As we begin another week of protection in these unprecedented times, our communities are experiencing a new normal. Children have come home from school and are involved in various levels of e-learning. Insignificant workers have shifted to remote jobs. Families and communities are now separated, hoping to smooth the curve.
Suddenly many people have to To run at work while reconciling care, homeschooling, anxiety management and mental health while caring for their community. Despite the fact that many jobs – mostly successfully – have been moved to remote offices, many are reluctant to introduce themselves. The expectations of high productivity and innovation continue to be determined by capitalism and the habits of the prevailing culture. People continue to feel pressure to perform as if the world around them is not collapsing as we know it. Businesses in our area are having tough discussions about what is required to continue and what is required to maintain the services we promise to our communities. And too often these conversations go down: Companies have to make the difficult decisions between protecting employee positions or the future longevity of their organization. We continue to work in an either-or way of thinking when these desperate times scream at us to switch to “both” and appreciate the complexity of what it means to wear multiple hats at the same time.
At the HEART, We know these crosses only too well. Ten years ago I founded HEART as a mother of small children, unconsciously as a direct reaction to the fact that I could not find any meaningful work experience that also supported my commitment as the main parent of my three children. The decision to focus on my children and their needs was often made with judgment and patronizing praise: “Oh, that’s cute. A mother who stays at home and works on a passion project.” I might not be able to be committed to building this organization if I would have to spend much of my day looking after my children, and yet I always knew at the core that family upbringing doesn’t conflict with building movements, even though our jobs and financiers wanted us to believe otherwise. Ten years later, HEART is a national organization run exclusively by colored Muslim women: with five employees and twenty-two trainers, a fully virtual office in multiple time zones and a handful of partners, babies and pets.
It has been a long and challenging journey, and it is far from over: we are always innovative and strive to adapt our organizational culture as our team grows. There have been (and there are) hundreds of days in which we are frustrated to build the aircraft while we fly it: how do we develop an organizational culture that meets both the external requirements of maintaining a nonprofit organization and the reality of leading a team Fulfills? does it literally last every day they come to work? How do we question the expectations that show in our individual leadership and together as a team that have socialized us to demand a level of productivity that is rooted in the prevailing culture of white supremacy? Although we’re far from finding the answers to these complicated questions, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way *.
Change begins with internal work. So that our organizations have a Cut lens To manage remote workplaces, managers and employees need to examine how deeply our workplaces are rooted dominant cultural habits of white supremacyand identify how they have internalized these habits and consequently lean into them. Only then can we start disrupting these habits in practice.
Productivity does not correlate with being in an office 9-5. While this can be understood intellectually by most people, it is often not translated when teams go virtual. Instead, managers become hypervigilant about how their employees spend their time and what often leads to full days of zoom meetings and conference calls to ensure that their employees are working and not doing the laundry or cooking their next meal. Furthermore, a discussion for another day could also examine how gender-specific these assumptions or fears could be: Do jobs have these implicit prejudices more often when their female employees are distracted by such tasks?
Freedom is not at the expense of accountability. This is a practice that we had to lean on. Managers often find it difficult to give their teams the opportunity to work remotely because they fear that they will be given too much freedom: virtual work agreements mean that employees do what they want, when they want. It is important to say that freedom must not come at the expense of accountability. Finding the balance to offer both freedom (and flexibility) and accountability is extremely difficult since we have been socialized to consider them as two binary files.
Intersectionality is crucial for the longevity of our workplaces. Caregivers – or really everyone who has multiple (marginalized) identities – work better and harder when they feel seen, valued, supported and are allowed to work fully. There is less fluctuation and higher morale.
Children are not a distraction. That is a Truth our local siblings I always knew Children are organic moments of joy built into the day and boy, do we need more of them in our movements? There are natural, forced breaks in the day to prevent you from being immersed in the work so that you forget to have lunch. You are some of our greatest teachers: Your dedication to truth-finding is often unprecedented for adults. Our movements fall short without them.
Nursing doesn’t just mean parenthood. At HEART we don’t just think about carers in the traditional sense: parents and babies. We also see them as people who take care of their elders, their partners, their communities, their pets and, of course, themselves. Working with people directly affected means that it is important to prioritize care in all its forms and to recognize that it is often a lived reality that needs to be addressed.
While we continue to find our new normal in these very strange times, we have an opportunity. An opportunity to slow down, re-examine and acknowledge our jobs and practices that our nurses have stopped working for far too long. We expect nursing, homeschooling, and work to take place at the same time, but we have not built the kind of organizational culture that is required to honor the interface between work and care. This cultural change requires hard work and a lot of discomfort, but it could be just what our movements need to ultimately survive.
* I am grateful to my teachers, Michelle Gislason, the team at Move to end the violenceand my cohort of 4 sisters who have held me with compassion and wisdom as I continue to research these questions.
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