Category: Work-Life Balance

Planning During a Pandemic

In mid-March, Momentum hosted its biennial conference at the BJCC. As reports of COVID-19 were being heard around the world, Momentum’s 2020 Vision Conference ended up being the last major event held at the BJCC before they closed due to health concerns. It could not have been pulled off without GoPro Solutions, which was founded by Jennifer Gowers in 2007. She and her team, who work conveniently around the corner from Momentum’s office, worked for months to make sure our vision was carried out successfully. I Zoomed with Gowers to learn how their business is adapting in light of COVID-19.

Believe it or not, event planners are really good at planning for everything. When I called Gowers, I imagined that she would talk about all the events she would have had to cancel and frantically reschedule. Although she said some events and weddings have been postponed, she calmly explained how many of their events have gone virtual. Furthermore, because they plan so far in advance, they have more flexibility in restructuring.

GoPro was also ahead of the curve in working online. Gowers explained that her staff knew how to work remotely before quarantine, so she already had strategies to effectively get things done. She recommends that people designate a space for work in their home, not try to do chores during work hours, and focus on mind management. As an avid podcast listener, she explained that women like life coach Brooke Castillo encourage her to stay positive and mindful.

Looking toward the future, Gowers thinks that people will be more excited to come to events and overall attendance rates will rise. However, she thinks networking won’t be the same, and online platforms will expand. While online events are the most safe, she explained that “online is not the answer for everything”, so some gatherings will have to wait.

As a small business owner in Birmingham, she wants people to try to support local businesses instead of ordering straight from large corporations like Amazon. Gowers is optimistic about Birmingham’s future, citing the city’s unique resilience and genuineness. Although we may not be able to greet each other in person, she says Birmingham residents “know how to hug each other from afar”.

The Great Equalizer

Ashley Gann, Chief Meteorologist for CBS-42, business owner, public speaker, mother of 3.

As a full-time Chief Meteorologist and a parent, in the blink of a pandemic eye I also became a full-time teacher, cook, housekeeper, gardener, and field trip organizer. My home has become the school, playground, office, and TV set. I’m a planner and a crisis communicator by trade. I forecast future weather for crying out loud, but I never saw this coming. No one else saw it coming either, which is why this global pandemic has become a great equalizer.

While there is much uncertainty amidst all of the change, there is also so much opportunity. We have adapted to new workflows, processes, systems. Some have had to make a complete career pivot. Some have taken on delivery jobs just to make ends meet. From the C-Suite to the frontlines, the shutdown and social distancing have affected everyone. For some, the change may feel like a small ripple. For others, more like a tidal wave.

Let’s get one thing clear…Depending on the plates that you’re spinning, some days are probably a haze. You’re struggling to hang on between the homeschooling or care-taking, the house chores and work responsibilities. The cooking, the cleaning, the disinfecting– it all piles up. It’s a lot. In that, there will be things that go back to normal soon, like kids going back to school. We will be able to send spouses out of the house to run errands again. Our walls won’t seem to be pushing in on us as much as we move forward.

As we emerge on the other side, I do hope businesses take a hard look at how this pandemic has forced change. I believe this could open up doors for women by creating more flexibility and empathy in the workplace. This may be a solution for retaining talent long term. For women, climbing the corporate ladder often is stymied due to a lack of options and being forced to choose between personal priorities (children, spouse, aging parents…) and a promotion. Remote-working strategies can produce greater productivity, create long term loyalty, and pave the way for future growth. This is a game changer!

In this global pandemic, the rigid walls of corporations have had to morph into malleable support systems for their employees. We’ve all gotten to see inside each other’s world. I think we’ve been more honest with one another and we’ve seen more authentic bonds being made, because it’s hard to ignore the golden retriever stealing the show on your daily Zoom call from home. We’ve allowed for grace and we’ve been able to see each person in a new way. I believe this could be a defining moment in how we move forward in retaining the best and the brightest in business. We are redefining what collaboration, communication, and productivity look like.

We are proving, through these new work models, that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can attend high powered meetings one minute, while scrubbing dishes and teaching our children the next. I have come to realize a woman can be as successful in her office with a view as she can be at her dining room table covered with crayons. The view may look different, but giving women choices on how they take flight will give them the greatest chance at soaring as high as they can. We must not dismiss these work from home changes as temporary, but see how that can radically redefine workplace culture and ultimately attract the very best to your brand and business. Giving someone options and flexibility is a tremendous value-add for every organization.

Resources That Encourage

Morgan Harper Nichols

Podcasts

  • Stuff Mom Never Told You was created to depict how being a woman affects daily life. The hosts interview women of all different backgrounds and careers, delving into honest conversations about their struggles and triumphs. Most recently, they’ve interviewed a nurse working with COVID patients and they released an episode about coping with the pandemic based on your level of intro- or extroversion.
  • How I Built This has been one of my favorite podcasts for a long time. The host interviews incredibly successful entrepreneurs (think Ben & Jerry’s, Burt’s Bees, Canva) about how they founded their company and grew it into a million-dollar business. Due to the pandemic, the host has added COVID-related topics to his list of interview questions. It gives a unique perspective on running a business during this season.
  • Unlocking Us was created in March by Brene Brown, a researcher, mom, and Netflix alum who doses out real talk for a living. She unintentionally started the podcast in the midst of the pandemic, but this made her become more vulnerable with her listeners as she explains how COVID has impacted her life. The Momentum team is currently listening to this podcast as we navigate this crisis.

Newsletters

  • I initially signed up for The Daily Good because their emails are the most aesthetically pleasing I’ve ever come across. They offer a calm start to your morning, with recommendations for podcasts to listen to, artists to explore, and articles to read. If you’re not a fan of emails, The Good Trade stores all of their articles relating to fashion, beauty, self, home, and culture.
  • Club Duquette is “a modern mom and pop quality lifestyle brand with clothing, supplies, and good vibes for all people.” After recovering from a terrifying health scare, Morgan and Duquette Johnston decided to follow their dreams in 2016 by opening up shop in Woodlawn. As artists and musicians, they offer a carefully curated array of goods. Even though they took a risk, they sold out on day one and were featured in Vogue, The New York Times, and more. Every Friday, Morgan sends out a newsletter with a Spotify playlist, movie recommendations, and fun articles to read. Sign up at the bottom of their website!
  • 99U by Adobe sends out weekly newsletters geared toward creative professionals, but the articles can be useful to anyone! They have given great advice on leading a team remotely, managing expectations while working from home, and how to collaborate from a distance.

Instagram Accounts

  • Lisa Congdon decided to pursue art professionally at the age of 40 after she’d been working at an education nonprofit. She began taking art classes with her brother when she was struggling to find the right career, and she never went back. She’s been commissioned by Facebook, IKEA, MoMA, and more! Although she has posted encouraging, colorful drawings for years, she recently started a COVID journal, which she posts every day in her stories. Some days she draws a lovely portrait of her breakfast and some days she can’t think of anything to say, and her honesty is refreshing.
  • Morgan Harper Nichols started her social media as a way to reach out to people who are struggling. Followers message her with their story, and she posts a beautiful response in the form of a poem with artwork. She has also been posting COVID-related content and offers inspirational words.
  • The Lily News is “elevating critical stories about women and gender”. They provide relevant content about women in politics, healthcare, art, and more! They stick to more encouraging stories and have started to mix in fun illustrations about the pandemic.

Take Time to Assess

Every leadership journey begins with deepening your understanding of yourself and how you relate to an ever-changing environment. We have all gone through some big changes as a result of the Corona virus. Now that most of us are working from home (WFH), it’s a good time to reassess your personality and what WFH strategy will work best for you.

A fellow leader and friend of Momentum, Gayle Lantz, shared a complimentary assessment to determine your WFH style and how you can be most productive. It only takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and the assessment at the end had some good pointers for me.

Take the Work from Home Style Assessment

I hope you will find it helpful, too. Not everyone has the same work from home style, so we all need to approach it in the way that works best with our personalities.

Here are a few other free self-assessments that we’ve found to be helpful:

16 Personalities
Very similar to the Myers-Briggs personality test. The paid version is actually well worth the $30, IMO.

Enneagram
Fun and currently very popular among professionals. 

Who Am I
This is an interesting visual test where you choose your answers from a bank of pictures rather than words. I recommend skipping the non-essential consumer questions at the end. 

 

Staying Productive Working Remotely

We are all adjusting to the new normal of working remotely amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. I have had the opportunity to work remotely before, I have managed remote team members, and I have conducted countless meetings online. This is the first time, however, that I have been homebound with my spouse, children, and trying to work, so that’s getting interesting.

 

Here are a few ideas that I have found to be helpful:

  1. Defining my workspace and setting boundaries. While I don’t have a dedicated home office, I have asked my family to avoid whatever room I decide to work in for that “shift.”
  2. Set my hours. I work best in the morning, so I roll out of bed, stretch, pour my coffee, and get started straight away. Morning is the best time for me to plan, write, and do any task that requires concentration. I like to do my highly abbreviated “get ready” routine when I need a mid-morning break, then get back to work.
  3. Check-in regularly with the team. We use Slack to do a morning check-in where we post our priorities for the day. We use Zoom for our weekly team meetings where we go over our top 3 priorities for the week, talk about what we accomplished since last week, and discuss any help we need from one another.
  4. Limit interruptions. If I need heads-down time, I will shut down Slack and email until my next break. I also let my family know what I am trying to get done and why I need them to let me focus. It’s amazing how much more productive I am when I am not switching gears constantly.
  5. Break for lunch. Everyone in my house is capable of making their own lunch, so I’ve decided on my workdays that we can each prepare our own lunch, but we try to eat together. This gives us a chance to come out of the quiet zone we’ve been in all morning and catch up. I like to keep lunch simple but tasty, like an unusual salad (this one is persimmon) or buddha bowls made from left over dinner items.
  6. Move around. I don’t like to work in the same space or same position for too long, so I move around. I also take walk-around breaks for a few minutes every hour. Whether I just go downstairs and put laundry in the dryer, lay down in the floor to stretch, or walk around the block when I get a phone call, I try to move often.
  7. Self-care is a priority. It’s been a challenge for me to practice self-care my whole career. This pandemic situation is different. If I am not eating well, sleeping, exercising, meditating, journaling, and hydrating, then I can not stay healthy and provide for my family and my community. I’ll admit that I’ve traded time I used to spend on wardrobe, hair and makeup to make time for self-care, and I may just stick to that new routine!
  8. Indulge in one “perk” a day. I like to spend about 20 minutes in the afternoon to do something I wouldn’t normally do if I was in the office. It might be dancing with my daughter in the kitchen, saying hello to a neighbor, bringing in flowers from the yard, or taking a quick nap. Those little breaks bring me home-bound joy!

 

I am a long way from having this all figured out. I may have to change things up again next week. I’d love to hear how others are managing their new work from home routine. Feel free to share your experiences and preferences by leaving a comment!

Stay healthy. Stay productive. Stay sane.

 

 

 

6 Steps to Better Work Life Integration

Delphine Carter is CEO and Founder of Boulo Solutions and a session presenter at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial conference in March. 

Thanks to a younger generation of professionals who value flexibility as the number one benefit from their employers, our culture is slowly shifting to accepting work-life integration.  As flexible job opportunities take hold, women now have more opportunity than ever to maintain successful careers and still take care of family obligations self-care, community engagements, and other demands that often disproportionately affect women.

Here are 6 simple ways to achieve greater work-life integration. 

  1. Change your mindset
    Embrace your work as a valued aspect of your life by focusing on the benefits it’s providing you and your family.  Don’t feel guilty for liking your work or believing you are a better person when you have a job you feel passionate about.  When your professional self stops being the competing side to your home self, you’ll see more clearly how they can integrate.
  2. Don’t Settle
    If you are not growing as you’d like professionally or if your employer is reticent to give you the flexibility you need, chances are you are at the wrong place.  Similarly, if you feel like you’ve lost yourself and are not growing personally, you need to find what’s missing. In both situations, burnout will be knocking at your back door soon.  Find a volunteer opportunity or profession that you are passionate about doing. This makes getting up every day to a full schedule much more rewarding.  Maybe you don’t know what you are passionate about anymore?  Listen to podcasts that sound interesting, take personality quizzes, ask your family and friends where they see your skills fitting best. Don’t settle.  You have too much to offer.
  3. Set Priorities
    Work-life priorities look different for every woman and every family.  Take a holistic approach to priorities and make a list of what you and your family need.  Understand that these priorities may change every month depending on the age and needs of your spouse, parents and children.  Is flexibility the most important need you have?  Is a certain income level your greatest need? Ranking priorities will help you find the opportunity where you will be the most successful. You’ll be able to hone in on roles that would make you and your future employer the best match.
  4. Block Schedule
    Work-life integration does require logistical organization that would make UPS jealous. Try blocking time on your schedule for your top priorities. Blocks can be 30 minutes or an hour and should include exercise and ‘you’ time.  Many women who block out their schedule find extra hours in their day by rearranging the order of their tasks or tweaking some logistics.  A lot of time is wasted on the mental load of thinking about what needs to be done, rather than the actual doing of the task so blocking your schedule frees up the mental space that may be keeping you from productivity.
    Practice creating a block schedule and get realistic about the number of hours you can contribute successfully to your professional self and how many hours you need for yourself outside of work.
  5. Outsource What You Can
    As people strive to make work-life integration successful, new services pop up all the time to make life simpler. There are lots of options for women trying to spend less time on tasks for the home.  Try using a grocery delivery app, free grocery pick-up or restaurant delivery apps.  The time you save shopping inside the store could give you back up to 1 hour of your day.  If making homemade healthy dinners is a priority, find 3 recipes on your phone that can stretch throughout the week. What about a robot vacuum that can get rid of the dog hair while you’re away?  Whatever your needs or budget, there is always something you can outsource that is bogging you down at home.
  6. Set Personal Boundaries
    This might be the most important aspect of successful work-life integration. Integration will not work if you don’t set boundaries.  Be open with your employer about when you are available and what you are not willing to compromise.  For example, maybe you can work all day but must be available to pick-up from school or for 4 pm practices. As long as projects and tasks are completed on time, chances are your employer will have no issue with your boundaries. More companies now know that meeting objectives is more important than how long you are sitting in your office.  In fact, they are likelier to be wowed by your productivity during the hours you are available.

 

Every working woman has to find what works for her career and her family to achieve work-life integration.  Having a fulfilling career while also taking care of responsibilities and passions outside of work is possible with the right combination of planning, prioritizing, and boundary setting.

 

Honor the “In-Between”

 

Sommerville Johnston is the founder of Aspen Roots Collective.  She is a Licensed Professional Counselor as well as Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, and wilderness instructor. She is passionate about creating opportunities for women to connect with the natural world, to explore their inner-landscapes, and to discover within themselves a strength and beauty more powerful than they previously knew. 

 

 

I recently came across the following quote by Edward Abbey that seemed appropriate for our fall season:

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”

— Edward Abbey

It strikes me that life happens “in-between.” We set a goal; the achievement is just a moment in time, but the process of getting there, that is life. To move slowly enough to notice the changes… how often do we do this?

We want to hop the plane, skim the cliff notes, scroll to the highlights. But when we are only present for the destination, we lose sight of the pulsing nature of life, the fact that it has rhythm, that nothing is permanent, that it moves in cycles that are never exactly the same.

If we can learn to be present in the cycles, perhaps we will resist them less, and open ourselves to trusting that life will keep moving and we will not be abandoned to the moment of pain, or have to cling to the joyful times out of fear of never having them again.

Now, as the days shorten and we move between seasons, what would it take for you to appreciate the in-between? Perhaps a new practice, or a renewal and recommitment to an existing practice… A practice that provides the structure needed to appreciate the in-between.

If this sounds too theoretical, here are some more specific invitations:

  • Delay the morning screen time in order to stretch your body, even if only for five minutes.
  • Bike to work (or the store, or your friend’s house, or anywhere!) instead of driving.
  • Walk the dog instead of going to the dog park and taking work calls (look for ways to cut out the “multi-tasking”).
  • Notice the colors in the produce section.
  • Try 5 minutes of meditation with Insight Timer first thing in the morning.
  • Take a walk after dinner.
  • Ask your partner/friend/family member a question about their day, and then listen to the silence as they formulate an answer…
  • Practice allowing space for your own silence when answering a question.

 

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Surviving Holiday Stress

At year-end, life is getting pretty hectic for the working woman right about now. Many companies are closing out a fiscal year, budgeting for next year, conducting annual reviews, analyzing inventories, and making year-end purchasing decisions. While this type of work is equally dispersed between women and men, that’s not always the case.

On the home front, the majority of  holiday preparation is done by women. From shopping, to meal prep, to sending greeting cards, to decorating the home and wrapping gifts, women are far more likely to take on additional tasks at home. At work, many women are “asked” to “volunteer” for tasks that have nothing to do with their job description, such as helping with holiday party planning, decorating the office, or sending client gifts.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Many women feel both pressure and desire to make the holidays special for their families. In families where only the man worked, it makes more sense for the majority of the home care to fall to the woman. But with couples who both work, open communication is key to defining what you want from the holidays and who will do which tasks. How important is the holiday card? Do all of the decorations your mom gave you have to be put out? Can the family opt to draw names for gifts, or make contributions to a charity in lieu of gifts this year? Can you agree on lights around the front door rather than the whole house? Perhaps you limit the number of social invitations you will accept. Ask the question: if I don’t enjoy it, why am I doing it? Find ways to include your partner, kids, and outsourcing services to help in holiday preparations.

 

 

In the workplace, women can suggest a team approach to “office housework.” When asked to plan the office party, recommend a more representative approach with men and women to take on the tasks. Office cards, decorations and client gifts can usually be outsourced. Clean-up after holiday festivities should likewise be everybody’s job. Depending on the size and environment at your office, it may make sense too rally a few allies (especially executives) to support taking a new approach to holiday planning.

 

On January 16th, we will host the second workshop in our Momentum Leadership Series. Our speaker is Dr. Sharon Melnick, the author of “Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident and Productive with the Pressure is On.” During the month of December we will feature some of Dr. Melnick’s advice on this blog to help out with managing the holiday crunch!

 

 

 

It’s All in the Attitude

One of the exercises we do at the Momentum opening retreat is called Emotional Contagion. Participants are asked to stand and walk around the room. One person is asked to frown deeply, look concerned, stressed or sad. In less than a few minutes the bad vibe is picked up and reflected by everyone in the room. Then another person is asked to change that frown to a hopeful happy face. Like the sun after a storm, the good mood fills the room in no time.

Our attitudes are contagious, and great leaders know how to cultivate a positive outlook, even in the face of great adversity. Most of the time, we cannot change the situations we are in. We can’t change the deadline or the difficult customers we are serving, but at the end of every day we can control our attitude. We control how we approach and react to every situation. Momentum facilitator Dr. Sharon Melnick explores the idea of focusing our energies on the 50% of things we can control in her book “Success Under Stress.” (Tip: you can download an excerpt from her book on her website for free!)

Here are a few more tips on how to maintain a positive attitude, even when the going gets tough.

  • Know that you are resilient. Celebrate failure as a learning opportunity and bounce back with vigor.
  • Set time-bound, measurable goals. Getting clarity about what we want to achieve and by when leads to intentional living, a sense of purpose, and satisfaction.
  • Celebrate victories, even small ones. Big wins are made from little steps that take us to the end goal. Rejoice at the milestones along the way and invite others celebrate with you!
  • See the bigger picture. What feels like an impossible situation “on the ground” can have a simple solution when viewed from 10,000 feet. Get a new perspective to help you shift your attitude.
  • Take action. Put yourself out there and take some risks. Let your passion guide you and refuse to be defined by fear.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. Giving back or helping someone will not only brighten someone else’s day, it brings joy to our own.
  • Finally, be grateful. An attitude of gratitude can affect how successful and content we are. Even on our worst days, we have so much to say thanks for.

The way we view challenges and approach others says a lot about ourselves. It also says a lot about how far we will go. Let’s be willing to train our brain to see the positives in every situation and encourage others to do the same.

Contributing writer Holly Moore.