Opinion, People

Fellowship of the … Cubicle?

“Do you have a best friend at work?” was one question on the first “employee engagement” surveys I took. The question was considered somewhat of a joke at the time. After all, work is for work. You could have friends on your own time.

Fast forward a decade or so, and suddenly both having social connections and the safety of friendship seems like obvious indicators of strong work environments. The Gallup organization says it best:

Human beings are social animals, and work is social institution.

The Gallup organization notes that the “best friend” question is the most controversial of the 12 dimensions that drive employee retention, customer metrics, productivity and profitability, However, the organization’s in-depth research also uncovered that employees who report having a best friend at work are also more likely to report that:

  • They received recognition or praise in the last 7 days (43%)
  • Someone at work encourages their development (37%)
  • Their opinions count at work (27%)

Having friends at work sounds like the “social institution” of work is being part of a community: a system of relationships based on common interests that create a feeling of belonging.

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Relationships fostering a sense of connection and support are critical to overall happiness. A quality social network – a real, in person social network – is critical to your happiness. What is a quality social network?

Berkley’s The Greater Good Magazine identifies three areas of relationships to teach children to help create happier, resilient adults: social and emotional intelligence, successfully resolving conflicts and altruism. 

From The World Counts: Strong relationships are when you feel like you belong, are valued for who you are and have comfort and security. Between 1985 and 2006, the number of close friends reported by Americans dropped by a whole person. A full quarter of survey respondents reported that they couldn’t name on person they could rely on fully.

We’re social animals, and we need a community to thrive.

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Here’s where I want you to take a bit of a jump with me. 

I’ve noticed a trend of talking about “resiliency” at work: a new fancy word for stress management. Work is the number one source of stress for a quarter of Americans, and the World Health Organization recognized burnout as an official syndrome earlier this year. A 2016 Harvard Business Review article on 5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience at Work put the heavy lifting of changing this culture on the individual, recommending mindfulness, taking breaks and avoiding context switching.

All great ideas – yet the burden is placed on the individual to “fix” the problem.

Sounds suspiciously like “self-care”, doesn’t it? I’m talking about the trendy self-care of scheduling bubble baths and walking meetings, sheet masks and stretch breaks rather than the real self-care of setting boundaries and, as Ravishly so perfectly puts it, respecting yourself instead of spoiling yourself.

Here’s where it all comes together: self-care will only get us so far in the fight against social disconnect, distress and burnout. It’s community care that will create the seismic shifts necessary to create true change. Nakita Valerio is a Toronto-based researcher and community organizer who’s tweet about community care and self-care recently went viral.

From Heather Dockray’s May 2019 Mashable article, Self-care isn’t enough. We need community care to thrive:

“Community care can look like a lot of different things,” Valerio says. “It can be as simple as reaching out to somebody over text when you just need someone to talk. It can be someone grabbing groceries for you or  … somebody coming and doing your dishes and watching your kids while you’re grieving.” 

Let’s take the friends-at-work thing one step further and test community care in the office. Ask a coworker if you can bring them a coffee on a tough day. Send a quick note letting your cube neighbor know they handled a tricky situation well. Drop off a meal for a new parent just returning to work. Give someone a high-five for running their first marathon over the week. Celebrate and support each other – you know, be the friend at work.

apparently stock photo work friends go shopping together.

People

Turning Up the Volume

Tomorrow, I’ll sit at one of three or four tables in the warm and love-filled kitchen of my wife’s second family. The house will be filled with three generations, two turkeys,  and one amazing brie appetizer (thanks, Liz!). What started as four couples getting together for dinner in the early 80s expanded exponentially as each small family grew.

Today, this Thanksgiving “table” is a gathering of anywhere from 30 – 40 people! My wife has missed one year of celebrating Thanksgiving with this specific group in her entire life. It is her only non-negotiable during the holiday season, and after attending my first year, I understand why.

butterturkey
Doesn’t everyone have a hand-carved butter turkey at Thanksgiving?

There is just one down side of a Thanksgiving filled with this much tradition, so many pies and lot of people. It is next to impossible to get to have a deep conversation with everyone – especially now that we have a toddler that requires at least cursory supervision. On our drive home tomorrow night, my wife and I will exchange the stories of who we talked to, hoping that together, we were able to connect with everyone.

The stories we hear (How was the marathon that Liz and Tom ran? What was the best part of Taylor and Elizabeth’s trip to Hawaii? What amazing vacations did Erica and Jason go on this year?) are both never enough and also fill us up with gratitude and thankfulness. It’s the act of sharing stories which connect us.

What prompted this sentimental holiday post? Well, I came across Can blogs rebuild America? and began to think about how stressful the holidays can be when politics come to the table. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen at our Thanksgiving. Good or bad, we’re all more or less on the same page. Our personal stories bring us closer, year after year.

In a room with so many people, sometimes you have to force your way in to the conversation. Or pay attention when someone is trying to be heard and make space for them. And the same is true for the bigger conversations happening around us.

I’m thankful for the space and freedom to express myself in this tiny little space, to forge connections with others in a conversation that can feel overwhelming and encourage others to do the same. Sharing your story can feel like work, but being heard will bring a deep sense of contentment.

#netpositiveblog

Opinion, People

#momsquad

“Most discussions of having it all” center on balancing work and children, but that definition of “all” is incomplete… Women also want to spend time on other aspects of their lives: art, politics, faith, experiencing the natural world. Left to pursue only two dimensions of our lives leaves other parts of who we are undercultivated.”
~Lynn Pasquerella

One of the top executives at my company was named as one of Working Mother’s The Most Powerful Moms of 2018. As a working mom myself, I am always on the lookout for hacks to make it easier to honor all the parts of who I am.

In search of the ever-elusive ‘how to have it all’, I’ve cultivated my own #momsquad: a group of 5 women who are my go-tos on all things parenting, both as a mom and as working mom with a Career. As in other areas of my life, my #momsquad is my board of directors. This committee of women – who don’t actually know each other – are my guides help me navigate the dimensions of who I am beyond just work or home.

Moms 1 & 2: My two best friends, each a stay-at-home mom of three kids. I turn to them when I need coaching on prioritization, patience and parenting. These experienced moms have been there when I thought my baby was coughing up blood (just transfer from me from breastfeeding, but still terrifying), telling me I should REALLY consider sleep training, and reminding me that my work is important, but maybe not THE most important thing in my life.  When my approach to parenting doesn’t line up as well as I’d like with my wife’s, I can ask for input without worrying they will be judging my relationship and my parenting. Each of these strong women made thoughtful and difficult decisions about whether or not continuing their pre-kid careers made sense while their children are young. They are now approaching the decision about going to work as their kids get older. And, since they’ve both known for more than 20 years, they can call me out on my sh!t like no one else. Friends first, moms second.

Moms #3 & 4: Those trusted office moms, mythical unicorns of work-people who become friends and who are at similar stages in both their career and personal lives. One mom had her second daughter after 40, while leaning in to her own Career  so much she stepped into a new team and new role after returning from maternity leave. She gives me hope that it’s not too late for my family and my career to grow together. To top that off, just also ran a half-marathon – and wrote about it! The other office mom unicorn is stepping in as stepmom. Being trusted to watch her navigate making deliberate decisions about co-parenting and family building is opening up new doors in how I think about my own family. These two women lift my guilt when I spend some of my free time on the weekend writing (like right now), get dinner for the family from the Whole Foods hot bar (again) and tell me when I have smeared banana on my clothes. Whether it is coaching on time-management, setting boundaries or reminding me that each week has enough hours to do what’s actually important, these coworkers know that for us, working works for us and our families.

Mom 5: One of my two sisters-in-law, a working mom of two amazing girls. Not only is she consistently getting ahead in her own Career, she is somehow also going back to school for her MBA. A working mom who also knows, understands and appreciates the unique dynamics of my extended family. She shares her thoughtful approach on how she makes time for what’s important to her, co-parents fully with my brother and knows that family is family, however we all get to the same holiday table. What’s not to appreciate and love?

My #momsquad members don’t all know each other. But they all know me, or know different facets of me, who I am now and who I want to be. These moms make me hope I really am an average of the 5 people with whom I spend the most time associating.

Tell me about your #momsquad… and if you have any of those magical hacks that makes finding that elusive balance to be your most fully recognized self.