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As Director, HRBP & Programs at Squarespace, Carole Lamb had many people relying on her as the workplace shifted into ‘the new normal.’ While the thoughtfulness and hard work of her team — from the executive level to her direct reports — allowed the company to move “seamlessly” to remote work, like many of us, Lamb struggled with the reality of working during COVID-19.
“I read an article recently that said ‘you are not working from home; you are at home, trying to work, in a global pandemic,’” Lamb told Fairygodboss. “Something about that phrase has reorganized my mindset and reset my expectations.”
Recently, Lamb shared the daily schedule that helps her sustain the work her team is managing to both prepare for the eventual return to the office and keep current processes afloat. She also offered advice for working mothers who are facing the difficulties of parenting while working day in and day out, and how she’s continuing to redefine gender roles and spend her time where she wants to.
One of the most important purveyors of her success? The people she does impactful work with at Squarespace, who lift her (and other women) up.
Tell me a bit about your current role. What are your priorities?
I lead our HRBP and People Operations teams. We make decisions everyday that impact the lives of our employees — from helping them navigate a sensitive situation to rolling out a program or policy that will shape the way they work — so I feel a huge sense of responsibility to the team and our workforce.
I am so proud of how this team shows up everyday, particularly in the wake of COVID-19 — whether it’s helping plan for our eventual return to the office or contributing to our existing work, which includes things like our semi-annual feedback loop and compensation cycle. While we navigate COVID-19, we decided to keep the cycle for a sense of continuity. To help employees feel better supported during this cycle, we have provided them with additional resources and have provided managers with some additional guidance around sensitivity. The variety of the work keeps me super engaged and the people I work with are badass HR practitioners.
Paint a picture of a typical day for me. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
The first thing I do in the morning is check my calendar to remind myself of what is on the dockit for the day, then I jump into email. Mornings at home are typically quiet, so I can close out an email or ten while my two kids (seven and five years old) take in a movie or Roblox before (home)school kicks off. I take a moment to pull myself together before back-to-back meetings ensue. My meetings typically consist of 1:1s, team meetings and project check-ins. This helps me keep a pulse on how the team is doing, what is going on in the business and to ensure projects are ticking along.
I try to break for lunch with the family now that we are home together and see how their days are shaping up. If I have time, I’ll head out to the backyard to see what the garden is up to. Working from home during COVID-19 has afforded me the opportunity to tend to it a bit more this season, so it is lush and in full bloom! Back inside, I tend to email and join my meetings for the afternoon.
I try to break by 6pm for some snuggles with the kids and to prep dinner. We have started to eat dinner together and everyone shares their “thumbs-up” and “thumbs-down” from the day. We talk about why we choose these and what we could do to prevent our “thumbs-down” from recurring. The kids have some hilarious and simple ways to tackle the “thumbs-down” my husband and I share.
After dinner, bedtime routines begin and by 8:30, my husband and I are asking each other the age old question: “What should we watch?” It’s at this time that I tuck into some emails I did not get to during the day or use the quiet time to review a document or presentation that’s due soon. Around 10 pm, the sound of the TV lulls me to sleep.
Attaining work-life balance can’t be done solo. What people, resources, and tools do you rely on to get it all done?
“Work-life balance” is a concept I abandoned several years ago because work is a part of my life. I decide how I want to spend my time and where to find joy and that includes working for a company and on a team where I can make an impact. As my children get older, the regimented days of eat, play and sleep are gone and the need for flexibility becomes paramount for my family.
The confluence of these two major aspects of my life requires me to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘be flexible,’ which is unnatural for me. I am thankful that I have a few people in my life who will hold up a mirror and explicitly remind me to take care of myself. When I do that, what is in front of me no longer feels so daunting. I am also surrounded by an amazing team at Squarespace that embodies the “all hands on deck” mentality. I am constantly reminded that I am not in this alone and what we achieve together is far superior that what I can produce by myself.
How have you had to adjust your schedule during the COVID-19 crisis?
Fortunately, schedule changes have been minor thus far. While there has been some uncertainty with my husband between jobs for the last two and a half months, the upside is that he has taken on full-time responsibility educating our children. However, he is back to work in June and I am on teacher duty so he can focus on ramping up at his new gig. I am taking a week of PTO to educate the kids and will move to half days for a couple weeks as the school year winds down. As they near the end of the school year, I hope the workload is lighter for them, so I can split my time between school and work.
What resources or support has Squarespace offered you during the crisis?
I am overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of our COVID-19 task force and the buy-in for our efforts from our executive team. We receive regular communications from our Chief People Officer and CEO about our business, what the taskforce is focused on and the support available to our employees.
Our Employee Experience and Networks team built a beautiful internal website on our platform with crowdsourced recommendations, parenting hacks, recipes, virtual events and much more. They have come up with the most creative ideas to continue to connect our employees virtually outside of our day-to-day interactions.
Our Minds ERG and People team partnered to bring mental health resources to the forefront by offering virtual sessions on various topics to meet the unique needs of our workforce.
Our managers are on the frontlines, checking in with their teams and advocating for what they need. It is impossible to cover all of the resources available; however, what stands out to me the most is that we continue to support one another by lending an ear or a helping hand. While COVID-19 put a spotlight on this way of working, in all honesty, it is ingrained in our culture — we just turned the dial up a bit.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as you are navigating this ‘new normal’?
I read an article recently that said “you are not working from home; you are at home, trying to work, in a global pandemic.” Something about that phrase has reorganized my mindset and reset my expectations. In the early days, I was heads down, plowing through, focused on my work, trying to block out what was happening in the world. By and large, we were able to seamlessly transition to a remote work environment, so why didn’t it feel so seamless for me? It took a vulnerable conversation with a girlfriend, who has it together 100% of the time, to see the forest through trees and allow the uncertainty and chaos into the bubble I was unsuccessfully trying to build. When I sit back and think about how fortunate we’ve been to have healthy family and friends, it puts everything into perspective. So I cut myself some slack, celebrate the wins and try not to beat myself up too much for not getting it right every single time.
As a working mom, what advice do you have for other women who are working remotely with their children at home?
Continue to redefine gender norms and let go of “mom guilt.” My husband has not only been educating our children since mid-March, but is also tending to things at home that are traditionally a woman's responsibility. My children are thriving at school and our home has never been cleaner or more organized. Sometimes I feel like I am not holding up my end of the bargain by focusing on work or feel left out when he experiences a moment with the kids that I don’t. But I’m cognizant that other moms might not have someone at home to hold it down the way he has and I am overwhelmed at the thought of how we would have managed the last few months if our situation was different. As I start to take on teaching responsibility in the coming weeks, I am incredibly grateful for the flexibility my manager has given me. I’ve got big shoes to fill at home now that school is in session with Mama Lamb.
What is your favorite way to destress outside of work?
I’ve always loved to bake and have hopped on the sourdough train during quarantine. My starters name is George and he has been very fruitful so far. My kitchen scale should arrive in a few days and I can’t wait to have more consistency in my loaves. I also like to spend time in our garden and wander around our beautiful city when the weather is nice. Seeing the world through my kid’s eyes gets me out of my own head for a moment or two. Oh and a fresh, vibrant, minty gin cocktail never hurts.
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