Fairygodboss

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kathryn (Kate) Layser, Business Development Director, Adhesives Technologies, North America at Henkel, said that her “schedule was turned upside-down.” “During COVID-19, I had a five-year-old, a two-year-old and was pregnant. The daycare centers in the area closed down — only a few of them have even reopened as we sit here in August of 2021. There were no childcare options and still mountains of both childcare and professional work to be done. I really needed the flexibility to work off hours with potentially significant noise/distractions in the background.” Layser also needed to make the difficult switch from a role with lots of in-person interaction to purely digital.

Layser’s colleague Ann Fedeli, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and HR Projects, North America, faced similar challenges. “Balancing a demanding job while also caregiving has been very hard, particularly while my son was learning remotely and I had to be his ‘teacher’ as well,” Fedeli noted. However, she feels “very fortunate that I’ve been able to work from home since the start of the pandemic. And I’m very aware of and grateful to our onsite essential employees who did not have that opportunity.”

For both women, the struggles of adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic were made easier with the support of Henkel. “My boss, company, colleagues and customers were all very understanding,” said Layser. As for Fedeli, she is “grateful to Henkel for a number of reasons,” including for the support, understanding and empathy of her colleagues, which she has “never doubted.” “The care and concern we’ve all received and offered during these difficult times has been amazing and having a window into our colleagues’ personal lives has brought us closer,” Fedeli remarked.

To learn more about how Henkel helps their employees succeed in the new normal, as well as shared advice for balancing remote work and parenthood, Fairygodboss reached out to Layser and Fedeli.

Achieving balance in the new normal.

Balance means different things to different people. Layser shared, “Balance means recognizing that you can’t do everything, but having the resources and flexibility to make as many ‘good’ choices in your day to meet as many personal and professional needs as possible.” She added, “I’m a list-maker, so, for me, when I am able to check off each item on my ‘must do’ list for both my job and my family, I consider that day a success.”

Fedeli shared, “Balance means contributing successfully at work while, at the same time, having time and energy to be the mom and partner that I want to be. And at some point, maybe even finding some time for myself!” While she’s not sure if she’s reached optimal balance yet, Fedeli notes that she is “continuing to work on it!”

As for how these directors are working toward balance, one key factor for both women is finding support both at work and at home. For Layser, she attributes her ability to balance everything to her husband as well as to her boss at Henkel, who is “critical” to her success. Thanks to her boss’s support, Layser knows that there is flexibility and support even if something unexpected comes up, such as an “unexpected trip to urgent care with the baby,” she explained.

Fedeli also highlights the support she receives from her husband and at Henkel as key factors in her success. “At Henkel, I am fortunate to work with a team and a manager that support me both professionally and as a working caregiver. I have the flexibility that I need to balance taking care of my seven-year-old son and managing my work,” Fedeli said. 

Kate Layser and family. Image courtesy of Henkel.

Company-wide support and forward-thinking policies are also instrumental in setting employees up for success in the new normal. For instance, Layser said that Henkel did a “FANTASTIC job in maintaining [their] employees, checking in on [their] mental and physical well-being, as well as guaranteeing a good portion of bonus compensation. They didn’t have to do this, and it was greatly appreciated.” Further, “Henkel’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, in how it managed and communicated with employees through 2020, was best in class,” she remarked.

Henkel also supported initiatives to help provide resources to all employees — especially for working caregivers. “I spoke to a number of colleagues who were also struggling during the crisis, and I’m proud to have been part of the team that worked to provide tangible support,” Fedeli explained. “We launched the CareShare platform, which provides work-life balance and well-being resources, and Bright Horizons, which provides back-up and family care solutions, including child and elder care, virtual (and in-person) tutoring, referrals, discounts and more.” 

Advice for parents working at home. 

In regards to advice for fellow parents, Layser said that, “Having a good partner and/or a community to help is critical to sustainable success along with physical and mental health.”

Another important thing to do is to create boundaries — and stick to them. To do so, Layser suggests setting boundaries up with your boss and company, while also providing flexibility when possible. “I personally will not give up the times my children need me before school… but I am available for the two hours after they go to bed, from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. if the need arises,” Layser elaborated. “I have found that setting boundaries while offering an alternative solution to meet an urgent need, is both respected and appreciated.”

Fedeli’s best advice to other parents that work remotely is “to take each day as it comes and do the best you can. Be open with your team and your manager about your situation and ask for help when you need it.” “As they say when you fly: put your own oxygen mask on first! Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others,” noted Fedeli.

Ann Fedeli and family. Image courtesy of Henkel.

Finally, it’s important to find “a company that supports you and to be as patient with yourself as you are with others,” said Fedeli. Luckily, she and Layser have found such a company at Henkel. As Fedeli remarked, there are “working moms at more senior levels of the organization who provide inspiration for me and who exemplify the core values of Henkel. I know that at Henkel I don’t have to choose between being a mother and having a career.”

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