You now appreciate the little things. Things that you took for granted, like going out to dinner with a friend or childcare, now feel like treats.
Your kids are learning to be independent. My 7-year-old now makes her own lunch. My 5-year-old taught himself how to swim. They are gaining confidence and skills from having to do more fending for themselves during the day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kari Clark.
Kari Clark is the founder of Uplift Parents, which helps companies support their working parents, where she has been helping thousands of parents be happier at home, at work and everywhere in between. Since COVID started, she also founded Breakout, a virtual event platform that helps companies build culture and bond teams remotely, to impact an even larger audience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was at Google for eight years and left three years ago to start Uplift Parents, which helps companies support their working parents. At the start of COVID, I realized there was a potential to help an even wider group of people achieve balance and connection at work, so I founded Breakout, a virtual events platform for remote teams.
I’ve always been passionate about work-life balance and incredible company culture because, frankly, it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Fun fact, I found an old notebook from when I was 23, where I said that my dream job would be to help people find work-life balance. Now, I’m doing it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
We’ve been a distributed team from day one. With teammates living in China, Costa Rica, Spain, Holland, the Philippines and all over the U.S., living in such a global team during a pandemic has been fascinating. We were fast to act on the new realities around remote work due to COVID because we saw the virus impact China and Spain, foreshadowing how it would hit the U.S. As horrible as the virus has been, it has also unified us as a team. We’re all feeling scared and uncertain, and we talk about this openly.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We started Breakout in response to the switch to remote work. We interviewed over a hundred business leaders. We quickly discovered that productivity was up around 20 to 30% across the board, but at the expense of well-being and culture.
Breakout helps remote teams stay more connected through a combination of workshops, coach-led support circles, and fun activities, like Online Olympics or Tie Dye Class. We can help curate monthly connection events for your company or run large scale virtual events like offsites or holiday parties. We rely heavily on small-group breakouts (hence the name) because anything over six people is more of a watch party versus a connection event.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I could never be where I am today without my husband, Joe. He is my best friend, who helps me through the ups and downs of parenting and entrepreneurship, and also a true partner as a parent. Honestly, as my business takes off, he does more than 50% of the childcare, helping kids get on school Zoom calls and just being the best dad I know.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
I have two young kids, who are both home from school. I was always someone who worked much better with clear divisions between work and life. The bleeding between the two has been hard. “Mommy, you work all the time,” my 5-year-old, Rowan, says regularly. It breaks my heart and what I hate about the merging of work and life the most.
My hours haven’t increased, but before quarantine, my kids were at school for most of my workday.
Now, the majority of the time that I’m with them, I’m working. My kids are around for my day-to-day stresses — cursing my tech for not working, being disappointed by a lost deal, and pressures from looming deadlines.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
It is what it is. I explain how I work hard during the day so that we can enjoy our time later together. Then I take a deep breath, accept our new reality, and move on.
I have also started working late (through dinner) night a week so that I can take Friday afternoons off. I go on mini-adventures with my kids, such as kayaking or visiting the beach. These afternoons make my weekends feel so much longer and gives me something to look forward to all week.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Lower your expectations across the board. We are in a global pandemic. You don’t need to be at the top of your game at home or at work. Take a step back to gain perspective and ask yourself, “What do I want to remember from this time?” Then work on being OK with the rest being sub-par. This practice will feel unforgettable at first but will get easier with time.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Here is a practice I try to do daily. I close my eyes and focus on my breath for a few minutes to still my mind. Then I ask myself, “What am I resisting most in my life right now?”
Waves of emotions come. I name them and then sit with them. Once they die down, I ask myself the question again to get a new wave. 95% of the time, my waves are some version of fear. It’s intense and uncomfortable. But, in sitting with them, they dissipate. Within 5 to 10 minutes, they are gone.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- You now appreciate the little things. Things that you took for granted, like going out to dinner with a friend or childcare, now feel like treats.
- You are developing better time management habits. You are being forced to focus more and be more ruthless with saying, ‘No.’ Once you have more time and childcare, you can keep up these habits to have even more impact.
- Remote work has been normalized. Many companies have embraced flexible work, which will last beyond the immediate crisis, opening up many opportunities — from being able to work from anywhere to more time at home with your family to decreased commutes.
- You are being forced to slow down. I was going a mile a minute before COVID and have appreciated the time to enjoy things like long hikes or Lego building with my kids.
- Your kids are learning to be independent. My 7-year-old now makes her own lunch. My 5-year-old taught himself how to swim. They are gaining confidence and skills from having to do more fending for themselves during the day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One day, I spoke with Dr. Kuno, the founder of the social impact accelerator, Halcyon, which helped me grow as a founder. She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received as a founder.
When asking her advice on handling the hard parts of starting a company, she helped me reframe it — “You are learning how to play a new game.” This shifted my outlook. I love games. Challenges in games spark creativity and sheer will, not overwhelm. They are fun, not draining. You are learning and growing.
Right now, we are all learning a new game as we adapt to this pandemic. Let’s view it as a challenge where we can rewrite some rules.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!