5 HR leaders talk about self-care during pandemic

‘I schedule my day so that there's points when I walk away from the computer and I do a math lesson with my daughter or play a game of tag with my son, and I enjoy the fresh air’

5 HR leaders talk about self-care during pandemic
Suanne Nielsen

by SCNetwork members

At SCNetwork, several CHRO members were largely unprepared for the meteoric nature of a pandemic that would strike their way of life and work in unparalleled and irrevocable ways. And yet, they demonstrated empathy, resilience, foresight and dedication in the ways they rose to the challenge.

“The responsibility of keeping businesses open by implementing sustainable work-from-home strategies fell squarely upon HR’s shoulders. They had to create safe working practices for everyone across the organizational spectrum – from the most senior to frontline workers who weren’t in a position to work from home. The playing field had suddenly been levelled,” says Mark Edgar, SCNetwork’s programming chair, in his recent blog “COVID-19 presents HR with real-life business continuity exercise like no other.” CHROs “had to get creative in assigning and redeploying talent to the most important teams. Inevitably, many HR leaders had to navigate significant employee layoffs.”

In part two of a two-part series — check out the first one here — five HR leaders – Karin Adams, Cindy Bush, Kelly Davis, Mark Edgar and Lara Root – talk about what they’re doing in the way of self-care during this period.

(And be sure to check back for part three of this series, where we ask our five HR leaders to share their calls to action for their peers and to provide us with insights into their people strategies for reintegration into the “new normal.”)

Karin Adams, senior vice president and group head of human resources (interim) and vice-president of total rewards at TMX Group

“For me, self-care has been a reframing of the mental challenge of being in this work-from-home situation because there's a lot of negativity around how it can be stressful and hard and it’s easy to succumb to that thinking. We are a dual-career household with two young children at home. Early on in this crisis, I went through a mental reframing exercise where I tried to challenge myself by asking when, again, am I going to have the opportunity to be at home with my kids? With my children being so young, this is my chance to really watch them grow, develop and learn. I don't always get the chance to do that.

“So, this helps reinstill a sense of gratitude for the situation that we’re in. I do schedule my day such that there's points when I walk away from the computer and I do a math lesson with my daughter, or play a game of tag with my son, and certainly get out and get fresh air. I think it's really important to take the opportunity to connect with your family during this time because it is quite a unique opportunity to do so.”

Cindy Bush, CHRO at Cineplex

“Being a CHRO at the best of times is a high-pressure job, no matter what industry or size of the company. So, I’ve been practicing self-care regularly, even prior to this. What I found challenging was, like everyone else, all my daily routines were uprooted. We’ve all had to find how we continue our self-care while we're in totally different routines.

“Every morning I get up, I work out, I make a fantastic breakfast with great coffee, I make sure that I've got my workstation set up and then I go on with my day. I make sure to have a positive start to the day because it's usually not positive by the end of the day. So, I try to start every day right, with good healthy habits.

“I think the other thing around self-care is that naturally I am quite a social and caring person. And I like seeing my friends. I have a great group of friends that are also colleagues in HR and other businesses. We support each other all the time. And I think intentionally making sure you are connecting with your community — whether it's your friends, your family, your neighbours or your professional community — is so important right now. And because it doesn't happen naturally, you have to actually engineer it through calls or chats or whatever you want to do to try and create that opportunity.”

Kelly Davis, chief people officer at Sunwing Travel Group

“This is a great question. It’s interesting because the other day, I said to my husband, ‘I don't know why I'm so tired. I'm not having to get up early and go to the gym and leave the house by 7:30. I've dropped almost two hours from my commute time every day, but I'm so busy and I'm so tired.’

“We’re in a time when we're not doing a lot of happy work right now. It's very critical work that impacts people's lives. I feel a real sense of responsibility that even though I probably should go over and make dinner right now, I think, ‘No, I have to get back to work.’ Everything's a top priority. This crisis has made us realize that before this, what we may have thought was super urgent and top priority, in reality, probably was not.

“When the crisis began, I was in a phase where my family understood that I had to be on call 24-7 because we were laying off so many people and giving them tough news. Now it has calmed down slightly, so I am really loving having a lot of mentor calls with other HR friends and peers where, maybe, we grab a glass of wine or a coffee and we're talking things through because I learn from them and, quite frankly, I need them.

“One of my friends suggested that for certain conference calls, I start to take them as I go on a walk — if I don’t need to present materials, it’s not that hard to do. I've got to start to do more of this because I'm finding we don't realize how much we walk in our normal day just going to the office. Now I'm literally sitting in my not-very-large house, most of the day.

“I also follow a life coach on Instagram, her name is Mel Robbins, and she says that it’s critical for us to have a start and end time for the day. I have taken her advice to heart and am trying to implement that the best way I can. My other tip is that I treat myself once a week to the best gluten-free bakery in Toronto – Almond Butterfly. It is literally a highlight of my week!”

Mark Edgar, founder of Goat Rodeo Project

“I’ve really learned to let go. In the early stages of the lockdown, there was a sense of helplessness. As a new consultant, that was a strange feeling for me. I have colleagues and friends I admire, who were in a new situation where things seemed to be spiralling out of control. I was so concerned about them, but I couldn’t really help them. But as the days went on, I started to get into a routine. Writing a daily blog, for me, was a very important part of just starting to explore different thoughts.

“It forced me to be reflective and acknowledge what's going on. It made me think deeper about what I’m noticing. It helped provide a bit of structure to my days and in a small way I hoped it helped the readers of my blog by reading my ramblings. I also adapted how I exercise and trying to eat healthy. I’ve replaced my coffee drinking habit with hot water!

“I’ve also started to manage my news consumption and I’ve been fortunate to be able to regularly connect with my community of peers, but also reconnect with people I’d lost touch with.”

Lara Root, chief people officer at CBI Health Group

“Coming around to day 35 of working from home, I see the benefits and negatives of it. The benefits are that I am safe at home. The hours I devoted to commuting, I now can dedicate to my work. But for me, it has been important to set personal boundaries, taking time for myself, taking a deep breath, meditating five to 10 minutes a day and exercising.

“As a family, we converted our basement recreation room in the house into a gym. Exercising every single day has been really effective for me. I've also had daily meetings with my executive leadership team and CEO, and then with my direct team. Those meetings help take a lot of pressure off as well because I know that we’re in it together and we have at least a daily touchpoint which become even more important in times of crisis.”

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