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Small gestures make big impacts in troubled times

Living amidst the chaos can sink individual morale.

Women at Work - Kristen Asleson column sig

No matter what, change is inevitable. And, wow, we all have experienced and are navigating an enormous amount of change this year. Many employees are deemed “essential,” but others are being labeled as “non-essential.” Setting titles aside, work has changed drastically in less than three months. Lives have been upended, and that trickles far beyond adults.

For kids, “work” was attending school and doing homework. Now, they get up, eat breakfast at the table, do math at the table, get up from the table and go into the living room for a little quiet reading time and then back to the table for more of the same. Hopefully, like me, other parent “teachers” have built in a little recess time and structured phys-ed.

At least two days a week, my kids attend Zoom meetings or conference calls. With just one office desk, we have had to break out the little tables that one would usually get breakfast in bed on (yes, laugh with me here).

This household looks like a children’s version of a professional symposium, as most Zoom calls are held at the same time, and I have four kids in four rooms needing four technology checks for audio and video. I might as well carry a clipboard, a bowl of bananas, granola bars and a carafe of coffee from room to room.

One would think I could sit down and relax during the 30 minutes children are Zooming. But no, I must continue to rotate to make sure someone hasn’t inadvertently shut off video or audio or gone dark. And when I hear “Mom” called from one room, I go running to find a blank stare, a shoulder shrug and a look of confusion on little faces.


With or without children, the daily work lives of people across the nation have changed. Commute routes are now from the bedroom to the kitchen to a temporary workspace. I would imagine sales for bunny slippers are going through the roof.

Businesses and their employees are realizing that most meetings can be held without being face-to-face. Every employee, at one point in their careers, has said, “this meeting could have been held by e-mail.” That is now the reality, and most are realizing it works. Instant messaging, like AOL had so many years ago, is a “thing” that people are using effectively.

The pandemic has changed the face of work. Manufacturing plants from east to west are struggling to meet demand as workers stay home in fear of being exposed to COVID-19.

The focus tends to be on those who once worked in offices, are on the front lines of the medical world, and who are “essential.” Does anyone talk about those in between?

Do we really know how those in the industrial realm are doing? How about those who are sitting home, waiting it out and ready to get back to work?

Living and working, or not working, amidst all the chaos can sink individual morale. I found myself in that low spot last week, but Saturday morning’s mail brought a mood booster that employers around that nation should think about.

A thank-you card from one of my clients said this, “Thank you for the calm, steady, friendly strength you have brought to our organization. You make us all better.” I stood there holding that card, with tears in my eyes, but happy. Morale boosted! In such a simple gesture.

Now is the time to make a difference; to make an impact. Words matter.


Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to .

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