Family — Number one on my list. In a household with two busy professionals rushing to commute to work, I am so grateful for the additional family time and the shift to home life. I think many households have learned more about each other in 5 months than they did in the hustle and bustle of the last five years. I hope we don’t lose that perspective.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Attorney Christina (Tina) Reger.
Tina is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Christina Reger, LLC. The firm focuses on employment law counseling and litigation, including COVID-19 issues as well as educating businesses on the trends and pitfalls in today’s employment market and working with them to audit existing policies to provide them with cost-effective solutions thereby ensuring ongoing compliance. In addition to her busy law practice, Tina serves as the President-elect of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), actively participates with WBEC and is a regular presenter for the Bucks County chapter of SCORE, educating business owners and entrepreneurs on employment law trends and legal issues.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Simply put, I wanted to help people. While that sounds trite, to me, I wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves. Bad things sometimes happen to good people. I wanted to be the voice for those people to help them through a difficult situation.
As a child of Catholic immigrants, my parents emphasized the importance of faith and education. We did not have a lot of money and we certainly did not have things like networks, connections and social circles. But my parents believed in hard work, giving your best effort, and helping those that are less fortunate. These principles underpin everything I do and continue to be the principles that guide me today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
Well, sometimes life throws you a curveball. After 13 years as an attorney and partner in a boutique litigation firm, I started my company just 10 months ago, after life threw me a curve ball. It was the best decision I ever made, and it could not have happened at a better time in my life.
The Law Offices of Christina Reger officially opened its doors in November 2019. The firm specializes in employment law counseling and compliance. My clients lined up to follow me and I was excited to set up my firm in the way that I wanted to practice.
And then, four months later, COVID-19 happened. With states and cities ordering closures, and companies shuttering, I knew that I could offer assistance to my business owners and to many other businesses struggling to find, answer and understand all of the laws that had been passed virtually overnight. Many of these businesses were addressing issues like layoffs and furloughs, severance and unemployment for the first time in their history. I helped them navigate the waters, offered webinars and consultations, created policies and toolkits. It has been inundating and rewarding, helping businesses stay alive, working with them through difficult times, and guiding them on legal issues as they rebuild — often with a different focus.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have really enjoyed working with businesses in their transformations, downsizing, repurposing and rebuilding. Prior to COVID-19, I was doing a lot of sexual harassment training — that will not go away. I am working on making that and many other trainings available virtually for my clients. During COVID-19, I also developed toolkits and templates to aid businesses. I am working on expanding this offering of services which provides predictable flat fee pricing to businesses that cannot afford customized, individualized legal services. In that vein, I am also developing a subscription type service that will allow employers access to an employment compliance attorney for a flat monthly rate. Now more than ever, employers need predictability. Legal services are often one of those completely unpredictable and often terrifying expenses. I’d like to change that mindset (at least a little).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Being a solopreneur can be challenging — particularly when your prior experience was in a collegial firm. I am so grateful for the collaborative partnerships that I have found in my fellow NAWBO Lawyers. Prior to the pandemic, we had identified a group of about 10 employment lawyers who were all NAWBO members around the country. When COVID hit, we banded together, speaking almost daily to digest the morass of laws, regulations, guidances and policies that federal, state and local governments were issuing. We did presentations together, developed policies and procedures and became a sounding board for each other to work through the unique daily challenges that COVID-19 brought, using our collective knowledge and experience to strategize a solution. The HIVE, as we refer to ourselves, has been a source of collegiality, professionalism, support and friendship.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Being a mother and a career professional has always been challenging, and there is not a career woman on the planet that can deny that fact. But the closure of the schools has been the single most challenging aspect of COVID-19. Recent articles and surveys have revealed that women are shouldering the vast majority of the home-schooling burden, polarizing genders and leaving women to juggle the Walton’s roles from the 1960s and the career women of today. So, in addition to starting my new law firm, I have become a full-time educator, nanny, housekeeper, executive chef, barber, attorney oh, and business owner.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Call my mother, no kidding, but not really. My mom is the toughest woman I know. She is a source of inspiration, support and admiration. My kids have learned to cook, clean, and understand what it takes to run a household. Although this is not a bad outcome, the lines of work time and home time have become significantly blurrier — particularly on weekends. I have optimized my lack of commute, and while I do spend more time working, I also enjoy spending that work time around the people I love.
Most importantly to making this all succeed — I carve out a little time to take care of myself. I try to get in some form of exercise nearly every day. When juggling multiple competing interests, I feel, it is critical to take an hour out of your day (even if it is at 5 am) to clear the cobwebs, take a deep breath and enjoy the solitude. I can only bring my best self if I take care of it.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
The biggest challenge for me as a professional woman, in my opinion, is the elusive work-life balance — now more than ever when the world of life has collided faster than a meteor into the work world. As women, we need to continue to communicate our needs for assistance, and our men, partners or spouses, need to hear those needs, observe the life world, and maybe pick-up the vacuum, order takeout or empty the dishwasher.
Personally, since I opened my doors only 8 months ago, I am also facing unique challenges of building infrastructure and growth — in the middle of a pandemic. These two items are not easy to juggle on a good day and they certainly are contrary to what many others are facing. I am working with businesses that are struggling to survive. I feel blessed to be trusted to help them re-engineer, rework and rebuild their life’s work, but it does not come without its own set of worries for them. Balancing these polarizing positions is challenging. I guess that comes with the territory of being a lawyer and trusted advisor.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
This is where the boss in me comes out — assigning everyone a task. My children have learned to cook and wash, my husband is my firm’s (and our family) CFO. He runs the financial affairs of my firm. So, after putting in an entire day (he is essential personnel), he comes home to run the business of the firm.
But, regardless of your situation, and how you address your challenges, it is critical that people remember that everyone is processing and handling the pandemic and the isolation differently. Do not assume others know what you are thinking or what your needs are and do not you know how others feel. I have worked with my clients to communicate with their leadership teams and their employees, and I do the same at home.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
For me, sticking to a schedule has been critical. The day after the shutdown orders, I still woke up at 5 am, did my workout (albeit at home instead of at the gym), showered, dressed and started my day. I put my children on a schedule as well. They woke up at their normal times, ate breakfast and started their schoolwork. And, when the online programs seemed insufficient and my children completed their day’s assignments in two hours, they were required to read for an hour, exercise for an hour, and write an essay. They also took a course called home economics taught by yours truly — remember that course? This particular course taught them to cook, wash, clean bathrooms, vacuum, clean blinds and fold sheets. How old are my children, you ask? 9 and 12, and they will be great catches some day thanks to this pandemic. You’re welcome. So, I say all this to tell you that there is value to structure and routine. Kids crave it (even though they won’t admit it), parenting requires it, and in addition to accomplishing goals, I believe it provides some sense of stability in this unstable world.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Families can be stressful, that is certain. It is important to recognize that everyone needs their space. But, as I mentioned, routine and structure have provided sanity for our family. We try to plan family time, game time, and self-time. But, above all, we try to stay active and eat healthy — just like we did before the pandemic. It is often challenging to wake up at 5 and go exercise, or to select a piece of fruit over that carton of ice cream, but in the end, I know I will feel better if I make the healthy choice. I know these strategies sound basic, maybe even time tested, but figuring out how these strategies fit for your family is the puzzle that is unique to everyone.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Remaining hopeful is a challenge that I am certain every person has struggled with in some capacity over the past 5 months. But I have watched businesses and individuals transform in ways that would have never would have happened but for the Corona Crisis. So here are my top 5 reasons to be hopeful.
- Family — Number one on my list. In a household with two busy professionals rushing to commute to work, I am so grateful for the additional family time and the shift to home life. I think many households have learned more about each other in 5 months than they did in the hustle and bustle of the last five years. I hope we don’t lose that perspective.
- Spirituality / Self growth — As people search for answers, they are coming to faith in droves. Regardless of what denomination you select, I am hopeful the self-growth continues.
- Reinvention — As business reevaluate, many are developing new ideas, processes and products. I am excited to see the changes they bring.
- Efficiency — The pandemic has brought efficiency to a new level. Not only are businesses becoming more efficient, and doing more with less, but access to goods and services has become increasingly easier — except for toilet paper.
- Cleanliness — I think we can all agree that as a society we have become more conscious about cleanliness and created touchless innovation. I think we are all grateful for the development.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I have a dear friend that lost her 20 year old son to suicide ten years ago. She is the regional director for the American Foundation for Suicide which offers support, counseling and resources to all who are struggling. I am committed to supporting this organization and have done so since I met her many years ago. I have sent many people to her and to the services of AFSP which has been extremely responsive to the needs of all who feel anxious, depressed, or are struggling during these times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote that I use almost every day since the pandemic both in my home life started and when I counsel my clients is by Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How can our readers follow you online?
The best way to follow me is to LinkedIn with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/christinareger/. I post many articles and share vital information for business owners. I also have blog post — but I only send messages periodically — when a development impacts business owners. To receive my blog, email me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on FB at https://www.facebook.com/cregerlaw/