Wellbeing
4 min read

How to honor relationships at work and in life

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Erica Keswin

Erica is a workplace strategist who has worked for the past twenty years with some of the most iconic brands in the world as a consultant, speaker, author, and professional dot-connector.

New Years marked three months since the launch of my book, Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Sure Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That’s Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World (McGraw-Hill).

What a whirlwind it’s been!

Regardless of the audience, my big takeaway is always the same: bringing our human to work is not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

The 10 ways to bring our human to work include—Be Real (Speak in a Human Voice), Mind Your Meetings, Disconnect to Reconnect, Take Professional Development Personally and Be Well—to name just a few. In Be Well, I emphasize how important it is that we look beyond the conventional wellness programs of yesteryear—the days of step counting and smoking cessation (As if!)—and look ahead to a whole-human approach to physical, mental, and emotional health.

And since recent Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy warned us that isolation is the new smoking, when it comes to whole-human wellness, staying connected is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have.

That’s just one of the many reasons why bringing our human to work (or anywhere, for that matter) comes down to one thing and that’s honoring relationships.

Honor relationships.

Sounds easy enough, but as technology creeps into more and more of areas of our lives, honoring relationships gets trickier. So one of the talks I often gave on the road was for people looking to find what I call “the sweet spot” between tech and connect.

These are the Three Ps to help us find that sweet spot and honor our relationships.

  1. Prioritize. Does your calendar reflect your values?
  2. Position. How are you leveraging technology to deepen relationships but also putting technology “in its place?”
  3. Protocols. Given that the technology is designed to pull us in (kind of like a strong current—so difficult to swim against), do you have personal and/or organizational protocols to help with the first two Ps?

As the book tour continued, and I racked up my frequent flyer miles, I was simultaneously both exhausted and exhilarated. People were resonating with the ideas in the book, the Three Ps, and the science and stories of connection at work. By all accounts, life was good—really good!  

But two months into it, I found myself stressed and on edge. In the morning I’d be giving a keynote, and in the afternoon I was managing my three teenagers’ schedules from afar, making doctors appointments, and weighing in on normal teenage drama. My son’s high school applications were due, and my mom had fallen and had been admitted to the hospital. When I flew home in between trips, I would immediately go into fix-it mode, dealing with insurance claims, rehab for mom, arranging tutors, and going to basketball and hockey games for my kids.

One day while I was preparing for a talk, multitasking on my phone and my laptop, fielding calls from my mom’s new full-time aide, and putting the final touches on our upcoming family vacation, something hit me. While I was getting a lot of stuff done, I was also missing something critical in the process: ME! 

My calendar did NOT reflect my values.

Not even close.

I was fast and furious in my role as a professional on the road, dealing with my “to do” list as a mom and as a daughter, but I had forgotten about myself in the process. I wasn’t taking the advice that I was hearing on every flight: put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help others.

This realization, while not rocket science, was also not so easy to remedy with my many commitments and responsibilities. But what kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn’t walk my own talk—literally?!

I was determined to honor my relationships.

The next time I was home, I skipped the gym to have coffee with a close a friend. I organized a dinner with some moms from school. I even scheduled a massage, and I read a book (honoring our relationships with ourselves counts). I rescheduled an upcoming trip until after the New Year. I started to come back to life.

Deep, deep breath.

As I enter 2019, I feel more grounded, but I’m still settling in after all that travel, and the buzz of all that incredible stimulation. But I’m committed to taking my own advice to heart.

Here are my Three P’s ala 2019:

  1. Prioritize. Work hard for my calendar to reflect my values (i.e value and honor relationships!), and change course when it doesn’t.
  2. Position technology and use it to help me deepen my connections. But I have to remember to turn it off and connect in a deeper way with the important people in my life—my kids, my husband, and my friends.
  3. Create Protocols to help guide me. For example, instead of waiting for a big tsunami of stress, I’ve started checking in with myself at the beginning of every week. I’m taking my own advice and picking up the phone instead of sending an email or text.

Because good things really do happen when people connect.

Sometimes it takes a little meltdown to realize that bringing our human to everything we do—honoring relationships—is good for people, great for business, and just might change the world.

Here’s to a very human, happy 2019.  


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