How we’re putting clients, and our families, first during COVID-19

Honor Solomon

Honor Solomon

27 May 2020

Many of us are no longer working from the office because of COVID-19, but our personal and professional priorities haven’t changed. For Mental Health Awareness Week, here are some thoughts on how I am considering this for myself and my team.

Working from home during lockdown has forced a lot of us to adapt to situations we’re not familiar with, like having your three-year-old son walk in on your conference calls. Louis doesn’t know not to tantrum when his mum is on a team conference call – what three-year-old does? Louis is completely normal, but the situation he, his brother, sister and parents are in, and that the world is in, isn’t.

Despite this, I’m impressed by how our business has pulled together to support our people and our clients, and I’m proud of how we’ve adapted to this challenge in such a short amount of time. For me, my priorities remain the same: maintaining the culture in my team so that everyone continues to feel supported and motivated, and putting our clients at the heart of everything we do. As a business, our strategy and priorities remain the same, too. The only thing that’s changed is that we have to work harder to stay connected, with each other and our clients, and we’re more reliant on technology than we ever have been.

The biggest challenge for me at the moment is switching off, and my team are also finding this a challenge. People are working even harder than they worked before because they’re at home. Working in the office, you have natural pauses in the day, be it during your commute, walking between meeting rooms, or just popping out for coffee or lunch. Working from home, you don’t have that time to really just think and reset. I’m starting most of my days at 8am and I’m going through without breaks most of the day until 6pm or 7pm at night.

What I’m taking away from this is that I need to be more structured about my day. I need to make sure that I’ve got those times to reset, so that when I’m working for our clients, I can be at my most thoughtful and at my best. One example is that my husband and I are making a very conscious effort to always sit down for dinner with the whole family at 7pm. It might only be for 20 minutes or half an hour, and it may be with food being thrown all over the place by our kids, but that’s something we’ve never had. Even though it’s not always a huge quantity of time, we are getting better quality of time, because there is less intrusion from social engagements and having to be out and about. That quality has definitely benefitted me and been a highlight. 

The advice I’ve been giving my team is to be kind to yourself. During my one-to-ones, I have people who say “I’m not managing to do this or that” or “I’m not delivering to the extent that I want”. What I say is to take a step back, look at how far we’ve come in a matter of weeks, and remind them that we’ve managed to move completely to a working-from-home set-up. None of us have experienced what we’re going through now. Be kind to yourself and be proud of yourself for what you’ve achieved.

Also, acknowledge that you’re going to have good days and bad days. There are going to be days where you feel like the walls are closing in, particularly based on your living environment. I’ve got people on my team who are living in one-bedroom flats, on the 7th or 8th floor with no outdoor space, and that’s a really difficult environment. Some of them are living with flat-mates who they may not have the best relationship with, and it could be the same with family arrangements. It’s important to acknowledge the ups and downs, be kind to yourself on the bad days and really appreciate the good days.

I think what really matters now is understanding the challenges that our people and our clients face and supporting them through this. I’m proud of the way that Legal & General has approached this: for example, there is an ongoing commitment to wellbeing which has come to the fore through many communications about mental health and how to manage during this period. I think the support from Legal & General has been really useful and purposeful. We’re not just an employer, we’re a partner to people’s lives.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn on 20 May 2020.

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