Every time I see a headline about offices reopening and what the future of work will look like, or whenever an Every Mother team member stops to ask me where we stand on returning to the office, there is only one major question that I rhetorically ask.
“How can we make any decisions on when or how to welcome the team back to the office when we don’t know if / when schools and camps will reopen?”
As a bit of background on my perspective, I not only lead a company dedicated to the wellbeing of mothers, but I am a mother myself.
My third child arrived on May 19th, and my other children are two and six. Over 50% of my team are mothers of young children.
Mothers have been disproportionately shouldering the burden of child care in the context of COVID-19 shutdowns, and working mothers have found themselves in a uniquely challenging position during this time. Seeing as I fall into this category, my perspective seems vastly different than that of mainstream media, who are more concerned with the end of open floor plans than who will take care of our kids.
For me, there is no conversation about opening our office that doesn’t start and end with the state of COVID-19 driven childcare shutdowns in this country.
In March, like many others, the way we operated our business changed drastically overnight and our team made up of mostly working mothers suddenly found themselves in a world of remote work with no school or childcare. At the same time, the market for our product greatly broadened and our traffic and daily subscriber rates experienced unprecedented growth. With demand for our services higher than ever, we were thrust into a position of needing to quickly adapt and to make additional key hires in order to deliver against our customers’ needs.
For the first few weeks, we found ourselves excited for all of the growth; we were progressing and establishing processes ahead of schedule, while also coordinating campaigns across our growing team. But by week four, we were burnt out under the burden of a great deal of uncertainty.
While I have complete trust in my team leads and I am not shy about letting them know, they still need to be checked-in on and provided with support and empathy in order to succeed and grow. I knew we had to reassess and reprioritize our efforts to make our new and complicated normal sustainable.
We used anonymous surveys to identify areas where the team was struggling, and, ironically, found a lack of movement and exercise to be one. We incorporated founder-led workouts and movement into our Zoom meetings and through these efforts realized users at home probably needed similar motivation and tools in order to incorporate quick exercise bursts into their busy but often sedentary days. This realization quickly turned into action, resulting in a very popular move-a-day challenge and other member initiatives.
We also coordinated a week-long shutdown of nearly the entire team (we can’t just shut down customer service, but we made adjustments) to give everyone the time they needed to reflect and recharge.
I had my baby May 19th and my team has moved mountains in that time. They worked during nap times, tag teamed with spouses and figured out a million other hacks to keep the business thriving; allowing me to focus on my new baby to help her adjust to this world and help my older kids adjust to life with her (as if there hadn’t been enough for them to adjust to already).
I would never put more stress on my team or make them feel as if they had to choose between their children’s safety and being a part of EM. So, until childcare options such as school and daycare reopen, my team will continue to have the option to work remotely and the support they need to do so. And, for those that thrive and greatly miss an in-person work environment, we will continue to watch guidelines and protocols to see when a return to an office environment will be safe and beneficial. There will be no judgment based on the choice that any team member makes, and making all initiatives inclusive of remote and in-person team members will remain a priority.
The conditions of the past few months have really shown us the importance of being very, very intentional about our communication policies so that everyone, whether remote or in-person, feels involved and valued. We will bring many of these protocols back to the office regardless of the percentage of the team that is remote.
The bottom line is, at Every Mother we will continue to ensure an environment that allows our team to thrive. For the parents on our team, that means the assurance of remote and flexible schedules until childcare options reopen and are proven safe. For other members of the team, that means adhering to new office guidelines and protocols that are evolving. For the entire team, it means a nonjudgmental, inclusive, supportive and communicative culture.
No one could’ve dreamed up what we’ve all experienced, but we are excited to emerge even stronger, and look forward to what this chapter will bring.