I hope the Front and Centered community is staying safe, healthy and in your homes during this unprecedented, historical pandemic. Over the weekend, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across an article written by a friend and colleague. Her words were powerful and I asked her if she would share them with all of you. 

Krista Deguffroy is our Head of Diversity and Inclusion. But she doesn’t view her job as just a job and her title as just a title. For her, it’s a way of life. You only have to read her post, to understand what I mean. Krista, thank you (and thank you to your daughter Cambria) for sharing your jointly inspiring words with our great blog community. Stay safe and be well, my friend.

I am an extremely fortunate person in the world today. When the news around coronavirus intensified, and panic spread across the United States, I was privileged enough to have security for my family. Security that school would still be accessible; security that my position was eligible to work from home; and security that my family could effectively shelter in place with minimal disruption. While there would be inconveniences, at the end of the day, I couldn't have been more fortunate.

Especially since one of my new office mates is my six year old daughter, Cambria.

PB-US-Blog-Inline-Diversity-Social-DistancingHowever, my role focuses on inclusion for our workforce; the sense of community that happens in our daily work as we strive to achieve the best experience for our clients. Up until this past week, that community was based in Oaks, Pennsylvania at our global headquarters. Our campus that backs up to a trail where I see our running club meet; our campus that has a garden club where employees work together to grow their own produce; the campus where my favorite barista (hey Donna!) knows everyone's coffee orders before they say a word. This same campus that has been my home for more than 5 years because I saw my colleagues more than I saw my own family.

Knowing that I wouldn't be returning to campus due to coronavirus had me questioning: What does this mean for our community? How do we maintain our sense of belonging when we’ve effectively lost the place where we belong? How does our culture change when we aren't able to build those same in-person relationships?

You may have experienced these same thoughts. Maybe your experience will be different than mine. Maybe you've always been in a remote-based community and can help me learn more.

But here's what I have learned so far:

1. Communities and culture aren't stagnant. This shift to remote-based work has taught me more about purposeful communication. When you can't convey messaging with facial expressions and body language, your word choice matters more than ever. I can purposefully dive deeper into our communities digitally. During conference calls, I can hear the anxiety about having our children at home and worrying about productivity. I can choose to say "I hear you and I support the decisions you're making as a parent, fellow employee, and member of our community.

In this digital change of work, I've learned how our colleagues desire to be seen (not by picture), but that we can validate their level of concern. While my in-person communities are taking a pause, our culture is shifting to deeper listening. We are practicing empathy and creative problem-solving instead of "doing what we always do." My friends, my community members, this is where we shine. Once social distancing lifts, I hope we continue this path.

2. Don't wait to be asked, it likely won't happen. I live in a neighborhood of families who are all at home with young kids. I've traded countless text messages saying "Let me know if you need anything" when one parent has to run to the pharmacy, etc. Here's the thing: we don't ask. We don't speak up when we truly need help. Now, there are exceptions of course, but by and large, we don't want to be viewed as an inconvenience.

Here's where my kids have taught me well: How does waiting make you a better member of the community? How does waiting to be asked make you a better friend? On the job chart they have at school, there are times when a job is assigned to a student that's absent. Instead of waiting for the teacher to re-assign the job, anyone can step in. This is simple and something we lose along the path to adulthood!

So, Cambria and I invite you to a challenge: Don't wait to be asked for help: anticipate it and respond. Some simple ideas:

  1. Offer to record the meeting so no one has to take notes;
  2. Take on a task that someone hasn't been able to get to because they've had more on their plate;
  3. Share a guided mindfulness practice with your team because mental health is important.

Social distancing has taught me quite a bit about how our communities, our colleagues, our friends and family dynamics are all shifting to protect our vulnerable populations. While our workplaces may change, we still crave to feel "seen" and "heard" by each other. We crave feeling safe in times of uncertainty. We want to belong and identify to know we're not going through this alone. I implore you to deepen those connections and look for ways to support each other during this period of uncertainty.

So my friends, stay safe, wash your hands, and let me know how you're supporting inclusion in your workplaces during social distancing.

-Krista & Cambria


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