6 Tips for Balancing Career and Family While Working from Home
Insight from Helix's Jess Rossman
For Jess Rossman, 2020 was underscored by one consistent theme: change.
"Unfortunately, I was part of a COVID-related layoff," Jess explains. "I've had a lot of different life changes happen over the past year."
Just prior to the pandemic, Jess's girlfriend of four years asked her and her daughter to move in. When lockdowns began across the country, Jess was faced not only with a move and the challenge of blending two families (Jess's girlfriend has two young children of her own), but with managing a household in the new "normal" of the pandemic. "I had become a step-mom, fully responsible for three kids and two dogs, homeschooling, and interviewing for new jobs all within a few months," Jess explains.
We sat down with Jess to hear how she managed so many pivotal changes at once, including starting a new role as a Senior Technical Sourcer at personal genomics company Helix. Read on to hear how she found Helix and learned to set new boundaries in her personal and professional life because, as Jess says, "If things aren't going right at home, they're not going to go right at work, and vice versa."
Silver linings: Jess's path to Helix
After being laid off, Jess reached out to her network and connected with a former colleague who had recently begun at Helix as the Head of Recruiting. "She told me she was starting to grow the team and was interested in having me join."
Jess was excited to dive into the world of biotechnology, but she was especially excited to work for an organization that would understand her responsibilities as a parent. "It was a really difficult year and I wanted to be somewhere where I felt safe to be able to ramp up on a role," Jess explains. "I knew that my manager was a single parent and knows exactly how difficult it can be."
It wasn't just the opportunity to work with great, supportive people that appealed to Jess. "It was a full circle moment, losing a job due to a pandemic, and then being able to join a company that was trying to help people during this pandemic with COVID testing," she says.
6 tips for navigating new roles at home and at work
Once she joined Helix and ramped up in her new roles as stepmom, homeschool instructor, and senior sourcer, Jess quickly discovered that she'd need to create some new boundaries in order to find balance while working from home.
Jess's partner is an ER nurse, so her stepkids "were used to having parent time when their mom came home from work."
"They weren't accustomed to having an adult in the house working and not really available," Jess explains. "There were times in the beginning where they would finish school around 2:30pm and they would just lay there on the floor around me."
Working, living, and homeschooling in one shared space, Jess had to learn to adjust her routine to find a balance that worked for herself, her colleagues, her partner, and her kids.
If you're navigating a new work situation, especially while working and parenting from home, here's what Jess says worked well for her (though she admits it's still a work in progress!):
- Set clear expectations — "We set some rules and my step-daughter made a sign for me to alert people in the house when I was in a meeting or working."
- Be open with your colleagues — "We're all parents on the team, which helped with communication. We share stories about what's going on at home or things coming up with the kids," says Jess. This makes it easier for her to ask for an occasional favor when mom duty calls. For example when a calendar glitch double booked her for a call while she would be at her daughter's 13th birthday dinner, she reached out to her team to explain the situation and someone took the call for her. "I sometimes feel bad, but the secret to figuring out how to juggle everything has been just trying to communicate both on the family side and on the work side."
- Be kind to yourself — Between school pick ups and drop offs, work meetings, and family time, Jess found herself struggling to juggle all of her responsibilities. She had to give herself grace and find ways to balance work and home life. "I realized I can't be a super person,'' she says."I have to remind myself that I can't do it all and that I'm not burdening anyone by asking for help."
- Prioritize your tasks, publicly — Jess' solution to juggling all of her 'to-dos' is to prioritize work tasks and block off family time in her calendar. "I mark off my calendar and make sure that people know when I have parenting time."
- Don't be afraid to utilize new tools — "My girlfriend and I weren't planning on putting the kids in afterschool care when it opened back up, but knowing that it was just really hard for me to get stuff done, they experienced after-school care for the first time." A few hours of a child-free home were a game changer for Jess's productivity.
- Keep things in perspective — While she's still trying to navigate all of these new roles, Jess has found some perks to working from home. "On some days, I want to pull my hair out, but we've gradually gotten into a rhythm and figured out how to work around each other." Spending more time with her daughter has also been a huge win. "I've actually never had so much time with my own kid, which is crazy to me," she says. "I had been missing out on so much and I'm enjoying getting to know her a little bit better and having a little bit more closeness with her than I had before."
Looking to do impactful work with a team of supportive colleagues? Check out Helix's open roles.