Out of the Box, Into a Bowl

04/17/20

We’ve all heard life compared to a box of chocolates, and maybe that used to be true: work, family, school and exercise all neatly fit into their own little compartmentalized, sometimes labeled areas. But in this age of sheltering in place, the chocolates have been devoured (in record time) and the box recycled. What is left of life has landed with a splat into the same bowl, and unlike my one-year old son’s dinner plate, there are no compartments. Family time, work time, and personal time are all touching now, so it’s up to each of us to build the best meal with what we have.

Entrée bowls have been all the rage in the last few years, but I’m a dessert girl myself, so let’s compare our new reality to the best food bowl I can imagine – an ice cream sundae bowl!

For the time being and into the foreseeable future, we don’t have the luxury of going to the grocery store on a whim to procure all the necessary ingredients for the ideal sundae – organic hand-churned ice cream, farm fresh strawberries, gooey dark chocolate sauce. Nor do we have the same work environment, teammate expectations or predictable schedules. So rather than focus on specific ingredients, let’s work with what we have and add in more management tools as the special sauce to make our work/life sundae bowls delicious.

Empathy

When a person is not well, they are not effective. This simple observation of human nature has been playing on repeat in my mind for weeks. In my estimation, no one is “well” right now. We might literally be healthy, but we are not well. Collectively, we are exhausted, worried, bored, isolated, grieving, fearful and anxious. Employers need to remember that there is no universal solution for their staff right now. Everyone’s bowl is different, and it’s more important than ever to find ways to help your employees cope and try to thrive with whatever ingredients they have.

Trust

The current pandemic is checking our assumptions – real and perceived – around working from home. While most businesses do require some combination of in-person, location-specific or time-bound interactions, we’re finding that there are still task-based activities and new engagement models that can make remote work feasible for companies. The critical tool to make this work is trust. Grant people accountability and ownership of their work and performance. Set measurable and achievable goals. Check in regularly to see how things are going or if your team needs help, but at the end of the day, trust that your team is working hard wherever they are.

Flexibility

Parents now have a whole new responsibility added to their plate (or bowl in this case): they must make their sundae work for their children too. Parents don’t need sympathy – they need the rainbow sprinkles of flexibility. Companies and leaders should challenge themselves to find ways to let employees create a schedule and routine that works for their families during these strange times. By allowing employees to work at their peak productivity time, they can and will accomplish more. And when your mindset shifts from punching a clock to completing tasks, who cares if the work is occurring in the middle of the night or early morning?

Fun

Laughter might be the best medicine, but fun is the best ingredient. Times are hard. Work is changing at an incredibly fast pace. We are all struggling to be agile and nimble. Don’t make it worse by being too stuffy or rigorously sticking to previously-held rules. As our “formal professional standards” loosen up, our human connections strengthen. So, let people see your children, your spouse, your home, dogs and cats, or even your chickens. Get to know one another on a deeper level.

To some, this level of empathy, trust, flexibility and fun may feel like we’ve crossed a line of professionalism. These are extraordinary times and our lives are different. This new model of work isn’t unprofessional, it is coping. This is life now – life in one big amazing ice cream sundae bowl.

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When life gives you Corona, Milepost brings the LIMES (Leadership In Engagement Management). As a globally recognized Best for the World B-Corp honoree, we’ve got this remote work thing down. We know a thing or two about engagement, and we can help companies be better. If your teams are struggling, you need work-from-home strategies for managers or employees, your big picture has gotten blurry, you are having trouble communicating under these conditions, or you need to completely reevaluate your business model – Milepost cares about people and wants to help.

We’re here – happily eating our ice cream sundaes – and we’ve got plenty to share.

Contact us today to start a conversation.

*This article is the second of our series: “When life gives you Corona, Milepost can bring the LIMEs!” (Leaders in Managing Engagement). Check out the first post: What If We Turned Off Gravity? We’ll continue bringing you our recommendations of how businesses can cope in this new world order.

Holly Baird
Holly Baird