Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, we all find ourselves forced into physical isolation, necessitating what Time aptly called “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.”  As individuals and organizations, we are navigating this uncharted terrain without a roadmap, or clarity around how long it will last. 

How do organizations skillfully move forward at this time of not knowing, while effectively carrying out their missions? How do individual team members maintain engagement and productivity while caring for those they live with, especially young children and elderly parents? 

At Mind & Life, we first recognize that we are privileged to be employed, and we are deeply grateful to be able to maintain our full staff. We are also learning as we go, staying receptive and nimble, and exchanging ideas with one another on how to be resilient: personally and professionally. In that spirit, I’d like to share a bit about our journey in cultivating a compassionate and connected remote work culture, one that is responsive to and aligned with our values and mission.

At the core of Mind & Life’s work is bridging science and contemplative wisdom to promote flourishing, with an awareness of our interconnectedness with one another and the natural world. We recognize that in order for our organization to flourish, and have a positive impact in the world, our team must thrive. And for our team to thrive, each member needs to thrive. The web of interconnection within our team, and in relation to the world around us, is undeniable. 

The web of interconnection within our team,
and in relation to the world around us, is undeniable.

How our organization shows up to the world in fulfilling our mission is informed by the well-being and functioning of our team members. We are being intentional in fostering a sense of connectedness, while attending to team member needs. In addition to ensuring that everyone has the technology, supplies, and technical support needed to carry out their work from home, here are other virtual office strategies we’ve put in place: 

  • Creating virtual meetings that foster meaningful connectionEach week begins with an all-team video huddle, starting with personal check-ins and followed by work priorities. Team members are encouraged to schedule more frequent check-ins to plan, troubleshoot, and connect person-to-person.
  • Prioritizing individual wellbeing—Team members now receive two hours of paid wellness time each week, along with two hours of paid social time with a colleague, whether going for a “six feet apart” walk or enjoying a virtual coffee break together. A carry-over from our in-person work, time is set aside daily for optional team contemplative practice time and bi-weekly group yoga via video call.
  • Being flexible; accommodating work-at-home needs—Flexible hours help team members, particularly those with children at home, schedule their days around other responsibilities. Staff also now have access to office Zoom accounts to connect with family and friends in the evenings.
  • Creating space for creativity and joy—Through a “Virtual Kitchen,” team members share recipes, music, poems, photos, video yoga classes, meditations, and uplifting news on the “silver lining” of this crisis. On Friday afternoons, a virtual happy hour offers a casual way to celebrate team accomplishments and connect as a group. A volunteer “culture crew” strategizes fun ways to nurture joy, such as “pet sharing moments” at staff meetings, and a lunchtime “quarantine photo share.”

The COVID-19 crisis has opened up new opportunities for us to “walk our talk” and values as an organization. It hasn’t been easy; yet we are each rising to the task, confident that how we show up for each other, especially in times of crisis, is integral to our work. In her recent essay in The Guardian, Rebecca Solnit, who has written extensively about life after disasters, shares that catastrophes have the power to change “the world and our view of it.” One of our main tasks now, she adds, “is to understand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make possible.”

The stay-at-home moment we are now experiencing is a profound time in-between two worlds that we will long remember. By creating spaces for team members to honor, process, and adapt to a new reality, we can better support them in navigating and finding meaning during this period of profound change.

The video below is a peek into how we are sharing compassion at Mind & Life. We invite you to watch and respond with your #MomentsofCompassion on social media!