Two Weeks. Two Months. Two Years.

Two years ago I texted my team to work from home for a bit. I thought I was asking them to go home for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, not a couple of years.

Text from me to my team reading “Hi team. For the sake of everyone’s productivity, I’m going to recommend that the MT crew all works from home for the time being, I understand that everyone has concerns and is sharing news and things they hear, but the entire atmosphere in the area we sit in no longer lends itself to being a productive work environment.”
‘the’ text

Like most of corporate America, I’ve been working remote since March 2020. The last day I was in the office was March 17, 2020. I remember it like yesterday, I texted my team that evening and told them not to come back in the next day. At the time my team was split; most of us in Connecticut and a smaller group in Maine. I had returned to the office on Monday after two weeks being remote and out for family reasons to find a sea of uncertainty, unknown and unease. While some schools were already remote and parents started to pull double duty that week, the state hadn’t gone into lockdown just yet. It was clear that productivity was low – and I couldn’t fault folks for wanting to talk about this new thing that posed so much unknown. I latched on to that low productivity to justify sending the team home. At the same time, I knew there were conversations about people being uncomfortable and not wanting to be in, but we still weren’t in a open culture that everyone felt they could freely share their concerns. While I told my boss I made the call due to productivity, and it’s my official reason in the message my team got, if I’m honest, I sent the team home for their mental well-being. Being home was safe. They controlled what happened there. They weren’t worried about coworkers who had been traveling. Being home enabled them to put themselves and their families first, while getting their work done at the same time. If I had to do it over, I’d do the same thing. We’d be home before the company (really the state) mandated it. The difference is today I’d be honest. I’d stand up to leadership and say that even though it wasn’t the norm and even though other teams weren’t doing it, it’s what my team needed. With the specific group of people, our life circumstances and the environment we worked in, being home and removing that anxiety is exactly what the team needed.

It’s been a long two years. We have missed out on many interactions and social events. The opportunity for chance encounters is gone. Networking takes a lot more effort. We see more of the people we live with….remember when we could say we spent more time with the people we worked with more than the people we lived with? Hopefully we have better work life balance. With restrictions coming to an end, and more offices reopening, even if in a different capacity, we find ourselves on the verge of learning to manage and deal with yet another new norm. I can only hope this new norm takes the best of both the normals we have already been accustomed to.

I Miss the Office?

Asking my boss if I could get my team back in the office on any sort of regular cadence was not something I thought I would do again.

Today marked 688 days since I was last working from my desk in the office. While I’ve been back to my desk once to pack up my monitors and bring home my belongings, and I’ve been to our other campus in Connecticut for project meetings, today was the first day I was back at work for a “regular day”.

I was greeted by a thermal temperature scanner this morning instead of a hello from the security guard. My desk was empty; only my nameplate, chair, an outdated 2020 calendar and a blank white board with some markers were there. What is even weirder is that this is likely my last time going to this particular desk as I have a new team that sits in a different building. I love being remote, but today I realized how much I miss the office.

Raised standing desk with minimal items on it
my office desk

I do not miss my hour plus commute. I do not miss getting gas multiple times a week. I do not miss 4:45AM alarms. I enjoy wearing leggings daily – even when my presentation calls for a suit jacket. I miss the ability to have chance encounters. I miss the learning that occurs just from sitting near others and listening.

While today was not the norm, and I don’t know when regular office trips will be back on the calendar, l can say for the first time in a long time that I eagerly await the office reopening. I look forward to having team lunches on the regular and sitting at a conference table. I look forward to reading a person’s entire body language again. I know we are ready to go back to a new normal…. We miss parts of the old normal and have learned that we do some things better now.

Today I had a glimpse of the old normal, albeit masks and thermal scanners were new additions. I am hopeful that when I left today it was really just for a short absence from the office and not a couple more years of only meeting people via Zoom. I look forward to the next time I am in the office and when going in weekly or bi-weekly is the norm again…. though I don’t think any amount of excitement will make me ready for my next 4:45AM alarm…

ALLY Leadership

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). We’ve all heard the term by now and know that corporations across the globe are working to be more inclusive. But what does that mean for each of us as leaders within our immediate teams? 

I’ve always believed that being a people manager is more than just approving time off and having a monthly check-in with staff. Just ask my team, they will confirm that I tell them time after time that I am here to be an advocate, mentor, cheerleader and champion for each of them – the only thing I’m not is a babysitter. With a new year beginning, and two new rotational employees joining my team, I felt an urge to spruce up my Leadership Philosophy but struggled with how and what I wanted it to look like. I am not changing who I am as a manager; I don’t want to set a new vibe for the team, but something in me told me that my old philosophy (it’s not really that old, just barely 2 years old) needed a fresh look. 

My manager recently shared the video “Inclusion Starts with I” from Accenture with our team.

I’ve seen this video before, and every time it speaks to me. When I watched it earlier this month, something inside me knew exactly what my Leadership Philosophy 2.0 needed to look like. I didn’t start from scratch; heck, half of it is word for word from my old version. It sounds cliché, but almost every slide in this video spoke to me, but primarily 

“it’s about the type of world we want to live in and the choices we make every day.”

I want to live in a world where we don’t have to talk about diversity, inclusion and equity. Not because they aren’t the “hot topic” anymore, but because it’s so engrained in all of us that we don’t have to try to overcome these obstacles anymore.

My new leadership philosophy is what I hope others see in me already: ALLY

ADVOCATE

Be an advocate, champion and cheerleader for the team. Be an ally: speak up for everyone, speak up and against injustices. Treat everyone by the golden rule; treat others the way theywant to be treated. Listen to everyone’s thoughts and give all ideas an equal chance. Everyone deserves respect.

LAUGH

Have fun. Don’t be too serious; it’s OK to have fun at work. Remember to laugh and keep smiling. Mental health is important. Burn out is real – let’s do what we can to prevent that.

LIVE

Live a life you love. Live a life you’re proud of. Live the life you post on social media. Work-life balance is important – work to live, don’t live to work.

YOU

Be YOU, be an individual. Allow everyone to stand out as their own selves. Celebrate the uniqueness inside everyone. Don’t compromise your morals. Be honest; to yourself and others, in what you do and in identifying your motives. 

(For those wondering, version 1.0 was: Maintain Balance, Authenticity, Respect & Integrity.)

Check out the original post I published on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pulse/leading-ally-lauren-mary-gotimer-cpim/

Day 27 – My Job

Today, one the one year anniversary of starting my job, I am thankful I for my job and the company I work for. I started at an interesting time in my personal life, but my coworkers showed support from the very beginning. I have not worked on a better team in my whole career. I am extremely thankful to work for a company who understands there is more to live than our jobs and values time with your family. I live a balanced life, my work time is work time and personal time is for me, my friends and family. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work remotely half the time, which also saves me time from commuting, plus saves on gas and wear and tear too! This job comes with some wonderful benefits and a decent amount of time off too. In addition to having ample time to travel for myself, I’ve been given the opportunity to see four new places this year, Montreal, Atlanta, Frankfurt and Torino, all as a part of my job (granted Frankfurt is only a short trip as it’s whatever I can squeeze in tomorrow on my long layover). I’m in a job at a company that wants to know where I want to go next; there is plenty of room for growth in the future and I don’t fret about the stability of my job or company. Finally being at a company that values its employees as people, not just as another chip in their pile, is a wonderful feeling.

I Quit My Job!!!

“I QUIT MY JOB!”…a year ago. (I gotcha on that one, didn’t I?)

No, I’m not crazy, I did not just quit my job (I now have a mortgage to pay, remember?), but I did quit my job a year ago (389 days ago to be precise. On January 3, 2013, I walked into my office with a knot in my stomach and my purse felt like it weighed a million pounds. (My purse is usually packed full and on many occasions others might have thought I was carrying bricks, but this day, my purse even felt super heavy to me.) What no one knew, was I had a letter giving my two weeks notice folded up inside of it, but I wasn’t sure I was going to give it to anyone that day. Now, I had made up my mind to quit my job, I just didn’t know when.

Let’s rewind a little bit to get the story here. Less than five months beforehand (August 2013), I accepted this job and the next day I told my boss that I had accepted a new position and would be leaving my first real job. Putting in my two weeks notice at my first job had been hard. It was the first job I took after college, I had job security, I loved the team of people I worked with, and I knew I had people who always had my back. So why did I quit you ask? Well we all know the saying “money talks”, and in this story, that seems to be the problem. I had been looking to leave my first job for another one with room for growth, more pay, and preferably closer to home. While that search seemed to lead nowhere, there was this one person who reached out to me on multiple occasions, and each time I replied that I wasn’t looking for another job in Manhattan, but finally I gave in. I e-mailed him back and asked what he had open, told him I changed my outlook and had decide I would be willing to continue my commute into the city for work. It seemed I sent that e-mail at the perfect day. This company just found out they had a manager who was going to be leaving to go back to school, it seemed too good to be true.

Back to January of 2013…. I walked into work that morning shaking. My purse felt like it was so heavy that it would topple me. The knot in my stomach was growing and my anxiety was hitting an all time high. Around 9AM, the boss yelled (this was a common occurrence) and I started shaking. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t calm down. I have no idea why he yelled but I do know that was all I needed. At 9AM I knew what I needed to do. I used our office IM to message the GM and President. I knew they both had meetings and conference calls, so I just let them know that I wanted to talk to them when they were free. I texted my family, they knew it was coming. But when I had made the decision the night before to write my letter, all we knew was I had had enough. It had become obvious to me that I had not made the best decision back in August, and I needed out. I had hoped that knowing my time was limited would allow me to get through another month or so and save some money up for my voluntary unemployment. The best advice I was given was to know when enough was enough and that’s exactly what I listened to. 

As soon as enough was enough, I left. To say I was unhappy is rather an understatement. Remember earlier when I said that this job seemed too good to be true? That should have been my first clue, it was too good to be true. I thought it was fate; I wanted a new job and there was one for the taking. I was getting a promotion, a hefty raise and a department of my own to run. It was just what I wanted, right? That’s what I thought too. While my stint at this company was brief, I learned a lot. Things really are clear in hindsight; I should have asked more questions when I was interviewing. An interview is just as much you interviewing the company as it is them interviewing you. You really do need to mesh with the organization and people you work with. I was working two and a half hours from home, with people that lived a very different lifestyle, for a company that made me question my morals and ethics. While it was not an opportune time to be unemployed, it was something I needed to do. I believe in living the life you love and I didn’t love the live I was living then. I was becoming a shell of a person. I didn’t have time to spend with friends. I came home and just wanted to go to bed, I didn’t want to have a a social life at all. I lost who I was, the only thing I had left was work and it wasn’t work that made me happy.

That afternoon I walked into the President’s office and they asked what was up. I said I wanted to let them know I was putting in my two weeks notice. As soon as the letter left my hand, a weight left me. I could breathe again, there was no knot in my stomach, I knew I had done the right thing. I was fortunate enough to have a family that supported my decision, I had limited financial responsibilities (they could be taken care of by finding some interim work), I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about, no kids to support, my car was paid off. I handed over my letter and I took back my life.

While it wasn’t the right job for me to be at, I do believe that it was a good thing for me to experience. For one, I never would have quit my first job to become unemployed (and therefore not qualifying for unemployment). I wasn’t happy at my first job either, but I was content. Quitting this job allowed me to find the one I have right now. I again work with a great team, but this time I am closer to home. I was able to get my life back. I have the opportunity to do my own errands, I can cook dinner during the week, I have even been able to focus enough to buy my own house (one that I can now enjoy, whereas if I were still commuting, I would never have had the time). A second great thing that happened was that I learned about myself during that time; I was able to find that my morals and ethics are strong. I was able to really evaluate what mattered in my life and I was able to find myself.

In the end, I gambled, and it paid off. The economy sucked, but I found myself a great job at the end of my journey. But in the meantime, I found me. And there is nothing more valuable than finding yourself. I struggled while I worked at this job. I allowed it to define me, I allowed it to take over. Now I know when enough is enough. Now I know that I am a lot more than just what I do from 9 to 5. I now know that when I put my mind to it, it can be done. I can’t say I recommend quitting a job for no reason, but I will always say now that I support those who do what they need to do. I was able to make an educated decision and calculated all of the financial implications beforehand. While I didn’t know until the day I handed in my letter when the end would be, I had already made that decision and had a back up plan in place. What I will say is, if you want out and you feel it is necessary, don’t make a rash decision, weigh out the options and come up with a plan for afterwards….remember as soon as you put in your notice, they are not obligated to keep you that long.