The world of work changed virtually overnight with the global spread of COVID-19. In this series, we'll share personal stories and perspectives from Cornerstone employees who—like so many of us—are doing their best to balance life, work and learning from their couches, kitchen tables and other makeshift office spaces.
When employees come to me worried about missing work for family commitments or because they are sick, I’ve always given the same advice: Take good care of yourself first because, frankly, you’re useless to me and the business if you are sick, anxious or unable to be fully present. It’s my tongue-in-cheek way of saying not only is it OK to prioritize your well-being—it’s expected.
That advice is especially important today. Getting through these uncertain and turbulent times will only be possible if we can all come together—as co-workers, as friends and families and as neighbors. And to truly be present for our communities, we must first take care of our own mental and physical health.
For so many of us, these past few weeks have been a struggle. I personally have been coming to terms with my "new normal," which includes a full-time job, homeschooling a first-grader, keeping a 4-year-old entertained and supporting a husband who still has to work outside of the home. And amid all of that, I’m still finding ways to focus on my own health and well-being.
1. Find Three Things
I discovered this practice when I brought my first baby home from the hospital, an event that feels oddly similar to this current situation, given the disruption in schedule and consistency, the isolation and the worry over the health and safety of others. During that time, I realized I had to massively simplify my expectations of the day and focus on three things I could control. Now I’m returning to the same ones I chose seven years ago.
Each day counts as a success if I can:
1) Make my bed
2) Make my coffee
3) Get fresh air (ideally, get out for a walk)
Each of these activities carries meaning for me because of the ritual or sense of control they provide. But they can really be any three things, as long as they are simple and achievable.
2. Strengthen Your Virtual Connections
I self-identify as an extreme extrovert, so one of the biggest challenges for me has been missing things like the five-minute connection I get with other parents at drop-off or looking forward to soccer games. Heck, I would sit in any amount of traffic just to be able to see my co-workers face-to-face again!
Even though several of us had worked remotely a few days a week prior to COVID-19 and were used to not seeing one another on a daily basis, we all wanted to connect more regularly as a result. So, we set up a daily 15-20-minute virtual check-in. One day we might scale it back, but for now, we all look forward to that time to see one other and laugh together. I’ve scheduled similar check-ins with my friends and family, and so has my daughter. And this weekend, I will be hosting my first virtual game night with a group of other parents.
3. Practice Simple Self-Care
Early this year, I set a goal of establishing self-care practices, which forced me to evolve my thinking: It’s not just about pampering yourself; it’s about sticking to routines that keep you grounded and healthy. But with my gym closed, my appetite on the fritz and my stress levels seemingly spiking on the hour, how would it be possible to manage self-care?
According to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, an expert in the field of toxic stress, "What research tells us is that sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and a nurturing environment can reduce stress hormones and enhance the ability of the brain to recover from stress." These past couple of weeks, I’ve focused on getting quality sleep, drinking water and eating protein (not the brownies I really want), and doing some exercise every day—even if it’s joining my kids for unicorn yoga. I’m trying to fit some mindfulness into the mix, but it’s difficult when small humans are crawling on you.
The bottom line is that everyone will deal with this uncertain time in different ways. And every day will bring new challenges as we strive to understand and organize our new normal. But the best way I know to be the person my community needs is to focus on the things that keep me grounded and healthy. Hopefully, you can do the same.
Brenna Lenoir is the Director of Field Marketing at Cornerstone.
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Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." So if you can cram 40 hours of work into less than five days and clear your schedule, you could end up with more frequent three-day weekends and more time with the kids. Photo: Shutterstock