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Diane Keaton in Baby Boom

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At-Home Master Class

Motherly's Guide to #WFH & Being Productive

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For Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety, working from home is not a requirement; it’s a way of life. The two, who have six kids between them, are the founders of Motherly, a lifestyle destination, media site and community for modern, millennial mothers. The startup, which has no office, employs 50 people, who all work remotely. “We are a next-generation company in so many ways,” says Koziol.

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Founded in 2015, Tenety, a then-religion journalist for The Washington Post, had two small children, and felt like there wasn’t a destination for information, news and even community for millennial moms like herself. She decided to bounce the idea off of Koziol, a friend and former business consultant, and something clicked. “It was a breathless moment, where a lightbulb went off, and I knew I met my match for this,” recalls Tenety.

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Tenety, who is based in New Jersey, and Koziol, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, run the site from the coasts, and now have financial backing from a number of Silicon Valley’s investors. Next up: a Motherly private-label nursery furniture line, and the startup has big plans for video content this year.

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Beyond building the next Goop or Food52, Tenety and Koziol have both been working from home far longer than most of us. But thanks to #socialdistancing, everyone is now a remote worker, and the duo is sharing their best tips and practices for staying sane and productive while working remote.

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Q&A

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How do you handle working from home with the kids?
Liz Tenety:
Boundaries! I have a dedicated space in my home where I work. There’s a lock on the door. But when I’m with my kids in my living room or in other parts of the home, I have a place I put my phone to try to be mindful and present. I actually put my phone in a small box that says, “Always be present with the one you love,” so that I can create the separation with work and have the ability to be present.
Jill Koziol: Under the current circumstances with schools shut down, this is a lot harder. It’s an extraordinary time. Usually my kids, ages six and eight, are in school during the workday. My husband and I have been trading off time so we can work and be with the kids. We each tag in and tag out during the day so we can get work done. We are trying to look for the positive, and I think this is forcing the conversation between partners around valuing women's work as much as a man’s.

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How do you stay productive when working from home?
JK:
I live and die by my calendar—I put every single thing in my calendar. If I have to respond to a written interview via email, I will block that half hour out. If I’m working on an investor deck, I block that time out on my calendar. I find this makes me productive because I have a very good sense of what I need to get done and I can move blocks around on my calendar to prioritize things. The calendar is really my secret weapon. Going for walks is another way that I stay productive and make sure that I’m getting some fresh air and I’m not just sitting at my desk all day.
LT: My go-tos for productivity are good coffee, upbeat music, daily meditation, and boundaries in the form of separation from other distractions inside my home.

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Do's and don'ts for video conferencing?
JK:
Because we are remote, we are on video conferences all day, every day. These times are, of course, different with the kids at home. But we try not to have a lot of background noise and, if there is, it’s best to just go on mute, and unmute when you need to speak. We also try not to eat lunch or snacks while we are video conferencing (unless we are in a designated lunch meeting). It’s also a good practice to turn off any text or other notifications on your computer.

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Motherly's Jill Koziol, left, and Liz Tenety

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What's your general #WFH routine?
JK: I’m on West Coast time, and the majority of the team is on East Coast time. So when I wake up, I wake up to a lot of emails. I usually wake up at 6:30 AM, and I pick up my phone and lay in bed for 15 minutes and then I triage email. I know it’s not the healthiest thing to do, but it helps me start the day. Then I take a shower, I get dressed, I put my makeup on and blow-dry my hair, even though I’m working from home, before my kids get up. Doing that helps me signal that it’s the start of the work day.
LT: My morning time is my parenting zone. I try to get my four kids dressed, ready and fed all while getting as much coffee in my body as I can. Then I like to do a short five-minute meditation before I open my inbox. You never know what good or bad is waiting for you in your inbox or on Slack. The meditation helps keep me centered and gives me resilience for the day and what’s to come.

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How do you fit in exercise, a healthy diet and mental wellness?
LT:
My mental health is my most important asset—and practicing mindfulness and meditation over the last 18 months has transformed my life. I'm frequently in awe and appreciation of my own sense of inner calm despite many challenges at work and at home with four kids. One of my favorite mindfulness books, The Untethered Soul, taught me that if I want to "suck the marrow out of life," if I want to live the biggest possible impact on the world, I must accept that taking on difficult challenges and meeting them with clarity and purpose—rather than stress and anxiety—is inherent to the journey.
In terms of diet, I eat healthy (I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years), and I also have a standing desk, so I’m less sedentary. A lot of times, I schedule meetings or calls, and I go for a walk outside.
JK: It’s really hard. I find that, like most things, scheduling the time in my calendar and really protecting it is the best way to ensure I do it. It’s also a model for my team to know that they can prioritize getting physical exercise in. Working out is one of my mental releases as well as obviously a physical release. In non-corona times, I schedule my workouts two weeks in advance so I can schedule my meetings around them. I’ve been using Sakara meal deliveries to help eat healthy. Meal deliveries really make a big difference for lunch. We also use Thistle, which delivers plant-based meals, for dinners.

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What is the favorite part of your (working) days?
LT:
My favorite thing I get to do is interview inspiring women for The Motherly Podcast. From Senator Tammy Duckworth to Kristen Bell, I've gotten to talk to some of the world's most inspiring mothers about how becoming a mama has transformed them for the better.
JK: I love my job. I get to work with an absolutely amazing and talented and committed and mission-driven team. I have the best cofounder I could’ve ever asked for. I am doing work that I know matters every single day and we are growing quickly and making a bigger impact every day. So I honestly love every moment of my working days, but I definitely love when the whole team comes together.

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What’s the biggest misconception behind working from home?
LT:
That you can’t get real work done. When my husband wants to get work done, he stays at home and doesn’t go into the office. Oftentimes, the culture in an office is about hanging out and chatting, and going to the kitchen to get fancy kombucha. Offices can be far more distracting. Meanwhile, I’m at home focusing only on my work.
JK: That people would be less productive. People are far more productive working from home because they are saving on commute time, and aren’t distracted. We also have to be mindful of overworking at home. If someone is burning the midnight oil, we can’t necessarily see that because we don’t have an office. It’s easy at home for the lines to blur between work and family time. We remind our employees that they need to create their own guard rails and enforce them.

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