(From the April 2021 Edition of eFORUM)
By Kelly Maxwell
I consider myself one of the lucky working parents, as I spent the first six months of the pandemic on maternity leave. When I returned to work this past September, I braced myself for sick days, quarantines, lockdowns, and chaos.
I’ve worked out of my home office for the past decade, so I was already familiar with virtual meetings, ergonomic office design, and the importance of scheduling in stretching or exercise throughout the day. It’s easy to develop bad habits when you are on your own.
My kids are not of school age, and daycare remained open throughout the recent lockdown. I can only imagine the difficulty for parents who are helping their children through e-learning. Nevertheless, there were many occasions when my toddler and preschooler were home. My husband and I would take turns juggling the kids and getting our work done.
For many parents, the line between career and kids has been uncomfortably blurred, and trying to work and parent at the same time has become all too familiar. It’s frustrating for parents and kids, as well as employers and co-workers.
As an employee, you don’t want to let your team down but it can feel like you’ve got a lot standing in your way. Within our coaching company, we have seen the stress this has put on advisory teams, and in some cases team members have resigned because they are juggling too much or found another job that is more aligned with their current situation.
If you are an advisor with a team, here are some ideas to best support your employees.
In an office setting, there are definitive working hours so it’s easier to estimate when jobs will get completed. Now, “work time” is not so defined, as employees get interrupted to make lunches, help their kids start a project, or take the dog out, to name a few responsibilities. It becomes harder to reasonably narrow down deadlines. Be flexible when you can be. If it normally takes a day or two to get tasks completed, perhaps offer three or four depending on the task. Make sure that your employees are prioritizing client-focused to-dos and keep them informed about your scheduled meetings.
What is good for your team now may change throughout the year (e.g., summer schedule versus fall schedule, school drop-offs and pick-ups). Be aware of your employees’ changing schedules at home and check in to make sure team meeting times are still preferred. That will help to make sure everyone is fully engaged and meetings are productive. Also, try to be accommodating if someone can no longer make a meeting. Perhaps someone could take notes and debrief that person later.
I do remember a time before the pandemic where it would have been terribly embarrassing to hear my dog bark or child cry in the background while I was in a meeting. I remember closing the blinds during meetings so my dog wouldn’t see anything to bark at. Now in this pandemic world, we are all more accepting. It’s real — we are all humans! Nowadays, I welcome a friendly hello from my clients’ cat or dog. I think keeping an open mind to some minor distractions on a phone/video call helps to put your employees’ minds at ease.
Of course, you are also busy managing your team and meeting with clients regularly. Don’t neglect to remind your team that you are available if they need to speak with you directly. Set aside designated time in your calendar for team members to reach out if they have any questions or concerns. This is especially important for those employees who might feel disconnected from the team if they thrive in a collaborative environment. Also take the time to check in one-on-one and ask how your employees are doing.
The best we can all do is be kind and patient with one another. We all have different challenges to manage right now, and if you can lead your advisory business with that in mind, your employees will more than appreciate your approach, and that will come through in their work.
Kelly Maxwell, BBA, is a digital marketing coach at The Personal Coach.