I’ll be honest, the COVID-19 pandemic kicked the butt of my HR consulting practice. I am a 4th generation Arizonan with deep community connections as well as a subject matter repertoire a mile deep that I’m known for. What could go wrong? Well, what started so strongly and promising a few years ago came to an abrupt halt at or around my birthday, on March 16, 2020. My clients, many of which are nonprofits or small businesses, were forced to furlough or reduce hours and/or pay for their own staff immediately and could not fathom paying a consultant. I did not blame them one bit and still supported them pro bono as much as I could (what was I going to do anyway, watch daytime TV?). It worked for a while and I felt good supporting my community in a small way.
By June, things were looking unsustainable, so I began to open myself to the idea of looking for an inside HR (sounds shady, but I mean an 8-5 HR job with a steady paycheck rather than being a consultant). Lo and behold, I received the same job posting emailed to me by two different friends for the same position with a digital marketing firm. Five interviews with eight people and four weeks later, I am their new (and first-ever), HR leader. Looking back at my first four weeks with the company, I am already sensing there was some divine intervention that brought me to this place. Let me explain.
I spend my first 30 minutes of the day with our “I.T. guy” who turns out to be the VP of Technology & Innovation as well as a super nice guy. He gets me all logged in to my new company email account and I find I have 47 unread emails. 90% of these are calendar invites. I don’t want to miss any meetings and I know I will eventually figure who these are all with, but to save time and move on to my next “meet and greet”, I just “accept all.” Much of that first day is a blur; however, one set of calendar invites did jump out at me and those are for 30-minute meditation sessions scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays afternoons with one of the co-founders (!) of this wildly successful company. I had wondered how I was going to really get to know my co-workers while working from home and thought this could be a way to connect us. Further, I gathered that since a co-founder was leading this, it was absolutely sanctioned and I did not need to feel guilty about pushing away from my screen and investing the time in this practice. I have attended several sessions and they vary from focused imagery to breathing to full-body scans to Yoga Nidra and they last about 20 minutes leaving us 10 minutes to share any insights or learnings. Participants vary in age, gender, ethnicity, and company role. It has been fabulous to connect with them briefly twice a week on something non-work related. As a certified yoga teacher and wellness advocate, I was thrilled day one to see meditation as a part of the culture.
The Co-Founder asked me to proofread an email she wants to send to all staff about extending grace to each other as the student workers go back to university and the parents with children start to figure out all the new homeschooling technology. As a mom of two middle schoolers, I want to cry at her intuition and forethought. As a colleague, I give the memo two thumbs up. I think I love this company already.
I finally remember to ask the CFO, “What are these ‘Endless Summer Fridays’ on my calendar?” She laughs and tells me that they always had a policy of “no meetings” every other Friday afternoon in the summer between Memorial and Labor Days so that folks could cut out early for the weekend or have quiet time to themselves for deep work. Everyone was sad after Labor Day each year that it was over, so they decided to extend it year-round and that is what makes it “endless”. Half days every other Friday?! Sign me up! I have yet to use one to cut out early; however, I am enjoying the quietness from less email and Slack pings on these afternoons allowing me to wrap stuff up and start the weekend feeling really good. I also know there’ll never be static when I do hustle to get work done and cut out early for soccer tournament weekends this fall.
The co-founder is traveling for fun yet still reaches out to several ladies at the company and emails us, “I’ve just finished ‘Untamed’ by Glennon Doyle. It has completely changed how I think about many things. Who wants a copy? I’ll send it and then I want to talk about it.” The bookworm in me is thrilled to the max. I raise my hand via email. An Amazon package shows up on my porch the next day. She asks me the week that she’s back if I started the book yet and I confess I haven’t. I need to get on this…
The health benefits have already been renegotiated for the next year, I just have to plan and execute the open enrollment meetings for my new team. As I look over the benefits, I am astounded at what this company covers. Just to name a few they offer for employees: cheap medical and vision, free dental, free basic life insurance, free short- and long-term disability, two EAPs, unlimited PTO, paid holidays, HSA and 401k contributions, all work from home equipment needs, plus anniversary and spot bonuses. A company that invests this kind of money in their employees really cares about them. Again, I think I’m hooked for life at this company (and I’m darn sure going to educate the staff how good they have it on the benefits front here).
I have been here for four weeks and it feels like four years in the best sense possible. I have short bursts of talking with colleagues via Google Meet or Slack that alleviates any loneliness that I thought I might feel working remotely and not having the foundation of “we used to work in the office together.” I also have weekly 1:1s with the CFO and co-founder which are tremendously supportive and helpful. They both often reiterate, “Text me if you need me, I’m here for you, even on vacation.” I don’t plan to take them up on that, but their authentic offer to help me succeed comes through loud and clear again and again. Another thing I’m loving is the whole company values periods of “deep work” and they are not fans of weekly standing meetings for the sake of meeting. As a knowledge worker charged with implementing new or overhauled HR processes, I value long stretches of deep work. I feel set up for success to hit the 90 day goals we’ve agreed on as well as have the space to support my kidzillas that are doing school at home and consistently looking for help or food. My HR heart that has worked to put these types of support in place at other companies is in hog heaven. I truly am getting the vibe I’m here for the long haul.
As an HR gal, I have to ask, how is your company supporting you during all that is going in our world right now? Do you feel supported by the culture and the leaders? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. I might be able to implement them in my new role with this amazing, innovative company. Or maybe you could come to work with me at my new gig…