When it snows more than a few inches where I live in St. Louis, the world shuts down. Schools are cancelled and everyone is asked to stay home from work or work remotely. I’m concerned there are leaders and key people who will choose to work from home when they have staff who must go in, and in doing so miss a big opportunity. Some won’t even realize what they miss, and that’s an even bigger concern.  Let me share why.

Early in my human resources career, I was responsible for compensation and benefits for a large hospital. We experienced a major snowstorm, paralyzing the city. I wasn’t needed to answer questions about compensation or benefits during the snow emergency, but we had staff who had to be there for the patients. I felt the need to be there, dug my car out, and drove to work. I’m forever glad I did as I learned two important lessons.

  1. People notice when you do the unexpected
  2. The importance of being present

When I showed up in that snowstorm, it was unexpected. They all knew I didn’t “have to” come in to work, no one would have missed me. I heard comments like “what are you doing here?” or “is that really you?” While they were surprised, they were also seemed glad I came in just like they did. My presence was unexpected, and it was noticed. During the Christmas season, we all receive Christmas cards from family and friends. You expect them. A month later do you remember who sent them to you? But what happens when you receive a personal note of encouragement from someone at a different time of year? You notice, it’s unexpected and it is meaningful.

Your presence in challenging times sends a message to others. It says, “you are important.” In being present and sharing an experience with them, when I said, “thanks for being here”, it had meaning. Sharing that same message a few days later when the roads have been cleared doesn’t have meaning because you weren’t there too. I had the opportunity to help by shoveling snow, serving food in the cafeteria, and helping arrange transportation for staff who couldn’t get in. Over a couple of very snowy days, I touched based with countless employees and managers. I was able to build and cement relationships with those I served in my job because I was present. Had I stayed home, I would have missed a big opportunity that paid dividends for me for many years.

The “Great Resignation” isn’t a surprise to me. I’ve fought for years to make employees a bigger priority for the organization, but too often they were seen as an expense and expendable. Employees have said “enough” and are voting with their feet. They want to be a priority.

Working from home is a good thing, yet never forget it’s a privilege most workers in this country do not enjoy. They work in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, convenience stores, factories, restaurants, etc. They can’t work from home and get paid. Those who work from the comfort of their home rely on those workers to be there for them when they need them.

Trust me, when there are challenging times in your organization the employees are looking to see who in leadership and among the key staff show up and are present. When times are tough, don’t miss the opportunity to be present. You won’t regret it.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4 (NLT)

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