The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges associated with working from home, homeschooling, and spending a whole lot of time at home. As part of a series, Thrive Global looked at how female business owners are addressing this new way of life in their work and personal lives. Our founder and CEO, Melinda Nicci, took part in the series–so thought we’d share the interview with you, as we know you are all dealing with your own new sense of normal right now.
What are the biggest family-related challenges you are facing as a business leader during the pandemic?
I have two children (25 and 21), and although I am lucky in a way that I have not faced dealing with little children during this time, I have faced a new set of challenges with my older ones. The world as we knew it has changed and where little ones won’t necessarily know what is going on, I am dealing with young adults that are deeply affected by the pandemic and I am concerned for their future and how that will look. From adjusting to university lectures over zoom calls, lost job opportunities, no prospect of work experience or internships, missing their friends and missing out on social opportunities and events that 6 months ago were completely normal, as well as disrupted travel plans. At this age ‘the world should be their oyster’ but suddenly they are facing a restrictive world where they can’t travel freely and experience as once was the case.
I count my blessings that I haven’t had to home school through this but the challenge of supporting my children through the worry, disruption, anxiety, feelings of displacement is hard whilst trying to maintain my own business and its momentum through this pandemic. And then of course we have all been stuck at home for months on end – but that has had its own magic – we have been able to spend such great quality time as a family.
I usually travel a lot and spend at least a week a month in NYC with our team there – so being in London and at home has given me the chance to spend time with my kids – we’ve done bake offs (I didn’t win all of them, my son is an excellent cook!), cooked together, made workout videos and done family zoom dinners with our family all over the world. Precious times that I will treasure.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Both my children were at home during lockdown and we’ve supported each other. I guess that’s a good thing when they’re older that they can give back too. We’ve talked things through and communicated far more than we would have if the lockdown hadn’t happened. Hearing their dreams and plans has been a huge positive and having the time to chat through them has been great and I realise that might not have happened in as much detail had they both not been living at home.
I think mutual respect and understanding is what has kept us sane and created a sense of harmony at home. Also – a funny one – I created a fictitious character called ‘Karen’ our ‘errant co-worker from accounts’ – so I could blame all the unwashed dishes and randoms cups left all over the house on ‘her’- they soon got the message and we all had a laugh. Humour is essential! And there are no more random dirty dishes!
What are the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Adjusting to managing and leading a fully remote team has been a major challenge for me. Before lockdown we had a couple of staff working remotely but the rest of the team and myself were in the office 5 days a week. I loved the office vibe and the whole team being together so initially I found it very hard to get used to being at home and having the entire team remote. But you find your routine and the best ways to check in with everyone as a team and individually.
It has been a huge learning experience for me but I do see the positives now and am proud of how we’ve been able to make it work. It’s also been challenging hiring new staff during this time. We’ve recruited for two roles – our Marketing Manager started with us on the first day of lockdown so their whole Baby2Body experience has been remote; and we’ve also hired an android developer during lockdown too. Ensuring that these staff are onboarded properly and ingrained in the business culture has been challenging but we’ve managed it and it’s taught us to make certain that all our company processes are in place.
Managing the expectations of investors has been challenging too; reassuring them and demonstrating what we are doing to navigate these uncertain times. Managing cash flow for a start up and overseeing the direction of the business when life is normal is hard enough but doing it through a pandemic is even more challenging and not something anyone has experience in.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Early on we implemented weekly team meetings and investor meetings as well as fixed ‘check in’ calls with key members of the team. We’ve been supportive to all our staff and made allowances for their different ‘working from home’ situations. We’ve also rewarded the team following on from good results and acknowledged how well they’ve adapted to remote work with care packages delivered to them at home. We’ve also implemented private health insurance for all employees too; with such a big focus on health at the moment we want to ensure all staff are looked after.
Our company culture has become a focus as we’ve realised that without an office it is harder to demonstrate that to a new employee; so we’ve focused on updating all our policies.
How do you balance working from home with family needs?
Create boundaries early on, I have my office at home and that’s my quiet place where I can concentrate. Both my son and daughter set up their own areas within the house where they could work comfortably too. Good communication is also vital – I let them know when I need quiet time and vice versa.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane while staying inside?
We set some ground rules from the outset. With older children they’re used to having their own space, as am I. They’ve been away at university and come back so they are independent. Being forced into lockdown was tough. We made sure that we all had our own space in the house and time to ourselves. We were vocal about when we got frustrated so everyone knew when to give you some time alone.
For me the thing that kept me sane was my daily walk, one hour a day of fresh air whatever the weather allowed me to clear my head and avoid ‘cabin fever’. Other than that we made the most of the benefits of being locked down together. I also created a space where we could workout; I cleared a room and set up all the equipment so that it was easily accessible and available which made a big difference – now all we needed to do was communicate who would be using the ‘gym’ when. We also had to communicate when we would be eating dinner and who would be cooking – it’s not always me by the way, both my kids love to cook. My daughter is a vegan so she has her own food on the go and my son loves to experiment with different ingredients and gets a Hello Fresh delivery most weeks. It’s me who ends up eating tuna salads and smoothies as I don’t have time to think about meals!
Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”?
- Change is good – we will learn to adjust and adapt to this ‘new normal’, it’s in our nature; we are an evolutionary species and this challenge will be overcome and we will move on in a different way. Every change and challenge helps us to build resilience – this is not the first challenge we will face in our lives and it’s certainly not the last. You never know what life and the universe are going to deliver so being adaptable and building resilience is the key to happiness and to success.
- Look for the positives – it’s so easy to look at the negatives in a crisis situation – you are anxious and fearful and its natural to focus on this. But try looking for the positives – more time with your family, no commute, less pollution, time to slow down.
- Be grateful for what you can – I’ve always used journaling as a way of reminding myself what I should be grateful for as we have a journal facility built into our app. This task of journaling daily really helped during lockdown – each evening I’d write down three things that I had achieved that day, however big or small, and then every morning I’d write three things I was grateful for.
- Take time to breathe – I see the lockdown period as a pause button. I was living life at a million miles per hour, as most people were, and with the harsh reality of lockdown all that ground to a halt. I suddenly had time to reflect on what was important and whether all the things I had been doing previously were important. Now that the lockdown has lifted i’m more mindful when planning my week and before saying yes to work and social commitments.
- Stay alert for opportunities – this is what I tell myself and my children. You need to keep your head up and eyes open for opportunities. They will be out there, even in the aftermath of the pandemic there will be new and exciting things happening, you just might not have thought of them previously. Staying open minded is key.
What are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious?
My advice is to try and live in the present. Particularly during lockdown, I found it very hard to live in the present. I was constantly waiting for the next announcement, the next lifting of a lockdown rule, looking forward to when things would get back to normal, and found myself saying often “we can do that when the pandemic is over”. But the reality is that we don’t know when it will be over, and what about now, we need to enjoy that and make the most of it regardless of how different that looks. Living in the present eases anxiety, it’s the constantly thinking about the future and waiting for something to happen that makes you anxious.
What’s your favorite: “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My late mother used to say this to me every day, “today is not a dress rehearsal for tomorrow – go out and make the most of every opportunity that life gives you, because you never know what the future holds”. This has always been my mantra and has guided me to make the right decisions and to always look for the opportunities that present themselves. What I’ve learned is that opportunities do not always present in the format you think you need them – sometimes they are hidden and only if you are looking, do you find them. So always seek the joy, search for the opportunities and look for the chance to make a difference to the world, and before long you will have created a rewarding life.
To read the full interview with Thrive Global, click here.