During this unprecedented time, I have learned a few key lessons not just as a working professional but as a father of a child with special needs and the husband of an essential worker. Essentially, who you work for matters in times of crisis, and how you are managed can either exacerbate the situation or help keep you together and lift your spirits. I am fortunate enough to have experienced the latter.
When March came in like a lion, COVID-19 followed suit and changed everything. My son is now five years old. He has microcephaly, cerebral palsy, is legally blind, and does not walk or talk. At the same time, he is also the happiest kid who can light up any room with his smile. He loves to clap along with music and he is our biggest blessing and our greatest inspiration.
Because of his special needs, my son attends a special needs school, where he normally receives 1 to 1 classroom supervision in addition to all different kinds of therapies multiple times per week – occupational, physical, speech, and vision therapy. Needless to say, when schools were closed, we weren’t just losing out on his education, but we were also taking a huge step back in these extra services provided to him that we count on for his slow but steady progress.
Meanwhile, my wife works as an essential worker in the psychiatric unit of a hospital here in Long Island, which was a hot spot for COVID-19 when the pandemic first hit. Like all essential workers during this time, she has stepped up and done her job without missing a beat. She also happens to be one of the most positive and optimistic people on the planet, and the way she lifts everyone’s spirits makes her exceptional at what she does.
Now, this is where the leadership I have received from my company Minuteman Press International comes into play. As soon as the orders came down to work from home, I was one of the first people to be set up with a virtual desktop so I could do my job and also take care of my family. Knowing my situation and showing true empathy towards me simply meant and still means the world to me.
The rest of my coworkers quickly followed suit, and within one or two days everyone was set up to work from home. Following this Herculean effort by our IT Team, we all went to work and we’ve been very productive as a team. We set up virtual training programs, rolled out new marketing programs including Bounce Back USA, a free COVID-19 resource to support local businesses, and have had frequent communications with each other.
Reflecting on this time, here are four lessons I’ve learned and how receiving the right leadership has helped:
1. Empathy means everything… and leads to increased productivity. Because of how quickly I was set up at home and with my company supporting me, I was able to worry less and work more. I am home and here for my son when needed, but I am also working hard and completing all of my projects and tasks.
2. Having the right leadership in uncertain times bolsters team spirit and togetherness. I already knew I worked for a great company but weathering the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how lucky I am to have leadership that cultivates relationships and sees us all as human beings first.
3. Because of my company’s flexibility, I have learned even more about my son and the progress that he has made at school and therapy sessions. Working from home has taught me so much about my son. On a normal day before COVID-19, I would have some time with him in the morning and by the time I came home from work I would feed him dinner and get him ready for bed. Now, I am able to see how he handles different parts of his day and even though he can’t talk, he does express himself. I have been able to see him when he is most alert and awake, and not just when he’s waking up or getting tired. It is nice to see all the different sides to his personality and I feel even more inspired by his progress.
4. The future of COVID-19 and its lasting effects may be unknown at this time but as a team we will emerge stronger than ever because of mutual loyalty and respect. I joined the team of Minuteman Press International five years ago. I could never have imagined that a global pandemic would occur, and at that point in time I had no idea what my son’s future held as he was just six months old. What I know now is that while he has a long road ahead, my wife and I will be able to navigate it together thanks in no small part to my company’s leadership team.
Ultimately, career satisfaction is not just about what you do and how you manage, but who you work for and how you are managed. Times of crisis can be challenging, but they can also serve as great reminders as to what truly matters.
In my case, it’s all about being treated like family so I can tend to mine.