Being Human While Working From Home

By E.B. Moss Reports Archives
Cover image for  article: Being Human While Working From Home

After a slight delay in getting situated on Zoom, the Female Quotient's virtual Equality Lounge guest speaker, Erica Keswin, apologized saying, "Greetings from a small town in Connecticut, where we barely have Wi-Fi." At that point, a boy was heard ("Mom!"), as he bolted across the screen in the background. Keswin, who was finally in place to speak on her book's advice, Bring Your Human to Work, epitomized her topic in that moment — another in the series of moments we are all getting used to during these days of social distancing. Not flustered, she continued on, sharing her "three Ps" for managing new ways to lead, work, and find balance from home. The young man, her son Daniel, stayed at her side, employed as her page-turning assistant.

Smiling at us witnessing her real-life setting, Keswin acknowledged the gift of that moment. "You used to have to beg people to turn on their cameras. Now, almost overnight, we're looking up, craving that connection."

The questions around creating connection while working from home are how to adjust our footing as employer or employee, grapple with technology at home, and maintain relationships. It starts, Keswin said, with both leveraging technology and putting it in its place. And that begins with the first P: prioritize — as in, prioritize your relationships. She asked attendees, "Does your calendar reflect your values, and the values of your work team, and of your family? We still aren't making time with all these long days."

Her suggestion "for those privileged to still be working" is to make time for a morning check-in with one or all the people on your team, as well as to also check in on a friend and your parents. Speaking directly to the primarily female audience, she urged viewers with children at home to remember to practice self-care, from deep breathing to taking 15 minutes for yourself in the morning, since the "second shift" now feels like the fifth shift.

Next P is position technology. Which medium or platform best supports your efforts with the first P, to better honor your relationships? While many more of us are using Zoom or Google Hangouts, it's important to select the right tool that will deepen ties at this time. For example, if you're defaulting to text messaging or even Slack to check in, "move up the food chain to Facetime," she encouraged.

That said, it's very easy to be "always on" when working from home, so putting technology in its place might mean turning it off and enjoying a family board game instead of staying connected to the boardroom.

The third P stands for protocols, because we are developing new ones in our quarantined society every day right now. Keswin urged attendees to do a personal check-in with their team before diving in each morning. "Take a breath and ask people, literally, how they're doing. Offer a moment of meditation or suggest some easy recipes," she said. "What can you do that feels right for your company culture?" If one employee on the conference call is "oversharing," she suggests setting a timer for each contributor. And another protocol is to make meetings mandatory — especially with those cameras on.

At a time when many people are scared, they want to hear from their leaders — department heads to CEOs. "You'll generate a lot of goodwill by being transparent," Keswin said. She cited a great example from Knotch, a content intelligence company, which, unsurprisingly, has been twice named an Inc. magazine "Best Places to Work." The company continued its regular in-office show and tell virtually and added an "Ask Anda Anything" segment with founder Anda Gansca. An example from Keswin's book included Black Sheep agency, which historically had a Friday champagne toast in its office and made it a virtual happy hour instead. One company even had employees take each other on virtual tours of their homes.

Having her dog as the next surprise guest star on camera was a perfect wrap up to the three Ps, with Keswin's parting words: "I've been studying the workplace for 20 years and being in each other's presence in some way is an even greater gift we can give each other now. So be present; be human."

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