How do you sell with kids at home, while social distancing, without losing your mind?
My clients and others in the sales world know me as a sales coach, trainer, and speaker. (They probably also know my dad is Stephen Heiman co-founder of Miller Heiman). But what you might not know about me is:
- My undergraduate degree is in elementary and special education.
- I taught special education at junior high and several regular elementary grades.
- My Master’s degree is in literacy and I was a reading specialist for 8 years.
- I raised my own child as a single mom while building my business from a home office for 20 years.
In response to continued coronavirus fears, most of us are now working from home and practicing social distancing. And of course, schools have also closed to comply with shelter-in-place orders. Doing our part to flatten the curve is great, but it brings some new challenges.
Now, I recognize that most salespeople and sales leaders are already pros at working from home. Lots of us work in sales specifically because it’s a wonderfully flexible profession in terms of scheduling. But add kids to the mix (not to mention the fear of a global pandemic)? Not many of us are prepared for that!
Last week I had dozens of Zoom calls with sales leaders and immediately saw a lot of them struggling to keep productivity high with kids around. They clearly needed advice on how to effectively work from home while managing children.
Yes, it’s tough, but I promise you it’s not impossible. In most cases, a schedule and some resources will help you keep all the plates spinning. Here are my best tips and resources to balance selling and childcare during social distancing.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A timer
- A schedule of educational or fun activities for kids that keep them busy for 20-30 minutes
- A schedule of work activities you can accomplish in 20-30 minutes
- A place to go outside (or a place with enough space to run/dance/move around)
- Mobile devices with video conferencing technology kids can use
- Relaxation time for yourself
Tip #1: Take kids outside every two hours.
Kids (especially young ones) need to move their bodies. If you don’t have a yard, playground, or park you can easily drive or walk to and maintain social distance, make do with whatever space you’ve got. Maybe it’s a balcony where you can have a dance party. Maybe you can get some chalk and play hopscotch in the driveway. Maybe you can hula hoop in the basement or garage. Maybe you can walk around the neighborhood and play “I Spy.”
(Note: If you go to a park or playground, bring disinfectant wipes and wipe down playground equipment, benches, water fountains, or any surface kids might touch before they start playing.)
The point is to let kids get their energy out. You need to do this on a schedule. Every two hours is best.
The good news is spring weather has already arrived in many parts of the country. But even if it’s chilly or rainy, you can bundle up and move around outside. Fresh air, sunshine, and nature are all great for little ones (remember, there are good reasons schools hold recess every day).
Even 20 minutes of outdoor activity every two hours can help keep kids in balance. This means you’re going to have to adjust your work schedule to take a lot more breaks than you normally do – you simply won’t be able to be on back-to-back sales calls for three or four-hour stretches.
Tip #2: Set kids up on Zoom calls.
Hopefully, you’ve got enough devices in your house (and fast enough WiFi) to allow all your kids to be on Zoom call playdates. If your kids are older, they’re probably already coordinating this on their own, but group Zoom calls with small children (say, ages three to six) can be a little more chaotic. Come up with a question (“Who’s your favorite stuffed animal and why?”) each child can take turns answering, just like they do at school. Mostly they will just look at each other and giggle and that’s great. Junior high and high school students need guidelines for interacting.
Tip #3: Figure out activities that will keep kids busy for 20-30 minute stretches so you can be productive.
All parents should make use of the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Basically you use a timer to break down work into short intervals (traditionally 25 minutes – each interval is known as a Pomodoro, from the Italian word for “tomato,” because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer).
The point is to establish timed activities for kids so you can plan to get several work activities done during that same time.
As children get older, they get better at playing quietly by themselves for short periods of time. You can help them along by assigning them chores they can handle (brushing the dog or cat, putting dishes in the dishwasher, folding clean towels or sorting laundered socks). You can also invent games that keep children occupied on their own: a scavenger hunt to find 10 items that begin with the letter “L,” for example.
Usually, 25 minutes will give you enough time to make a good dent in a sales proposal or get some emails out. If you have calls, this may be harder, but you could try 30 or 45-minute intervals.
Tip #4: Use online resources to keep kids occupied and educated.
You can also set up activities for your kids to do online so you can work. Use a timer. Explain to your children that you’ll all work on your own activities until the timer goes off, and then you’ll take a break together.
Here’s a list of free, educational websites for kids from Learn In Color.
And here are some other great online resources to keep your kids occupied for timed periods. Depending on the age and activity level of your kids, you’ll have to adjust the time.
The Discovery Museum (“Learning from Home”)
Since 2011, The Discovery has established itself as a resource for informal science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning. Through hands-on galleries and exhibitions, and a robust array of educational programs, The Discovery connects learners of all ages with opportunities to explore a wide variety of ever-changing topics, all designed to inspire curiosity and further investigation.
For the duration of school closings, Audible is offering instant streaming of its collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids. You can stream on practically any device.
The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.
Every weekday at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, for as long as social distancing lasts, children’s author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka will teach a drawing class for kids (you may know his illustrations from Lunch Lady, Punk Farm, or Jedi Academy). You can join live or watch the recordings on YouTube.
Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems is inviting everyone into his studio once a day at 1 p.m. Eastern Time for the next few weeks for #MoLunchDoodles. Visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/mowillems to download lunch doodle worksheets. Send the Kennedy Center your drawings and questions for Mo for possible inclusion in episodes of LUNCH DOODLES!
Frolicking sea otters, fast-swimming sharks, pulsating jellies and waddling penguins—these world-class exhibits and breathtaking scenery will instill a love of the ocean in visitors. The Aquarium is a window to the wonders of the ocean. They have virtual tours and live webcams. (My favorite is the Jelly Cam).
My friend Parchelle, who also used to be an elementary school teacher and is now a videographer put together is great website to teach parents and their kids how to make basic videos and use the process as an at-home learning enrichment activity, in less than 30 minutes. Watching video and making video are two completely different things! Now they can spend less time watching Youtube and more time creating!
This disruption to the way we work has been a huge adjustment and it’s happened practically overnight. Give yourself a break-in period and acknowledge you won’t do everything perfectly right away.
As ever, take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of your family, friends, and customers. Right now there’s a daily tsunami of bad news coming our way. Stay informed, but be disciplined about what you let in. Psychology Today points out that it’s easier to check social media and news sites throughout the day when working from home; the publication recommends checking the news for 15 minutes twice a day, but no more.
Take as many steps possible to focus on the positive and relax. Here are some resources to help you.
- Simon Sinek (a famous optimist) is hosting a Start with Why book club to revisit the remarkable patterns he discovered about how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act, and communicate. Read the book with one or more people and submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then tune in to https://www.youtube.com/user/SimonSinek where Sinek will answer your questions live.
- One of my clients happens to be Healing HealthCare Systems, which offers The C.A.R.E. Channel for hospitals. This is a channel that plays nature and calming instrumental music in hospital rooms, giving patients respite from the noise, the uncertainty, and anxieties. Because the current Coronavirus pandemic is amplifying stress and fear, Healing HealthCare Systems is offering C.A.R.E. Programming free for all, along with other resources, to help anyone find some calm and peace, and create your own healing environment where and when you need it most. Even if for only a moment.
- Kaiser Permanente has partnered with guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek to offer health and wellness podcast meditations. This collection of audio meditations can help you access your body’s natural tendency to repair and heal. Through guided imagery and affirmations, you can use your own mind as a complement to traditional medicine. Guided imagery is gentle but powerful, and it can reach places inside of you that conscious thinking sometimes can’t. It’s been shown to help reduce anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue; improve self-esteem and energy; speed up healing while helping the mind and body relax. Choose from dozens of options based on whatever you need. There are guided imagery meditations for boosting your immune system, processing grief, and increasing relaxation.
Please remember to eat healthy, exercise, stay hydrated, breathe, take frequent breaks, and get plenty of rest. It can be tempting to work longer hours when you work from home, but keep an eye on your hours and take care not to burn out. It won’t be easy at first, but don’t give up. Good luck, stay healthy and well, and keep selling! I’m happy to share more ideas if you need something more tailored to your situation.
We’re here to help your sales team adjust to selling during social distancing. Get a 90-minute online training for your sales team for $2,500, for up to 25 people, from now until April 30. Contact email@example.com.