A Work From Home “Newbie” Shares His Perspective

An interview with Mike Melchers, District Sales Manager – Ohio District at ABB

Working from home is new to you? How are you adjusting?

I have worked from home in previous roles at my company, so I have some experience. However, in my current role, I am expected to lead a sales team that regularly interacts with customers on a face to face basis. While we are only 1 week into a 100% remote work arrangement, we are preparing a “Remote Work Playbook” for our team to outline new priorities from training, to digital customer interaction. 

What is your general routine? 

I still try to get up at the same time, shower, dress, etc to keep my morning routine. I often read news for 20 minutes in place of my normal drive time when I would be listening to news/podcasts. This is a good “buffer” between home and work to prepare for the day. I have a dedicated workspace where I can close the door and focus on work. I try to focus on work in 1-hour chunks, and allow breaks for snacks, bathroom, etc. In the morning I review my daily schedule and block off some 1/2 hour or 1 hour times where I can spend helping the kids with homework or exercising as well. After work is complete, I try to shut down my computer as I normally would and focus on family. 

How do you ensure you do not get distracted by things to do around the house?

It’s very difficult to do in a work from home arrangement. When I notice myself getting distracted by TV, kids, Twitter, etc I try to refocus on work by either turning off my phone or personal computer and putting it out of reach. Often areas of distraction exist just because they are there. Sometimes you have to take action to move those things out of reach or eyesight, even if you have to do so by moving to a new room or area of the house to re-focus.

What is your set up like? (Technology etc)

I have a dedicated home office with a personal laptop, a work laptop, and one large screen in the middle, which I can connect to either laptop I am working on at the time. This helps me stay focused so that whatever is on my large screen is my priority at that time. I try not to have both laptops open at the same time otherwise my attention cannot be focused and I get off track easily. I also have my iPad and Phone that during work hours I try not to use unless I really need to for work.

How is having your 3 daughters at home impacted your routine? 

Tremendously! At ages 4,6 and 9 there is a broad range of educational needs and attention span. The 9-year-old is somewhat self-sufficient, however, she still needs a lot of help with complex concepts before she can complete her assignments. The 4 and 6-year-old both need almost constant help with focus, schedule, and individual attention. When 1 person is teaching all three, it’s extremely difficult to stay on task and help all of them at once. Unfortunately, there is rarely a time that both my wife and I can both help as we both work full time, so we are trying to divide our schedule so that one can work, one can focus on the kids. 

What does remote learning look like for them? 

We are still learning the routine, but so far each teacher is sending assignments for the week via OptionC, their school online website. The real challenge is consolidating all of this information, and then putting it into a schedule. It’s at least 4 hours of prep work before we even get it to the kids to start so it’s like having a new part-time job at night. 

Some of the teachers have started posting some online videos which are very helpful and keeps them connected with their teachers. At this time we don’t have a great way to turn assignments in digitally so we are doing the best we can to organize all of this paperwork. Overall I would say we are all adjusting to this new routine, and it’s clear both the schools and parents don’t have the digital tools to make this process as easy as it could be.

How does she like being at home with dad? 

The kids love it!

What tips do you have for people that are working from home with kids? 

Set a schedule, and write it down. Ours is hanging on our wall and the kids know each day what to expect. It’s also great for parents because it takes those decisions out of your day for “what to do next”. Anytime you can automate those small decisions, it gives you more time and energy to focus on the actual tasks.

Considering the 24 character strengths, what strengths do you think will help you and  your girls through this new reality?

Self Control and Perspective are 2 strengths I would say we value in our house. We always teach our girls that we can’t control what other people say and do, but we can control how we react. This teaches them the internalize what has happened, think about it, and plan their reaction. 

Perspective is important. When I start to feel down or that things are out of control, I often think about others that are more financially strained or don’t have the resources or education, or living conditions we have in this country. There are many people that struggle to maintain their house or eat, so our problems are small in comparison. We will get through this just fine, and need to focus on how we can help others through our actions, or donations.

Your wife works in a hospital and works long hours and does not have the option to work from home, What impact does that have on your situation? 

It forces us to be on the same page and organized. We share a digital calendar on Google to make sure we have clear expectations of who has primary care of the kids. The biggest change lately is that we are no longer using family members to help care for the kids, so one of us has to always be at home. Typically this has to be me if she gets called into work since she obviously can’t do her job remotely. 

The concern, in the long run, is if the hospitals become overburdened, she could be working extended hours, and exposed to the virus at work. This could put a major strain on my job while caring for three kids and trying to teach. At some point, it will become unsustainable, and we’ll have to decide which tasks get left behind between work and education.