As COVID-19 upended work life as we knew it, company leaders noticed marked changes in themselves. Thankfully, working parents can pass these new mindsets, values, and attributes along to teams — and kids — to help them be more successful in their own careers and lives. Cristobal Viedma chats about what changed after the pandemic forced much of the world to work from home, and what lessons leaders should be sure to pass along.
Many of us company leaders were thrown into fast learning curves during the pandemic and emerged with new values, mindsets, and skills, much like our children did. As our families were pushed together — juggling telework, remote learning, and daily chores that kept the house running — we made discoveries about what it means to be enmeshed in different worlds under one roof.
Through this experience of working alongside one other, parents have learned important lessons from their children, and vice versa. Except during the rare bring-your-kid-to-work events, many children never get to see what their parents do. That’s especially true for founders, entrepreneurs, and executives. We’re so busy most days that we forget to pause and pass along insights to our kids about what we do and what we’ve learned.
Instead of sitting on the valuable knowledge we’ve gained over these past 19 months, we executives must pass it along not only to our children to help them learn and grow, but also to our organizations. Here are what I believe to be the most relevant lessons from the pandemic that our children and companies can benefit from:
- Create time for mental breaks.
When working at home, it’s easy to wake up, log in to the computer, and start knocking out tasks. Here’s the problem, though: We can end up feeling overwhelmed because our schedules begin to take on a life of their own.
I’m a firm believer that to make telecommuting work, we have to force ourselves and our teams to step away and recharge, as well as make time for serendipitous encounters and social interactions. Otherwise, we get caught in a never-ending cycle of work. That’s not good for our productivity, motivation, mental health, and ability to lead, but it’s common. In fact, 95% of teleworkers are taking fewer “microbreaks” while working from home.
Of course, being on and available is important for company leaders. But giving our minds a chance to recharge encourages innovation, boosts brainpower, and tempers stress levels. That’s something we should pass on to our children to help them avoid burnout. I build time to rest and play with and without my child into my daily schedule. That way, he can see the value of adding breaks into daily life and creating healthy routines and structures.
- Promote health and happiness with physical exercise.
During the shutdowns, I often realized that I had been glued to work for hours. In an office setting, I wouldn’t do that. I’d be up and moving around, talking to people, and grabbing something to drink or eat. Shut out of my regular element, I just sat at my workspace most of the day.
It didn’t take long before I recognized that my decisions weren’t making the right impression on my child (and employees). What if my kid thought that being a CEO involved nothing more than sitting for long periods of time with a serious look? He’d never want to get into the corporate world, let alone strive for leadership positions.
So I built some physical activity into my day. Exercise is critical for people at every age, after all: Moving around each day helps reduce the risk of everything from cancer and osteoporosis to obesity and cardiovascular disease in later life. Best of all, active children tend to be more positive. When your family is sharing space 24/7, you can quickly lose perspective and become moody. Incorporating exercise into the day-to-day routine fights off the desire to be combative or negative. That means less snark and more personal satisfaction, which is good for your family and your workforce.
- Focus on outcomes — not outputs.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons executives have learned during the pandemic is that the time we spend working or where we do the job isn’t as important as the result. Although my team works hard and gets the job done, we aren’t always locked into working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’re also not concerned about how much time is spent on projects as long as they get done — and get done well. It’s about determining what outcome we want (instead of the output) and being clear about those expectations.
I want my child to know that life isn’t just about producing things for the sake of meeting demands. I want him to make the most of what he does and squeeze knowledge from every task. It’s fine for children to do their homework. Yet it’s better if they do homework and learn something in the process. It’s the same thing as company leaders aiming to make a difference and work toward a purpose rather than just checking off tasks on our to-do lists.
I don’t hope that we later find ourselves in the situation we’ve been in the past 19 months, but I do value the opportunity it gave me to shelter, nourish, and shepherd my child and learn more about what’s important at work and in life. Our children and our teams can also learn a lot from our experiences, and we owe it to them to pass that knowledge along — and absorb their insights in turn.
Written by Cristobal Viedma.
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