April 5, 2022
Work and Well-being: More Lessons from the Pandemic
One year ago, I focused my April 2021 NASAA Notes column on work and well-being lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, after one year of managing the impact of the pandemic on the NASAA office and staff, I realized there were important lessons that deserved attention beyond the pandemic, lessons I wanted to carry forward well past the pandemic. Some of those lessons included:
- Feeling connected to colleagues is critical. Cohesion itself contributes to wellness for the individuals on every team. People who experience being valued and being a productive part of a cohesive team feel more connected to colleagues and to organizational mission. In other words, cohesion is healthy for individuals, and it’s just as healthy for their organizations.
- I also learned there’s no such thing as overcommunicating when everyone is working remotely from home during a pandemic. Consistent and calm communications to and with the team (including feedback loops) created a reliable sense of comfort for all of us. This was particularly important because everything happening in the rest of our lives was incredibly difficult, relentless and so unsettling.
- A human-centered approach to management became more important, promoting personal wellness and human connections. Traditional management practices focus on the tasks at hand. Workplaces can inadvertently excel at impersonal communications—centering tasks, projects, and deadlines and keeping simultaneous trains on the tracks. Organizations that center people prioritize care over monitoring tasks. We take care of our people first, and in response, our team members take care of the organization. We’re living that reality at NASAA, and I’m so grateful that our team continues to provide reliable services for state arts agencies.
- Flexibility and fun were also part of the equation. Of course, expanded flexibility helped folks cope with the many challenges of the pandemic. Just as important, creating moments for team fun supplied (and still supplies!) much needed moments of escape. Last year, NASAA-themed Jeopardy! matches took center stage at our quarterly virtual socials; more recently, an art-themed game of Mafia lightened the mood and kept us connected.
Another year later, these lessons continue to pay forward as I navigate NASAA’s new normal. After two years of significant remote work, I’m still learning more about how to support NASAA’s team so they can support state arts agencies every day. Here are some additional observations:
- For too many years, I occasionally joked that going to work was a great way to gain “away time” from some of the stresses of home. After two years of remote work, that idea seems far back in the rear view mirror. These days, the stresses of home and work surround our teams as remote work continues, whether part-time or full-time. For this reason, supporting each other in our full humanity is critical for workplace culture today, and likely moving into the future.
- At NASAA we’re also learning to give ourselves permission to speak and work in rough draft. In fact, our meeting agreements at a recent convening included permission for folks to speak in rough draft. Striving for constant perfection on the job is just too taxing and it takes energy away from accomplishing great work and enjoying the journey. As one colleague sometimes puts it, creating grace and space for folks is important. Creating grace and space for team members to be wrong (myself included!), learn from it and move forward is humane, and it’s healthy for all concerned.
- Opportunities to learn together, as a team, have been more important than ever before. It’s also a great strategy to promote cohesion. Lately our professional development opportunities have included team trainings. We’re currently in a meeting-facilitation training series together, and it’s a joyful experience to be together and learn together; it’s particularly gratifying to know that what we’re learning will help us individually and collectively serve members better—especially when facilitating member meetings.
- One of the most important lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic is one I’ve learned from NASAA members. For two years, state arts agencies have demonstrated the connective tissue between resilience and community. Members have been incredibly resilient, even while absolutely exhausted by the need for resilience. I have observed the state arts agency community, and peer groups within the community, leverage the power of community by staying connected to each other and leaning on each other for support, advice and bright ideas as everyone is engaged in arts-sector recovery efforts. NASAA’s peer groups have never been more active because you’re coming together in community to lock arms, fortify, learn from each other and advance important work. That’s the true power of any professional association. The human connections, camaraderie and spirit of sharing across the state arts agency field provided a solid foundation for your resilience and for your efforts to serve your states’ arts communities. That’s a lesson I’m proud to take forward, and I hope you do, too.
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
State to State
The Research Digest
Announcements and Resources
More Notes from NASAASubscribe
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