The most recent TrackTik internal Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging and Equity Roundtable was dedicated to the topic of family and work: how are our colleagues handling work from home arrangements while balancing the responsibilities of family life as parents or caregivers? How can we as colleagues support each other? Participants joined from all departments including our CEO Simon Ferragne who actively contributed to the discussion.
One takeaway of the discussion is that planning is key as a working parent or caregiver. One TrackTiker mentioned the importance of routine for their young children and how that usually results in having to restrict phone calls after a certain time. For TrackTikers with a partner, the need to juggle caregiving responsibilities also introduced an additional layer of complexity due to the need to adjust to the partners’ own schedule and work arrangements.
Guilt seemed to be a feeling working parents are attempting to fight but the surprising part for some of us was that it is their colleagues’ guilt that they find the most challenging dealing with. Colleagues can sometimes feel guilty for keeping their colleagues who are parents in meetings if their child interrupts or if it is past a certain time. The parents who were attending shared that they expect interruptions and that they are often minimally disruptive to them. They might go back to answering messages after work hours once younger children are asleep: it is the calendar arrangement they have picked and they are comfortable with it.
TrackTikers also shared having extremely positive experiences when their caregiving responsibilities became visible at work: “My child came to chat with me during a client meeting and it actually resulted in me connecting with the client more than I had in the past: they wanted to get to know me about my personal level and then asked about my child at subsequent meetings”. Someone else pointed out “When we were in office, we didn’t understand other people’s realities as much. Now we really do” and a TrackTiker summarized this reality beautifully: “Having work and personal activities intersect is the new norm, we are all human beings with complete lives.”
CEO Simon Ferragne added that this work-life integration was the driving force behind TrackTik’s Wellness Days initiative “We want to support everyone working at TrackTik with finding the right balance, and that includes parents and caregivers. Wellness Days are meant to serve as an opportunity to balance work and family time more efficiently, disconnect and boost productivity while at work.” Longer working hours don’t necessarily mean higher productivity, even though in fast-growing environments putting in more hours can seem like a way to get more done. However, parents participating in the DIBE roundtable mentioned that TrackTik encourages them to draw the line between productivity and exhaustion and trusts them to deliver solid results while prioritizing family and mental health.
So how can we be the best allies to caregivers? Both working parents and childfree TrackTikers suggested the following:
- Being honest about one’s schedule, availability and working preference;
- Respecting each others’ boundaries and our innate ability to juggle responsibilities; not projecting feelings on others;
- Normalizing children’s appearances on camera, not ignoring them but also not interrupting the meeting at every interaction or projecting feeling of guilt onto parents;
- Remembering that our coworkers also have roles outside of work and respecting their comfort level in sharing or not sharing about that other side of themselves; understanding that we rarely know the whole picture and staying empathetic;
- Understanding that some might prefer to keep their cameras off during meetings: “Let people feel heard and empowered based on their comfort level”, a TrackTiker noted.
Working remotely will remain within the culture of many companies in the future, even when COVID-19 is a distant memory. Remote work has changed the future of professionals for the better in so many ways: more work/life integration, flexible schedules and less commute. Seeing our colleagues’ children pop into the screen from time to time and learning about them is just another one of those great changes.