In the year 2020, work lives and home lives blended into one reality, sometimes competing for the same time and resources. Women across the globe stepped up to make the most of these changes setting examples we all can follow.

For International Women's Day 2021, we asked women in the Mitel network to share their thoughts on how they adapted to the challenges, hard pivots and adjustments of the pandemic as well as what they've learned over the last year. In response we heard a collective cry of strength, victory, discovery and transformation.

Blending personal and professional

Many women in the Mitel community found themselves having to make quick adjustments to how they worked and lived last year, causing them to find new ways to achieve work-life balance and integration. Maintaining and building on this for nearly a year requires grace, flexibility, and a high level of awareness to ensure that both the work and the personal receive the level of attention they need. It is not always easy and sometimes requires a new way of thinking.

"It's been a bit harder to delineate between work and personal. As a woman trying to be successful and relevant in our professional world, I find that I work longer hours than if I actually drove to the office and put in my 8-9+ hours there, and this includes the commute. I start work earlier, but I also work later. We want to be successful at both, and I often worry if I'm sacrificing both in some regard." —Rhonda Trainor, Sr. Director, Supplier Services, Scansource

"To have a full life, you need them to blend easily. I believe leaving your personal life at home is an outdated strategy. Has it been more challenging with a teenager in the house? Absolutely! I chose to keep my gratitude higher than my expectations." —Rhonda Craycraft, Vice President, Atcom BTS

"Like many women have probably experienced throughout the pandemic, I have found myself having to balance being a professional, a teacher, a housekeeper and an entertainer all in one space, seven days a week. It has taught me that I am more resilient than I had given myself credit for!" —Jo Kirkham, Vice President of Fan Experience, Liverpool Football Club

Find Out How Jo Kirkham and the LFC Kept the Fan Experience Strong in 2020 >

Women as the Ultimate Hybrid Workers

The idea of hybrid work isn't new to women. Throughout history, we have seen women working in hybrid roles, balancing things such as work, familial obligations, friendships, and personal endeavors. As women continue to show proficiency at multitasking, it is imperative to engage in self-care practices and make time for themselves, regardless of their roles outside of their primary job.

"Women have been perfecting the role of "hybrid worker" for many years, trying to balance work and family. COVID has further highlighted this role by adding even more responsibilities such as virtual learning to the already long list of hybrid duties for women. Women are masters of multitasking and getting it all done, but it is essential for us to carve out time for our own wellbeing." —Erin Bishop, Marketing Director of Boys & Girls Club of Westminster

"As a single, child-free woman, I haven't experienced the role of motherhood and am not a "wife". But as a startup entrepreneur, I can attest to wearing multiple hats on most days. My latest venture as the CEO of a rapidly growing business often sees me taking on the leadership role of CIO, COO, CMO, CDO, CXO, CFO one minute, and front-line graphic designer, developer, PR manager, copywriter and administrator roles the next. Women are inherently adaptable and, as such, are capable of greatness, whatever their family situation may be." —Clare Muscutt, CEO, Women in CX

Learn How to Lead with Certainty in Uncertain Times >

Surprising Work Habits

You don't spend a year doing something new without learning a few things down the line. Remote work over the last year was no exception. The women we interviewed mentioned that they get more work done at home but find themselves working longer hours due to losing track of time or the overall difficulty of turning off "work mode". Coming up with routines that include making time for yourself helps achieve balance and prevents burnout.

"That is have gotten even more efficient than I thought possible. I thought I ran a pretty tight ship with my son and my job, but I learned between remote school and work that we were about to push that efficient button to the limit. I realized I could work first thing in the morning before my son woke up and then help with school and function as a teacher before coming back to work. I realized rules had to bend, and it was ok. I learned that family was what mattered and it would all get done if we all took care of each other." —Amy Hefti, Head of Marketing, NCL Government Capital

"Really grasping what's in one's control and what's not in one's control and not getting so stressed about things that, frankly, I had no real power to do anything about. It brought me a kind of "calm" that allowed me to "carry on"." Billie Hartless, CHRO, Mitel

"Travel has always been such a major element of my work life that it was a big shock to work entirely from home. My first reaction was about the negatives: I miss seeing people, I miss the casual interactions, I miss the learning that comes from being in new places. One of my colleagues accused me of "jonesing for a whiteboard session" and he wasn't wrong! But as the weeks passed and it became clear that this wasn't a hiatus, it was life, I started to realize just how much time travel actually takes. It was powerful to claim it back and use it more intentionally. Which means that excuse about not having time to exercise no longer flies!" —Mary McDowell, President and CEO, Mitel

Get Your Head Around the Now of Work >

Overcoming Challenges

The last year came with revelations, lessons learned and new skills, but it also came with challenges. As they always have, many women met them head-on and found ways to overcome them through systems, connections and staying true to purpose.

"2020 presented challenges few of us had the capacity or experience to deal with. Communication altered, and we became reliant on collaboration platforms to build and maintain relationships—both professional and personal. We've had to become more creative to bring teams together. One of the definitions of teamwork is "the combined action of a group to achieve a common goal". The challenge was how not to lose that sense of purpose in a remote environment, and collaborative technology and continuous, well-structured communication was and remains crucial to maintaining a strong sense of teamwork." —Lucy Callaghan, Head of Marketing, Olive Communications

"This past year I have learned to be a multi-tasker more than ever by servicing my clients, running the operations of my business and taking some time for me to stay healthy and be strong. I have found a great work balance this year and all while trying to run a household as a wife and mother to my four children." —Lisa Solecki, President, RJR Communications

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Challenge for fellow working women

Women have consistently risen to life's challenges, and 2020 was no different. The women we spoke to mentioned how self-love, compassion, empathy and aligning themselves with strong supportive women played a significant role in their lives over the last year. Here are some of the challenges they have for working women in 2021:

"This is the challenge I am working on for myself this year. If you use a digital calendar to block time for client calls, then use the same calendar to block time for your physical fitness. Whatever your workout is, block it at the same time on the same days for the rest of the year. Then, guard this time like it's a call with your biggest client and don't give it away to anyone else." —Stephanie Thum, CCXP, Founding Principal, Practical CX

"Step up your mentoring or find a mentor. While woman-to-woman mentoring has unique value, don't rule out women mentoring younger male colleagues or seeking a male mentor. I always step off a mentoring call richer for the experience. As an aging boomer, I consider the time I spend with Millennial and Gen Z colleagues the gift of reverse mentoring—I get back as much as I give." —Sheila McGee-Smith, Analyst

"I would challenge working women to have better boundaries, be ambitious and choose to do whatever makes them happy. We do not have to conform to the gender stereotypes or be expected to prioritize being wives, mothers, homemakers and caregivers. We can choose to challenge gender inequality and expect men to take equal responsibility for parenting, caring and home-life. If relinquishing what is expected of us means more women are empowered to become CEO's, astronauts, pilots or whatever they wish, it can only be a good thing." —Clare Muscutt, CEO, Women in CX

"Make your voice heard. Be bold in new ways and make sure you are seen and not forgotten. Gender diversity in the workplace is finally getting its due attention, and it's a matter of time before we break the glass ceiling. And most importantly, COVID proved that we can all work from home and be more productive. This has opened up newer ways of working in the future for all. As women, especially, we appreciate that flexibility more than anyone else—we must demand flexible, hybrid work arrangements going forward.

On a personal level, I advise all women to find and take out time for "self-care". As women, we emotionally invest ourselves more in everything we do and push our own personal boundaries. The "me time" is so important for everyone's physical and emotional wellbeing." —Roopam Jain, Sr Industry Director - Information & Communications Technologies, Frost & Sullivan

Lessons from the Trenches: #WFH Six Months Later >

The ability to excel at work and at home is a special kind of balancing act. Over the last year, women set the bar for exploring and determining how to achieve this level of balance in a time of unprecedented chaos. As women further discover ways to balance the various roles and types of roles they play, they will continue to set the pace for compassionate and effective leadership and community. We are grateful for the strong, innovative women in our network of Mitel Voices who do this work every day and are proud to be connected to them.

Join us in celebrating International Women's Day and all the women who continue to move industry and society forward day in and day out. Be sure to follow our blog and our social media accounts for more commentary.

Lauren Whiteman

Content Strategist, Mitel

Lauren Whiteman is a content strategist with almost a decade of experience in storytelling for brands, people, and organizations. She lives in Dallas, where she cultivates her interests in writing and furthering conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion.

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