Empathetic leaders, caring a little bit extra today
Valentine’s Day is in so many ways a lovely day. A day to show appreciation for your partner, loved ones, colleagues and friends. I have a special history with this day, besides getting flowers from (nowadays ex-)boyfriends. Already as the first anti-bullying association president in high school, I arranged class activities giving all students the opportunity to show appreciation to their classmates, also in a non-romantic way. It then continued in the student association at Stockholm School of Economics, where I, being a first year freshman, arranged a seated dinner for 75 single ladies and 74 (one got sick) single gentlemen, to not be alone on February 14th. Now, why on earth am I wasting your precious time telling you about this?
The statistics around remote work and mental health already pre-pandemic all pointed in the same direction. Working from home is lonely. The two most recent Swedish studies I read have confirmed that women and especially people below the having-babies-age are struggling more with Zoom fatigue and loneliness in pandemic times than others. Again, what does that have to do with you as a leader and it being February 14th? I’ll get there shortly, promise.
Years ago, when I worked at Coca-Cola, I was the Diversity & Inclusion champion in Sweden. We ran an internal study on how important the physical office and flexibility was to people of different age groups (I know, kudos, Coke was ahead of its time in this regard!). We gathered on European level to consolidate with all other country D&I champions to see how we could be the best possible employer. Unsurprisingly, across cultures, graduates saw the office as a relatively more important factor than people with families. Cohesion and fun at work was so important.
When the pandemic hit, I started working from home all week. Living by myself, being an extrovert office (read co-working space with other startups; our “teem’s” office is virtual) lover, I hated not getting out of the house (I thought I had Covid in my ear for six weeks but that’s another story #hypochondriac). My co-founder, having a family and tons of work to do, kept up with my overly unsatisfied need for social interaction. Co-working in our virtual office, I bothered him way more than I should’ve, just because of my loneliness feeling hitting new heights (and at the time it was just us two, not eighteen humans as today).
Why am I telling you this? I am waiting for the first statistics to come through on the correlation between social needs at work & relationship status. It really isn’t rocket science to assume that your number and frequency of social interactions outside of work should have an impact on the wishes for intensity and frequency of interactions at work. Chances are there are people in your team who live alone. Who’s instagram feed is filled with “I love you too” posts today. People who would have loved getting a physical hug. Now Teemyco hasn’t solved that problem yet. But we do have a kudos feature. If Valentine’s Day equals appreciation day, maybe this is a good day to spread some extra kudos. To remind your team of what you appreciate in their individual hard work. No matter if you use the kudos hat function in Teemyco or not, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples in love. And statistically, chances are, millennials, maybe even more so the ones living alone, will appreciate you showing appreciation today even more than usual. I know I will tell each and every one of them how important they are today. Happy Valentine’s Day.