September 12, 2020
All over the country, there are sung and unsung heroes. Clearly, our front line health workers and our teachers deserve all the empathy and thanks we can muster. They are doing more than ever to keep us safe and our children’s brains on active learning mode during a time when all of that seems impossible.
Those sung heroes deserve all of that praise, but what about our own heroes at work every day? I know I’ve written about this before, but our own people, especially those with children at home, are under unparalleled stresses with responsibilities that Dr. Spock could never have imagined. The manual on parenting is a well-thumbed through book in my life but did not have a chapter on parenting through a global pandemic. While I’ve launched two kids into the ether of adulthood, I have to admit I’m playing much more of a supporting role to my own staff at this time.
We have an agency full of parents of young children. Kids are going to kid, and that means that whatever precautions you hope to take, you’re never really quite certain that the new rules are going to stick. Why? Because they’re kids. This natural dynamic adds to the pressure moms and dads feel every waking moment.
What can we do as employers to support them?
Recognize that families are more important than work. Fully embrace that. Fully understand that. Jobs come and go during a lifetime but families don’t. That’s the long term investment parents make in their lives. It really doesn’t matter what you say or do as a manager that can and should replace the needs and attention that families require at this time.
Maximum flexibility. Work hours have pretty much gone out the window in 2020. That means that working parents or those caring for aging parents deserve all the flexibility they need to juggle life without the added stresses that often artificial deadlines create. There are deadlines and then there are Deadlines. Do not turn deadlines into Deadlines. When and how work gets done shouldn’t matter right now. And if a team member has to shift work schedules to make it work, then by all means, flex to that. It’s going to take massive amounts of communications across teams, from project managers to freelancers, to make this work because everyone’s life support system of schools, day care, grandparents, and so on is no longer available. People simply can’t function under the old rules.
Be kind. We’re all selfish right now. We have to be. We have to take care of ourselves and our loved ones before anyone else. And because there are no guide rails of work day and home day, that means that daily stresses will inevitably spill over into our work relationships. Be kind to one another. Being kind takes work. Kindness is a selfless act that should expect nothing in return. Kindness should come with no conditions. There are no scorecards to keep. Turn work into an oasis of kindness for one another. As managers, invest in kindness. Call out behaviors (most likely directly and privately) that unnecessarily add to the burden of life right now. Recognize acts of kindness on a personal level and celebrate good behaviors to the organization.
Congratulations if you got an MBA early in your career, but, like books on parenting, I doubt there were any classes on managing a business during a pandemic either. It’s all real-time hustle and embracing basic goodness at this point. Find and use all these tools if you want to keep your teams functioning and as happy as they can be. Don’t let work become an additional burden on already burdensome lives.
YOUR REWARD FOR GETTING TO THE BOTTOM IS THIS EXCELLENT NEW YORK TIMES SERIES
The New York Times full survey results on work from home trends, from the good to the ugly. Excellent multi-part series on all the trends impacting us with non-work life balance.