Trampoline. It turns out that as I work from home, with my entire family by my side — my husband, two elementary school girls, and my mom — I will be conquering COVID-19 with a trampoline.
Allow me to explain.
A few years ago, I realized that I don’t have time to go to the gym. So, I set up a well-equipped gym in my garage.
My gym has been the subject of many family jokes.
“How many kettlebell weights does Olga need?” my husband would periodically ask. Occasionally, he would finish it with “The good news: Olga’s fascination with kettlebell weights is not as great as Olga’s fascination with startups.”
“Oh, we don’t park the car in the garage because mommy needs a place to store her trampoline, yoga matt, and bouncy balls,” my kids would explain to our neighbors. And I would sheepishly elaborate that working for startups is all-consuming. It is!
The humble, well-equipped gym dutifully kept me in tip-top shape moving from one startup to another. It kept me in shape through numerous adventures in law as I worked on an IPO, countless international expansions, occasional economic contractions, numerous M&As, and occasional regulatory discussions all over the world.
My home gym is now helping me and my family to stay productive as we all work and learn at home, together.
Being a Working Parent is No Joke, Get Yourself a Trampoline
So, the trampoline…
It turns out that if I must work eight hours or more per day in the same house as my daughters because we are under shelter-in-place orders and schools are canceled, having a trampoline is a must. It is an endless source of fun and activities for the girls, especially when combined with music. That is how I can still get on calls and be professional. Who knew that in a legal world trampoline would become a must-have tool!
Yes, occasionally my girls will enter and exit our video call. If that happens, please either pretend you don’t notice or tell me that they are cute (they are in fact very cute!). Timing their trampoline experience and our calls work 90% of the time. It is a mix of art and science. I get it right almost every time.
But sometimes we just must have a call with children laughing and dogs barking in the background. And, that is a new normal. I can think of much worse background noises. Can’t you?!
Being Camera Shy is So 2019, Get Over Yourself
Speaking of video calls, I find it useful to leave my camera on for video calls. No, I won’t be wearing a suit, not even my signature colorful sheath dress. And I most certainly am not wearing my high heels. Who wears that stuff at home?!
To manage your expectations, you will most likely get me in a t-shirt or a hoodie. Why? Because remember, my day is structured around two elementary school children and their trampoline schedules.
In the age of shelter-in-place and social distancing, seeing someone’s face is refreshing. It allows for a much more satisfying interaction and deeper connection. In the end, it leads to more productive conversations.
“What if I have a bad hair day?” or “What if I am camera shy?” folks protest when I explain that it is hard to build relationship or trust with a black video box. It is! Black boxes are impersonal and create a void of emotional connection. They are, well, black boxes!
What happened before COVID-19 when you had to go to work and had a bad hair day? I bet you that most of us got over ourselves, did the best we could, and went to work. And, that is what I recommend doing with video — with some minor exceptions, get over yourself, do the best you can, smile, and turn on the video. Your calls will be much more productive and satisfying.
Sharing Workspaces With a Spouse Challenge — a Pink Elephant No One Talks About
Then there is the part of my day where my law school sweetheart, now husband, and I have a deep discussion about sharing what used to be my office. You can only imagine the depth and breadth of our conversations when we timeshare my quiet office versus the noisy kitchen table.
That is what happens when two lawyers share a workspace for weeks at a time: to make a fair decision, we weigh all kinds of equities!
Somewhere during our two weeks of working from home, my spouse discovered my kettlebells — that have been the subject of so much family ridicule — in my humble, well-equipped home gym, where everyone now congregates.
“Olga, it turns out that kettlebells are a great exercise,” he tells me. It only took him forever and a global epidemic to discover this, I thought.
Soon after, I also realized that the answer to “How many kettlebells does Olga need?” is “As many as I can trade with my husband for a quiet office space.”
All jokes aside, working from home when everyone is there is hard and takes effort, creativity, and yes, some sense of humor. On the bright side, I get an unprecedented opportunity to spend more time with my family.
“I kind of like this coronavirus,” my ten-year-old told me as I was putting her to bed the other night. She explained, “It is like a weekend that does not end. We still do schoolwork and work. But everyone is home and we are having fun!”
Take that CVOID-19!