinpoint initially, but came up when chatting about this with other parents is the idea that working asynchronously can also release a lot of pressure. There isn’t an expectation of an immediate response to all messages. We know folks are spread across time zones and have different schedules.
Now, I know some folks don’t appreciate asynchronous communication, and there are definitely times when synchronous communication and collaboration are important. But, let’s be honest, there’s a lot that can be taken care of more efficiently with async communication.
Remote work often brings up the idea of trust. Can you trust people you only encounter via video chat and DMs? Can managers trust their employees? Can employees trust their managers? Wow, do we have a talk you should watch: How to Trust Again. The short answer is yes, but you need to be intentional about adjusting your default settings.
When you are trusted with autonomy to do your best work, that also means you’re accountable to do the work and do it well. This is a give and take type of work ecosystem.
Ultimately, having both accountability and autonomy encourages an ownership mindset. That unlocks the best kind of problem solving. That is how we live our values to serve our clients and always improve the work we do. There’s a reason we love welcoming folks with a growth mindset to join our agency.
I’m realizing these values are core principles that make 100% remote work well. And they also happen to make for a really supportive work environment for parents.
Here’s a wild idea. If I don’t have to spend 2 hours each day commuting I can have more time with my kids. And I don’t have to game plan how to achieve that post-pandemic because my company is already 100% remote. For me this provides a pressure release valve. I don’t have to intricately design every second of the day quite as much. I don’t worry about asking if I can work remotely and being judged by those who work in the office.
To be clear: I still schedule things, because life is full and our kids do activities. But it’s a lot less stressful when you aren’t giving up 2 hours (more for some folks) to commuting, and you work in a supportive environment.
My dog is getting older. Over the past year we’ve been diagnosing and treating his thyroid problem. He’s had to go outside a lot, but the medicine is helping. This would have been so much more difficult if I was not at home.
Bonus: When I’m stuck on a problem, I get up, let the dog out, and step outside for a minute to think with a different perspective.
These are my own personal examples and the things I recognize and value about working at a 100% remote company.
There are so many potential benefits. My local school district started offering a virtual academy option. I know some parents who are choosing to do that now that they’re working remote. Some parents with older, independent kids are opting for homeschool.
I’m guessing one or more of these benefits feel relatable to you, too. What do you value about working remotely?
If you don’t currently work remotely, but you’re considering the shift, make sure you find out what type of remote work culture is in place. Ask questions in interviews to find out what it’s like to work remote at that particular company. Remote work experience can vary widely by company.
At Test Double, we are very intentional about making space for staying connected:
- collaborative pairing
- optional coffee time to get to know individuals
- optional rotating brunch for small group chats
- weekly hangouts to stay connected as an org
- everyday ceremonies like saying, “Good morning” or sharing pet and kid photos in Slack
- making space for cathartic YELLING in Slack
And, whenever it’s safe and workable to travel again for all our double agents—including those in Canada—we’ll have in-person retreats again. Because, yes, we get that it helps to meet and get to know your co-workers in-person, too. In the meantime, we’re holding half-day TD Connect events to stay connected across the org, with fun activities like sharing scary bug stories, playing games together, and having small group discussions about strategic topics.
All these things create personal connections and bonds which make your work experience so much fuller. After all, you spend roughly one-third of your adult life at work. Should you enjoy the experience?
If that sounds amazing, check out our current remote job openings at Test Double.
For those working parents returning to the office again, give yourself some grace, because it may be a hard transition. I’ll be thinking of you.