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CGT encourages women to reconnect, re-energize

By
Maggie Hanna

Oh, what a difference a year can make. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States last spring, causing the country to go into a nation-wide lock-down, the hope was that stay-at-home orders would be short-lived.

The vast majority of people began working from home; companies quickly had to learn to adapt and restructure their business models; kids were learning virtually instead of in person; families were spending more time than ever together; and parents, especially, were forced to take on multiple roles as caregivers, employees and even teachers.

Now, over a year later, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines are rolling out across the nation, COVID-19 cases are declining, and businesses are opening back up, but it begs the question: will life ever go back to the way it once was? Or is this new normal here to stay? And if so, how do we better manage our work-life balance?

That was the question on the top of mind for many attendees at the Center for Growing Talent’s Women’s Fresh Perspectives Listen, Learn, Connect virtual event on Wednesday, March 24. The Zoom session was formed in an effort to help reconnect and re-energize women in the produce industry after last year’s in-person Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference was understandably cancelled.

“When we couldn’t come together at WFP Conference, it was disappointing, but we also had a renewed sense of urgency to make sure we filled that gap with meaningful connections and opportunities for development,” said Megan Nash, director of programs at Center for Growing Talent. “These kinds of conversations are a great sign of that commitment, that while we work through the challenges, we’re continuing to hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable for always enhancing and promoting our industry.”

Among the many topics of discussion at the March 24 virtual event were the challenges of working from home, prioritizing self-care, as well as family and social lives, and how to create lasting habits.

“North America has always had that guilty feeling of always keep working and moving,” shared Brenda Necic, account manager at Mastronardi Produce and incoming chair of the Women’s Fresh Perspectives Committee. “I think we didn’t just go through this past year for no reason at all. We went through this year to show us how much we do need to slow down and how important it is to do so and remember the values of our lives and be grateful for what we have. If you are not taking care of yourself every day, you are eventually just going to exhaust yourself and that’s not good for anyone.”

Among some of the biggest obstacles event attendees reported struggling with when it comes to work-life balance were setting boundaries and work hours, and saying no when at capacity.

“Working from home, it was so easy to just stay on, whereas when I’m at the office, it’s a lot easier to just shut down for the day at 5 or 6 o’clock,” Necic said. “You’re physically not leaving your home office, you’re there all day. It’s very difficult to separate the two — work and home.”

Attendees agreed that creating boundaries and sharing them with others so they can help, managing expectations and giving yourself grace were all key components to creating a more harmonious work-life balance.

Leslie Simmons of Dave’s Specialty Produce recommended “habit stacking” — a process that involves grouping together small activities into a routine that you link to a habit already set in your day — as an effective way to help yourself create good habits and be more productive throughout the day. She suggested participants read the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear for some extra motivation.

“One of the most powerful gifts I’ve given myself is self-care time — to read a book or listen to a podcast,” she said. “Create some habits of the person you want to become. Lasting change only happens when you fix the system, not the goal.”

Participants agreed and wrapped up the session by choosing an area of their life to focus more energy on and build lasting habits around. The area to improve upon which received the highest percentage of votes was, understandably, “self.” After all, when we’re able to prioritize ourselves, we have the energy and stamina to show up for everyone else.

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