If your people aren’t winning at home, they will struggle, at best, winning at work. And if they have to choose between the two, they will almost always choose winning at home. You could argue, “It’s not my job to help my team members figure out how to manage childcare or their commute or caring for elderly parents.” However, it’s imperative now -- more than ever -- to understand your team members’ needs as they continue to navigate the impacts of this ongoing pandemic.
According to McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2020,“…women, and mothers in particular, are taking on an even heavier load. Mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving during the pandemic. In fact, they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an additional three or more hours per day on housework and childcare.” In addition to childcare, schooling and home needs, team members – both women and men – have increased responsibilities at home, such as caring for elder parents, adult children moving back home, siblings and other family members who may be sick or need support.
While firms have been making strides in remote work, flexible work arrangements, and supporting mental health, more can be done before we see an increased exodus from your managers, especially female managers, who are squeezed at work and are experiencing increased pressures at home. So, what can firm leaders do?
- Promote your wellness programs – Most firms offer online health tools, services to support mental health, and programs to support team members’ health and well-being. However, many team members aren’t aware of all that you do provide, and/or they may be reluctant to use them for fear of the stigma that may be associated with doing so. Increase your communication –practice the Law of Seven by communicating about your health and wellness programs at least seven times and in a variety of ways (i.e. team meetings, emails, portal, one-on-one). And make it safe for people to take advantage of them.
- Manage workload and reset expectations – With shifting deadlines and client priorities and new services and initiatives your firm is likely starting, evaluate client engagement scopes and internal initiatives to see if they are still viable and where they fit in the priority. Consider adjusting budgets or extending deadlines to be more realistic with the capacity of your team. They will appreciate you being proactive in this area! Assess each individual’s capacity, too, by meeting with them on a weekly basis and consistently reviewing billable time on a bi-monthly basis so you can move work around and balance the load.
- Revisit flexibility and balance – If not prior to the pandemic, most team members have probably experienced feeling like they are “always-on” at some time during 2020 and may be struggling to set boundaries between home and work. Many, if not most, are dual-income families, too, so they are sharing the load to manage the kids, schoolwork, and household chores. With many working from home, it can be difficult to “leave work,” which can impact family time, sleep, exercise, and other commitments. Help your team members reestablish work-life boundaries. This may require setting new ways of working, such as redefining what “office hours” look like or when and where you schedule meetings. Many team members with children are juggling being a childcare provider, overseeing schoolwork, and increasing attention to the health and well-being of their children. Understanding each team member’s unique situation and being flexible – and creative – about how and when they can meet their work commitments is crucial. Maybe they need to take shifts on the home-front, which means working in the morning and evening to keep work commitments and taking their turn with the kids (or elderly parent) in the afternoon. Communicate work schedules among your team, too, so that you can support each other. Plan ahead for required team or client meetings so people can make arrangements well in advance when possible.
- Re-evaluate remote work policies - Flexibility is required when planning for team members to come back to the office, too. Some team members are excited to be back in the office, and they should (safely) return when CDC recommendations, state laws and your firm’s reopening policy allow. Others may not feel comfortable or they have compromised family members or are compromised themselves, so it would not be safe for them to return to the office (or endure the commute or other considerations that may impact their health if they return to work at the office). We have proven these past six months that remote work does work. And a blended work environment where some team members work in the office and some work from home is here to stay. Update your remote work guidelines to support this new environment, provide training for ways to collaborate and manage remote teams effectively, and support how and when people work, ensuring the tone starts at the top with the partner team.
- Remove bad bosses – I know this may sound harsh, but not everyone’s gift is to be a people manager. Gallup “…found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager.” And we’ve all heard the management adage that “People don’t quit their companies, they quit their bosses.” So why do we allow some people managers to not support the firm values or remote policies, or operate from “getting the job done at all costs?” And some are even punishing and stuck in old-school ways of treating employees. You can’t afford to let them scare away your people who are already struggling to make it all work. Play to people’s strengths and put those who are great people developers in those roles, giving them the time (and measures of success) to do so. If you have partners or managers who are not upholding your firm values and culture, or are punishing or worse to your team members, address it swiftly so you don’t continue to erode the trust of your team members. Remember, some view allowing bad bosses to persist as hypocrisy.
- Check in – Maybe this should be number 1 but check in with your team members and do so often. Assign a shepherd to each team member who “owns” checking in and asking, “How are you, really?” The shepherd is responsible for knowing their unique circumstances, helping them define how and when they can work, creating alternative work arrangements if necessary with HR that works for them and the firm, and advocating for them with partners and others so all feel supported. Demonstrating this care and concern will foster trust and “stickiness” to your firm because your team members feel they have someone at your firm with whom they can confide and problem solve, and celebrate victories, too.
As firms continue to navigate this pandemic and move to a “next better,” focus on supporting your “whole” team member. When your team members are winning at work AND at home, you will see positive results: they will be happier and more loyal in their jobs, they will be more optimistic about what the future holds and how your firm will navigate challenges in the future, and they will be less likely to consider reducing – or even leaving – their role.
What are you going to do to improve your team members' chances for winning at home and at work? We’d love to hear your strategies and the changes you’re making!