Today at our weekly all-company meeting, a topic was work-life balance. PI’s been fully-remote for about a month now, and—judging from posts in the #pi-parents Slack channel—it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. Me personally? I’m managing a team, writing and editing, and watching my two preschoolers. My husband’s on calls all day for his job, so my work life and home life are twisted together like soft-serve chocolate-and-vanilla ice cream.
Side note: We’ve been doing weeklies since the crisis hit to make sure all employees have a frequent opportunity to ask our senior team whatever questions are on their minds. This week lots of PIoneers had questions around work-life balance.
Jackie Dube, our SVP of Talent Optimization, opened the meeting by inviting all 150+ employees to go to menti.com and answer this question: How would you describe your remote work-life balance?
If you’ve never used Menti’s “Mentimeter” before, it’s a free, cloud-based polling tool that allows employees to provide anonymous feedback in response to a prompt. As each of us typed words that described our work-life balance, the group could see aggregated answers in the form of a word cloud. Some responses included:
- Better than ever
- It depends on the day
- Dream state
- What work-life balance?
- I had too many kids
As you can see, everyone’s circumstances are different, and so the responses varied pretty wildly. I encourage you to do a similar exercise with your team to see how everyone’s feeling.
Be prepared to see some answers you don’t like. Employees are dealing with issues that are outside of your control. You can be the best leader on Earth, and you’re still going to get mixed responses.
You can’t take their pain away, but you can make things a little better.
5 things you should say to your people right now
Here are five things you can—and should—say to your people right now to ease some of their fear and anxiety.
1. “Take time for you.”
As PI CEO Mike Zani said at today’s all-company, “Take care of yourself first. Sleep, eat well, get exercise. If you have a kid blowing up, stop what you’re working on and take care of that. We are looking for sustainability. We could be working from home for months, so create some best practices around maintaining your own health and performance.”
And don’t just talk the talk; make it easy for employees to put this into action. (Next tip please!)
2. “We’re synchronizing our calendars.”
Earlier this month, PI synchronized calendars. First, we built in “no meeting blocks” three times a day. This allows parents like me to help with schoolwork or take the kids outside for a walk. It also allows everyone to squeeze in a workout, make a healthy meal, or just take a mental break. Beyond that, we implemented rules for when recurring meetings—like 1 on 1s and lunch and learns—can be booked to make it easier for everyone to collaborate remotely.
Lee Pichette, PI SVP of Strategy and Corporate Development, said today, “I really appreciate the idea of grouping 1 on 1s and team meetings at different parts of the day because we have to book ad hoc meetings now since we can’t just walk into each other’s office and whiteboard something. It’s easier to book these ad hoc meetings if we all have common availability.
3. “It’s OK if your child/pet/partner interrupts a video call.”
True story: My daughter has climbed on the table and sat on my laptop in the middle of an online meeting. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry that my employer will hold that against me. Your employees shouldn’t have to worry either.
As PI President Daniel Muzquiz said today, “I’m really enjoying getting to meet everyone’s kids when they impromptu jump on Zoom!”
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4. “I know you might come to meetings less prepared than usual.”
I’m a high-formality employee and I relish getting all the details in order prior to a meeting. But some days, the time I would normally spend prepping for a meeting might be now spent helping my kids do worksheets. Rather than feel bad about my lack of preparation, I do the best I can. And I can feel good knowing that I have permission to be less than perfect right now.
As Muzquiz said, “When stuff interrupts your day that’s out of your control, don’t feel bad about it. If you’re trying to prep for the next meeting and you can’t, just accept it, apologize, and don’t beat yourself up if your work life isn’t as perfect as you want it to be.”
5. “Go ahead and take that vacation day.”
At a recent all company, Zani told us, “Go ahead and take a day off if you need it.” And you know what? I did just that.
Dube said today, “Taking time off might feel like a weird thing to do; you want a vacation day but you’re in your home. But if you need a day off, request it like you normally would. If you had a vacation planned, maybe take that time off from work anyway and spend it with your family without the pressure of work.”
What would your employees say about their remote work-life balance?
As PI SVP of Operations, Maribel Olvera said, “We’re not working from home. We’re home, and trying to work.”
This is a point in time. It’s a difficult one, but we will get to the other side. In the meantime, let’s be kind to one another and help each other through this the best we can.