February 29, 2020 – The second positive COVID case in the Netherlands, was the parent of a child who went to our son’s daycare. We didn’t know what the impact was going to be. The only thing we knew then was that my family and I had to stay home for the next 14 days. That’s how the pandemic was introduced to my family just over one year ago.
As part of the local crisis team, I immediately went into work mode. How exciting – finally we actually can do something instead of meeting twice per year talking about potential crises! I will tell you – a pandemic was NOT in our protocol.
The following months were hectic, strange and full of uncertainty, but with a lot of adrenaline and support, too.
Working from home, being present for your kids, homeschooling and staying up-to-date with the latest news to inform our local employees was a lot to deal with. When Fall came around the corner, it became even harder. I felt guilty. Guilty because I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be for my kids, the employee my stakeholders and colleagues could count on, the daughter who is interested and looks after her parents, the wife my husband could rely on, or the woman who enjoys life to the fullest.
We're in this together
Having been thrown in at the deep end, I decided to take a step back from work to focus on my health. Trust me, this was not an easy choice to make. After all, we work for a company that is driven by a performance culture. I felt that if I stopped working, I would not be performing at all. But now I know better.
Despite taking a step back, I continued on my Management Development Experience (MDE) journey, as I felt that this would contribute positively to my mental health and would help to shape my future. One of the workouts I focused on was “agreeing priorities for driving execution.” During this workout I took away some important learnings.
I was too busy with non-essential things
What helped me was that one of my stakeholders said that she still struggles with it after many years of work experience. It is always hard to say no and have the feeling that you are letting people down. But it helps if you can really justify it by choosing to work on the projects that make impact to you and the company.
Does it make the boat go faster?
Leadership has such a broad concept; you can master it in many ways. And although some of the learnings sound obvious, this management development journey really reminded me of the key essentials that are important to me both personally and professionally.
How I ‘own the game’ these days is as follows:
1. Analyze what’s essential.
2. Define how do I add value to myself, my stakeholders and colleagues.
3. Choose. You can’t do everything. If you choose you can create more impact.
4. Talk to the people around you. They are willing to support or guide you.
Learning from this, I now feel more confident about the things I do. I think more and take action instead of other things ruling my life. Recently, I took a few days off in the middle of a hectic time at work because of my daughter‘s school holiday. I realised I had two options 1. working during that week with my daughter next to me and being distracted, not fully focussed and probably less productive, or 2. talk to my colleagues to see where they can support, and set clear deadlines around the time I’d be taking off. I chose the second option and my team was fully behind it.
I no longer feel guilty when having to refocus on other elements of my life outside of work. Throughout the course of the year, I’ve learned that if you prioritize your workload, you will find the right balance – a balance that will serve every corner of your daily life.