Valerie Thomas, senior integrated wealth advisor at Carlson Capital Management, shares with FA-IQ how she is coping with work-from-home arrangements resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Thomas has 24 years of experience and her firm has $2 billion in client assets.
“The first thing that comes to mind in terms of coping is to say that I am very grateful for the industry I am in. While most certainly volatile markets are causing turmoil and stress, paired with serious concerns about the health of people around the globe, when I say I’m grateful it’s because as it relates to coping with the quarantine, we do have the benefit of excellent technology that supports continuance of our work seamlessly. I’ve been working from home almost exclusively for over a week now. The wonders of technology have allowed me to continue to serve clients with very little interruption.
Some of the things I’ve learned:
Keep my routine: Everyone talks about the importance of a routine. I learned this lesson quickly as I fell out of my morning routine at first. Instead of getting in personal development time — podcast/goal setting/tracking — and my workout, I would quickly get ready, log in and get right to work. This caused some stress and exhaustion as my workday essentially had no beginning and no end. Also, my normal nutrition and movement habits disappeared. Hours would go by and I would forget to stand up, eat, or get water. Those who know me know my water intake is so important to me — it’s like a part-time job. I have since reset my normal routine and habits, with some minor adjustments that I am enjoying. Working from home is also allowing me to have lunch with my husband and kids — something rare for working professionals. Just today, we all went outside together in the middle of the day while the sun was shining — also something rare for us. I am treasuring these moments together as I’ve learned to make tweaks to my work-at-home schedule that includes more balance.
Be patient with myself and others: I am fortunate to have older children at a time like this — a middle schooler and a high schooler — as this has allowed me to be more focused with little or no interruptions. It has caused a little bit of guilt, though, because I haven’t carefully scheduled their time and they’ve been getting more screen time than I would prefer. I need to continue to remind myself this is only temporary. I think often about those professionals with smaller children who are juggling schedules to be sure they’re able to still attend important meetings. All of this reminds me that we are all human and we are all in this together. In general, clients understand this is not business as usual, so if an advisor is in a video chat with a client and a dog or toddler enters the picture, I think clients are more apt to smile at it right now as opposed to seeing it as unprofessional.
Stay Connected: I’ve never been inclined to work from home, mainly because I realize that I personally don’t enjoy it. I am energized by face-to-face interaction and find connection an important part of my well-being. We have multiple offices and prior to the pandemic, meetings with colleagues from different offices were held via simple audio conference calls. Now we have had several meetings via video conference, and I notice that seeing facial expressions and body language adds so much more to our conversations. Video is enhancing our personal connections with one another. I saw a meme the other day that read, ‘Introverts, check on your extrovert friends because they are NOT OK!’ I have been intentional about connecting with not only clients and colleagues, but friends and family, too. I’m generally a positive person, but when I get discouraged what always helps me is reaching out to encourage someone else.”