Category: Work-Life Balance

Staying Active During COVID-19

Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of stimulating your brain and keeping track of your mental health during the pandemic. Not only is your mental health a vital part in staying successful in your personal and professional lives, but maintaining your physical well-being is too. Here are a few tips on how to stay active during COVID-19 while still staying socially distant. 

1. Get Outside

One of the easiest ways to stay active during COVID-19 that everyone has access to is simply going outside. Explore your neighborhood by going on a run, taking a walk, or riding your bike. If you want to get out of the neighborhood, Birmingham has plenty of parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities. Oak Mountain and Red Mountain state parks have great hiking and mountain biking trails that are suitable for all ages. You could even take a walk around the Birmingham Botanical Gardens which has 67.5 acres of over 25 thematic gardens with various sculptures and quiet paths. The Birmingham Zoo is also back open again with limited hours of operation. Before visiting any public outdoor space, be sure to check their websites for their COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. 

2. Workout from Home 

Another way to stay active is to workout from the comfort of your own home. COVID-19 has forced the world to become more connected than ever which includes opportunities to try out new workouts online. Many gyms that normally operate on an in-person basis now have guided workouts available through their apps for members. One free way to attend a workout class from home is by using YouTube. YouTube has thousands of videos on different workout options ranging from a 5 minute cardio session to an hour of a full body workout. My favorite kind of workout is one that makes you feel like you aren’t working out at all. There are plenty of videos that accomplish this through dance party workouts that allow you to have fun while still working up a sweat. 

3. Look into Gyms Again

As life tries to go back to “normal”, many gyms have reopened but with new guidelines and restrictions. If you do decide to get back into the gym again stay cautious and practice good hygiene. A few ways you can do this are by washing your hands frequently, wiping down the equipment before and after you use it, wearing your mask, and spacing out away from others. It is also advised that you bring your own water as opposed to using the water fountains, and avoiding using the locker room by planning on using the bathroom at home and skipping your post-gym locker room shower. Before you go, it is important to look on the gym’s website for their specific guidelines so you can assess if you will feel comfortable or not.

Until There Are Nine

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was notorious for her persistent fight to advocate for women, but her legacy goes beyond the work she accomplished as a Supreme Court justice, and she was not always esteemed for her fierce determination. As a student at Harvard Law School, she was criticized for “taking a man’s place,” even though she ended up tying for first in her class. Many women in the US are currently struggling to work from home while managing their children’s schoolwork. The Notorious RBG was no stranger to this dilemma. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer while they were both in law school, she took all of his notes and typed all of his papers in addition to her own, all while taking care of her newborn daughter. She faced discrimination in the workplace and had a hard time finding a job, but once she got started, she was on a roll.

Ginsburg, like most women, was also scrutinized for her personality. She was too serious, too forgiving. Too progressive, not progressive enough. Her appointment was eventually supported by feminists, but some gawked at her close friendship with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Their relationship served as a reminder to the country that relationships can transcend political boundaries. They frequently traveled together, attending operas and riding elephants. However, his views did not bleed into hers, and she went on to become the leading liberal justice on the Supreme Court.

She was an expert of making the most of what she had. As a frequent member of the minority vote in the Supreme Court, she made history for her eloquent dissents, some of which eventually inspired new laws. Some of the highlights of her legacy precede her time in the Supreme Court. She co-founded the Women’s Rights wing of the American Civil Liberties Union, became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia, and co-founded the first women’s rights law journal, all during the 1970s, when most boardrooms had no room for women. In her later years, she became a pop icon, inspiring teens to become politically involved as she demonstrated her workout routine on late night television.

Ginsburg inspired men and women both through her actions and her words. As the second woman to ever be nominated to the US Supreme Court, she knew that it would take serious work for women to be effectively represented.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although she is no longer with us, her story is not over. Her work continues to inspire efforts toward representation and equal pay. She persisted, and we must continue to persist.

How to Manage Your Mental Health

Not only have businesses taken a hit from the challenges 2020 has brought us, but for many people their mental health has as well. The best thing you can do in order to stay successful in your career, especially in times like this, is to first take care of yourself and focus on the importance of your mental health because the most important asset to your career is you. Here are three tips on how to manage your mental health:

1. Promote Mental Stimulation

Just like your body, your brain needs exercise too! Now is the time to try new things in your spare time like learning a new language or playing an instrument. You can also increase your brainpower with puzzles, books, or playing card games with family. You should always strive to practice lifelong learning in your personal and professional life. The more you challenge your brain and keep it active throughout the day, the healthier it will be.

2. Listen to Yourself

The only person that knows you better than anyone is yourself. While it might be easy to focus on other people, or the tasks you have yet to complete, you need to first listen to yourself to best assess your needs which will help you stay productive. It’s okay to take breaks and step away for a moment when life gets too overwhelming. Remember to take a deep breath. One way you can decompress is by practicing meditation which you can learn more about here.

3. Stay Connected

Our world has never been more connected than it has been in 2020. With mandatory social distancing guidelines, people across the globe have had to place importance on staying connected virtually in order to work or maintain relationships with family members and friends. However, it’s also important to know when you need to unplug. Taking breaks from watching the news or scrolling through countless posts on social media can prevent you from having a mental burnout and allow you to have time to reflect or spend time with your loved ones. Above all else, remember that you are not alone and we will get through these times together.

Want access to more wellness tips? Join us for Wellness Wednesdays every Wednesday at 10 am where we have local experts discuss spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. You can register for Wellness Wednesdays here.

 

Working Moms in 2020

2020 has been nothing short of a surprise to everyone. Who would’ve thought we would be starting a new decade with a global pandemic? It has certainly brought on new challenges for everyone as we try to navigate our new “normal.” While it might be difficult to see the good in times like this, what if we made 2020 an opportunity to reset cultural norms and create a more supportive environment specifically in the workplace? Working moms for example, have had to reduce their work hours in order to juggle the sudden responsibility of not only being a mom, but a teacher for their children while many schools are still virtual. An article from The Lily explains how the pandemic could be beneficial, specifically for working moms as they transition back into the office. Here are our top 5 takeaways: 

1. “Talking about our personal lives is now less taboo, and we should keep it up.”

Prior to the pandemic, coworkers might have been more private about the challenges going on in their personal lives. However, with the majority of people working from home, they don’t have much of a choice but to welcome their coworkers into their lives. Dogs barking and children playing in the background of Zoom meetings have become the new soundtrack to their lives. The article stressed the importance of employees and managers being empathetic and maintaining open communication going forward. “Managers can respectfully learn those insights by asking open ended questions, such as, ‘Are there any ways in which I’d be helpful to you as you think about staying at this organization for the long-term?’”

2. “We should re-examine our approach to telecommuting.”

When companies began to make the switch to remote work during the pandemic back in March, many were unsure of how productivity would still be maximized without working together in the office. Months later, there is successful evidence that it might be best for some people to continue working from home going into the future. Allowing employees to work from home when they are not needed to be in the office could come with many benefits like, cutting down on traffic and improving diversity. By having more remote positions available within the company, this is an opportunity for diversity to be maximized as different people could be hired from all over the country or potentially the world if necessary.

3. “We should think about all types of flexibility options.”

Flexibility has become an important mindset for companies within the past few months. This not only applies to working remotely, but could also change the typical workweek and hours. When it comes to shifting work hours, “to better accommodate the difference between office hours and school hours,” working moms would be able to adjust their day based on not only their work priorities but their families as well. 

4.  “Management training should become more of a priority.”

2020 has been a year that has relied heavily on supporting and loving your neighbor. This can translate into the workplace as the roles of managers have changed from just being a leader within the office, to being a leader and support system in the lives of their employees. Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, co-founder of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab and lead strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said that her and her team “have found that managers are spending more time on employee care, in response to both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.” Moving forward, it might be beneficial for companies to offer more managerial training in how to best support the care of their employees. 

5.  “We should consider how we support workers outside of the office.”

The pandemic has hit the world hard financially as many people have lost their jobs, have had a cut in their income, or lacked the resources they need to work from home. The article discussed how some companies were able to give their employees a stipend for their “…home office budget–money for a new chair or desktop monitor.” However, if they are able, companies could offer different stipends to their employees in order to help them out more in other aspects of their life. For example, the article suggested “…companies could offer a child-care budget for parents worried about offices opening back up while schools remain closed.” 

To read the entire article and others like it, click here.

Making Sense of Meditation

When I think of meditation, I picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with the sound of wind-chimes and the smell of essential oils. However, meditation doesn’t always look like this. Regardless of your lifestyle, you can find a form of meditation that fits with your personality and schedule. I’ve just started to learn more about other types of meditation, but it can be challenging to navigate the best form of meditation for you.

Sommerville Johnston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, wilderness instructor and founder of Aspen Roots Collective, guided us during a Wellness Wednesdays session last week through a unique form of meditation called mindfulness. According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, “Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” Some mindfulness exercises ask the participant to notice their surroundings and current feelings to engage with the present moment. My mind tends to wander during those exercises, so I was excited to hear that Sommerville had a different approach to mindfulness by using imagery. Visualization meditation asks the participant to imagine a calming image, like a tree or nature scene, and to associate your personal emotions and feelings with that image. The goal is to find peace and stillness as you picture feelings of stress, grief, etc. falling down like leaves from a tree.

If the idea of nature is calming to you, you might also enjoy walking meditation. From the outside, it looks the same as any other jaunt through the woods or neighborhood would. However, there is a specific technique you can use to interact with your emotions and surroundings. Simply shifting your gaze from the ground to the birds in the sky or wildflowers on your trail can also help shift your thoughts. Intentionally breathing, listening carefully to what’s around you, slowing your pace, and adjusting your posture can all create a more positive experience.

Once you find your technique, you can incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any activity, so you don’t have to necessarily schedule it as one more thing to accomplish on your never-ending to-do list. Movement meditation can be done through gardening, taking a quick stroll on your lunch break, doing laundry, or taking up socially-distanced yoga.

Still not convinced? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed several studies and found that, “A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.” It can also be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, stress, high blood pressure, and headaches. This list only begins to describe the benefits and types of meditation, but it’s a good starting point on your journey of self-care.

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.