I ran into a situation that I’m certain happens to so many remote workers.
The other day, I was on my 10th straight work call of the day when my 6-year-old daughter, Esme, returned from camp. It was clear from the stomping around that she needed attention, but I had not scheduled any breaks to be with her. At some point, she came into my office and dropped this note “Play with me. Love, Esme”
This note was the beginning of the heartbreak. I do not travel now and have not since the start of Covid-19, but what I do now might be worse. At least for her. Now, she sees me. Or if she doesn’t see me – she hears me. She knows where I am and how close I am to her. And although I understand the difference between work hours and home hours. She does not. However, still, I gave it a try and told her I would be off my call in 15 minutes.
Two minutes went by, and this is what I received next. “No, it has to be right now.”
Recognizing that my team didn’t need me on these calls – I did what I hoped most people would/could do. I politely left the call and spent the next 30 minutes with my daughter. To date, I have never received these notes from her before. Her literacy, understanding of her needs, and overall humor in the situation were too much for me to stay the course. I’m grateful I have a team that was understanding. I hope I’m the kind of leader who would be equally understanding.
What’s the lesson here?
- Flexibility for remote workers is critical to keeping people happy. Too often, I am not available to my kids because of my work. But there are moments, not even crises, when you must prioritize your family over your work. If you don’t, you’ll miss life.
- Be the leader that you want leaders to be to you. I am a family-focused leader. The work will get done and blow minds, but we’ll do it in a balanced way.
- Child Literacy is amazing. For years, Esme was learning how to read and write — or it felt that way in Pandemic times. In hindsight, this was normal for children learning two languages in parallel. However, seeing notes from her made my heart incredibly happy.
- I am lucky. I hope everyone can do what I did, but I fully recognize that that is not true. I understand that there will be heartbreak in the future when I can’t do what I did in this situation. But this time, I was able to be the Dad I want to be.