COO Keith Whitman Featured in The Alexander Group on How Executives are Working (and Leading) from Home

“Dogs, Day-jamas and Dropped Calls – How Executives Are Adapting to Working (and Leading) from Home”

The work from home debate has long been hotly contested. Who could have foreseen that a global pandemic would put the concept so thoroughly and decisively to the test—or rather “stress test,” as spouses, partners, children and pets compete for limited space, solitude and (pets excluded) bandwidth? All while laboring under the heavy burden of health and economic fears.

…“I’ve been working at home eight or nine days now,” Whitman shared. “The learning curve on every level has been incredible.”

Whitman, who joined our client Thompson & Knight last year, is sharing his work space with his wife, three kids and two dogs. “I have a full house,” he admits. “At any moment, my kids could bust through the door interrupting a conference call, or the dogs could bark, or someone may turn off the power to the house because they were playing with the wrong switch—all of the crazy stuff that can happen in a house when you’re home 24 hours a day.

“I joked with my team today about what the appropriate ‘day-jamas’ are for a team meeting. We decided a t-shirt and jeans were appropriate. There used to be a clear divide between work and home. Now, it’s all on display. It has humanized us all.”

For Whitman, the biggest adjustment has been flexibility. “I’m used to working around different time zones. Now, I’m working around different work schedules as well. The nuts and bolts of what used to be covered during the business day may now need to happen at 7 a.m. or 8 p.m. for those working parents who are juggling home-schooling activities along with a full workload. You have to be flexible, and demonstrate empathy and emotional intelligence at a time like this.”

There are moments that can be bonding, Whitman emphasizes. Last week, instead of a traditional all-office luncheon, Whitman called Domino’s Pizza and asked if he could place a single order to deliver pizzas to the entire firm (they could not), but they did come up with a creative solution: the firm bought 500 individual coupon codes for free pizza and emailed those to employees. Whitman asked team members to set up a video call with a colleague over their pizza lunch and send in pictures. “It was a positive moment for the firm, even in a time of crisis. There are opportunities to create those great moments that define your culture; you just have to think differently about how to do things.”

“I think firms that are able to embrace the challenges of this crisis are going to come out stronger on the other side.”