We asked female leaders, who will be speaking at our summit in 2021, to share their personal thoughts on the challenges, opportunities and new perspectives they have personally encountered as they navigate through the still ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This special series should inspire and encourage you to continue to manage the crisis in the best possible way. This is where Xenia zu Hohenlohe, who works in the hospitality industry as a sustainability consultant, has her say.
Given where we are 12 months on from having first heard of this virus, and our lives having consequently been turned up-side down, I consider myself to be extremely fortunate in so many ways and have grown increasingly grateful over the past 12 months.
Having worked remotely more or less continuously since 2001, and having faced many prejudices because of it both with colleagues and family members, not to mention having to hide it from clients. Most assumed that I was working less because I was working from ‘home’, the digital transition the entire world has gone through because of COVID-19 lockdown, home office working becoming a new reality for so many world over, I finally felt vindicated and recognized for all the years of hard work I have put in.
My business partner and I founded and built our company successfully over the last 8 years mainly relying on Skype and remote working, with her and our team being based in London and me in Munich. However, I did have to travel ridiculous amounts as so many meetings in London always depended on me being there in person. Plus it does of course help to build up a rapport with people when you are able to see them in person.
But I therefore felt a huge relief, that suddenly so many of those meetings could suddenly be conducted via Zoom or Teams and ended up being just as efficient, if not more so.
When lockdown started back in March 2020 we were therefore able to immediately transit the entire team of 12, onto home office mode immediately, as we had only ever purchased laptop computers to allow for more flexible working, having been part of a shared office space, where desktop computers make no sense anyhow.
Having already set up a Zoom account the previous year too, we proceeded to organising daily Team Calls for all to log in at the same time, and therefore have a shared start to the day. This helped enormously to build a really strong team spirit and sense of belonging as we encouraged everyone to share their personal experiences as well as talking about the work projects we were all busy with.
Some days we would share favourite recipes, best new series or books, exercise routines and would take turns in organising pub quiz sessions for Friday afternoons (with a drink in hand!)
I think we are extremely lucky with the team we currently have, as they are all digitally native, young, diverse and flexible enough to have been able to adapt to the changes very quickly and seamlessly. They are all extremely dedicated and hardworking, hence we have not had any difficulties in delivering on the projects we were working on.
On the contrary, we had to learn to also encourage people to take enough brakes for exercise and screen-free time, as working alone staring at a laptop without the office banter and breaks, can of course take its toll.
We were also fortunate to have signed a few big projects just in time before lockdown started, which, being consultants for the hospitality sector, one of the hardest hit in this pandemic, has meant we were able to survive as a company. Furlough schemes offered by the government have of course also helped us enormously and meant that good part of the team were able to get sufficient time off to.
For my business partner and myself, both being mothers of two children, it has of course meant, juggling home schooling with home office as well, which is always a massive challenge.
But owning our own company has enabled us to set our own pace and manage our own time, which so many women out there are not able to.
Another reason I consider myself so fortunate in this crisis, as I know how tough this crisis has been on so many female workers and how many have been laid off as the first casualties of this dire situation.
Hence, I have felt even more strongly than before that joining a couple of non-profit organisations dedicated to driving gender equality in my industry, the hospitality industry, is a way of paying back. With only about 20% of women in leading roles within the hotel sector despite there being close to 50/50 at entry level, we still have a long, long way to go, but 2020 has created a new awareness, a new level of frustration for many women which is pushing more action and some great new initiatives.
I am therefore hopeful for real change to happen as well a ever more grateful for having met so many new wonderful fellow female professional through these networks all digitally and for being able to participate actively in some of these great projects.
However, equally I cannot wait to actually meet a lot of them in person at some point soon and sit around a table, or be at a conference, ideally the next GLF in Berlin to exchange stories, brain-storm ideas and hatch plans for more needed change.