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Relationship building from work-at-home

Julie and Michael Hansen’s stories

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Hansens Family
Julie and Michael Hansen met and married while at Grant Thornton. Julie is a manager in University Recruiting; Michael is an experienced manager in Audit Services. They have separate stories and a shared story. Julie explained: “Michael and I have always felt like individuals at the firm. Our relationship is respected, but we’re seen as individuals first. That’s important to us.”

Julie: We became working-from-home parents to our 10-month-old daughter, Grace, with the firm’s shelter-at-home model during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re grateful for the commitment to everyone’s health and to be able to continue our work. We’ve adapted and leaned into this new normal as much as we possibly can.

To help my team do the same, I hold regular calls about both work and personal adjustments. Likewise, leaders I report to frequently check in to ask how things are going and if there’s anything they can help with or take off my plate. We all want to make it work, and because we’re a team, it does.

We all want to make it work, and because we’re a team, it does. Michael: This new way of working is not only challenging but also beneficial for our teams and for us as individuals. The tool set the firm has rolled out has been valuable in supporting our Grant Thornton family and our clients. It’s opened more lines of communication and has helped me reach out to prospective clients I’ve had relationships with but may not talk to on a regular basis. Because everyone’s going through this together, we have the common talking point of getting through it.

Being here, I’ve learned more about Julie and what she does, such as the planning and development that goes into creating a successful event. I’m gaining more insights into her career.

Baby bandana
And I get to see a lot more of Grace. Watching her little personality develop every day while tending to her needs has been a focus of my energy. It’s also a source of my energy. Adapting my work habits since shelter-at-home began has taught me that I can operate in a different way and be just as successful. The firm’s flexibility has always been available; now I know how I can schedule some of my day to be with Grace while she’s awake.

Julie: Grace is our priority. We’ve discovered that it’s best all the way around to be transparent about what we have going on with her. Occasionally I have to step out of a call. Sometimes I’m right back on, and sometimes we reschedule. Every single person has been really kind — gracious and understanding.

This experience has added to the appreciation I already felt for my colleagues and leaders. Everyone cares about each other. Michael and I went through a really hard time a couple of years ago, when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was able to go to almost all his appointments with him. The way the firm rallied around my family and supported us through Dad’s passing is something I’ll be eternally grateful for. I love my job and what I do, and I love the people I get to work with and work for.

Michael: The firm has a family-first attitude. These are the type of people you want to work for. It’s easy for me to give my heart and soul to clients because I know if I ever need something, the partners will be there to help.

Back at the beginning, when I went through the recruiting process, I could tell the people in the office really enjoyed being around each other. I’m deliberate about living the culture of Grant Thornton in relationships with everyone I work with, including Julie.

Making our impacts at Grant Thornton Michael: For me, impacts are twofold. There’s the relational side. I work with clients on a day-to-day basis whether I’m at their site or communicating via email or phone. I enjoy going into a meeting and figuring the most useful approach for gathering the information needed.

I like the relationship building aspect, and I am also drawn to the technical side, with its obstacles and deadlines. I do whatever it takes to get past an obstacle and hit a deadline. It might take a long workday; I see this as collaboration, being part of a team and helping to come up with the right answers.

Julie
Michael and baby

Julie: My job is very relationship driven. At Grant Thornton, recruiting is relational. In normal times, we’re face-to-face with our candidates. And since spring months are when we’re busiest, I should be on campus right now. Instead we’re doing virtual video interviews. The students seem to be really enjoying them; they’ve never known life without a cell phone or technology. That has made it fun for me and my team, as well.

Going through this has proven that I can adapt to change and be agile — one of Grant Thornton’s values. I know I’ll come out on the other side stronger and better than I was.

It’s also shown me the importance of taking time each day for mental health. When we’re able to move about freely, we’re not always intentional about this. In this new environment, just getting outside for fresh air is reinvigorating. I’m more mindful of my workout routines and encouraging others to find what works for them.

Everyone’s dealing with different situations and sacrificing. What I can do is be positive, roll with the punches. Michael: After the first couple of days of work-at-home, I had to consciously change my perspective. Wi-fi runs more slowly than at the office. You have to be creative about setting up a workspace. I can’t carve out my usual 10 straight hours of work. Now it’s four hours of taking care of Grace while Julie has calls. And then I work later. Everyone’s dealing with different situations and sacrificing — at home and with others, nationally, globally. What I can do is be positive. I think that will make a difference in the outcomes.

I’m practicing patience, taking a step back and accepting sometimes being at work at 11 o'clock at night. It’s just a matter of rolling with the punches.