Wisdom often comes with adversity. And while we’re all still figuring out what work and business will look like a few years from now, there are certain key lessons working women learned from the pandemic.
It’s true that Covid-19 changed things for women in business everywhere. For many, it represented an opportunity for a new beginning or to rethink strategies. For team leaders, it was a year full of adjustments, changes, and unprecedented challenges.
It’s been no walk in the park, but it’s also probably fair to say that the things learned will stick with us for a long time. Maybe even leave some working women, their teams and colleagues slightly better prepared for the kind of crises that can make or break a business.
8 key lessons working women learned
1Know Your Priorities
During the pandemic, working women learned to prioritize at work and home. With so many taking on housekeeping and teaching duties on top of their work responsibilities, choosing the non-negotiable aspects of each area helped make things a little more manageable throughout the day. Knowing the aspects that are non-negotiable can make it easier to distinguish the ones that can wait or maybe even be handled by someone else. The pandemic made it impossible for many working women to keep up the same pace and hours they had in a world without interruptions. Many adjusted – which in turn made them realize nothing will crumble if they, say, take a personal day or sign off for a few hours for a little family time while working from home.
2The Magic of Saying ‘No’
Being a “yes person” is generally regarded as a quality, but while there are aspects in which a constant willingness to go the extra mile is a definite asset, sometimes knowing when to say ‘no’ can be equally important. In fact, one of the key lessons working women have learned from the pandemic is that agreeing to a workload or responsibilities they’re not sure they can keep up with can ultimately harm their career and mental health. Feeling overwhelmed can harm your work quality. Avoiding that can be as simple as knowing when you’re taking on too much. So again, know your priorities and don’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries at work – and to encourage others to do the same if you’re in a leading position. Allowing yourself to say ‘no’ when necessary, will also let your team know it’s okay to be human, and it’ll also make it easier for them to acknowledge when they’re taking on too much.
3Delegating Responsibility Isn’t a Disaster
You can’t control it all, that’s (hopefully) while you’ve got a team to ensure deadlines are met and the quality of your work is sustained. Just like many realized nothing would happen if they said ‘no’ when feeling overwhelmed by work during the pandemic, working women learned that being able to delegate responsibility is not a disaster. Furthermore, delegating is quite helpful and often the best way to move things along. This is just another way in which knowing your team and their individual strengths will make you a better leader and team member, helping you identify who’ll handle what best.
4Listen to Your Team and Their Needs
In many ways, Zoom and Team meetings allowed even the quietest to be heard and seen on a screen. This made many realize that people who were perhaps too shy to speak in formal meetings had a lot to say when given a smaller and more intimate space. The importance of diversifying the workplace and making sure that all voices are heard was one of the key lessons working women learned from the pandemic. Everyone has specific situations and needs and it’s important to understand that these things affect their work, so make time for them. Speak up for those who aren’t being heard and reach out to those who seem isolated. It helps to feel heard and supported at work, and the pandemic has made it easier for some leaders to see that loving your workplace is a great motivator to keep up the good work. That an empathetic “velvet hammer” often works far better than an unforgiving “iron fist”.
5Creating Community is Invaluable
Building community in the workplace can positively affect a team’s performance in different ways. And while this might not be specifically a lesson that came with the pandemic, it was reinforced by the very strange situation we suddenly found ourselves in worldwide. One that often made us aware of aspects of our coworker’s lives that we might not have been privy to before. A sense of community at work can foster productivity making employees more likely to speak up, ask questions, help promote transparency within the company, build meaningful connections, and create a sense of belonging that will ultimately benefit the whole team. Diverse and inclusive workplaces nurture camaraderie and create a work culture where people are valued as individuals and become far more proficient as a community.
6Seek Advice When Needed
A mentor can be an invaluable asset in times of crisis. Another key lesson working women learned from the pandemic is that no woman (no person) is an island, and it’s okay to ask for help. That just as you’ll have to listen and will, ideally, be an uplifting voice for coworkers and employees, you’ll sometimes need to be heard. You can’t be expected to have all the answers. So, people you trust can help you sort out through the white noise in your head. Whether in need of a little reassurance or some help making a complicated choice, working women have found the value of having someone to go to when they need guidance.
7Make Time for Yourself
The importance of mental health and carving out time in the day for self-care is one of the greatest lessons working women have learned from the pandemic. Watching a show, taking up a new weekend class, going out with friends, a long uninterrupted bath, gym time, talking to a therapist, are all good ways to pamper and reward yourself for all your hard work. And the thing is, taking breaks, staying healthy and feeling good about ourselves makes us likelier to take joy in our everyday tasks. Burnout is real and after a year in which something as simple as lunch with friends seemed impossible, taking a moment to pause and enjoy these things should probably be listed among our priorities.
The greatest lesson working women learned from the pandemic
8You are stronger thank you think
But perhaps the greatest lesson that many working women seem to have learned from the pandemic is one about strength and resilience. The mental and physical challenges of this historical time made many realize that they are stronger and far more capable than some of them believed. It’s not weird for career women to become their own worst enemies, but the fact that there are more top female leaders than ever before says something about our abilities to inspire, communicate, collaborate and create in times of crisis. And beyond.
Aline Cerdan Verástegui
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