Kristen Pressner is a Global People & Culture executive living in Switzerland. She talks to 35Thousand about juggling back-to-back virtual meetings with four teens in lockdown, daily meditation, and getting ‘Back to better.’
Tell us about your work…
“I’m a Global People & Culture executive. I’m American but have lived in Switzerland for 12 years. I work in the diagnostics/pharma/healthcare industry and in the context of COVID-19, it’s an honor to see the work we do every day impacting patients’ lives around the world in a very real way.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“My husband of 20 years, Dan and I have 4 teenagers (19, 18, 16 and 13). We’re especially blessed to be all together during these ‘shelter in place’ days. It’s been 4 weeks of just the 6 of us (plus Mochi, our cat) and I am surprised how well it is going!”
What is your normal day-to-day life like?
“Typically I travel about 50% of the time, all over the world. I am frequently meeting face-to-face with all different sized groups, from one-on-one to meetings of all sizes, to addressing crowds of thousands. We’re transforming our People & Culture organization to an agile working model and thus the day to day often requires thinking in a very different way than in the past, both about our business and the way the People & Culture organization plays a key role in enabling it.”
What is your day-to-day life like now currently during COVID-19?
“All meetings are Zoom, Hangouts or phone call – back-to-back. I had to learn how to organize myself and my days in a completely different way.”
How has it impacted you personally and professionally?
“I’m juggling trying to eat well, fit in meditation, a well as exercise (I used to take the stairs up 18 flights to my office each day) and also make sure that my teams’, my colleagues’, and my family’s emotional and psychological well-being are also being cared for, albeit in some cases, from a distance.”
What are you finding challenging?
“Firstly, being purposeful to find the new normal and establish patterns that work. Secondly, not being stuck in front of my computer, or having back-to-back meetings all day. Some days, it’s about just being kind to myself.”
Where are you finding hope and optimism?
“This pandemic will end. The world won’t go ‘back to normal’ but we do have the opportunity to establish a new, better normal. We like to call it ‘Back to better’. I feel this is possible and hope that an unthinkable humanitarian challenge can then accelerate important and positive change for the better.”
What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?
“Wearing fabulous shoes! I broke my foot 8 months ago and was on crutches and a cast. I longed for the days I could wear all my fabulous shoes again. Then after I healed, COVID-19 happened and I still only wear trainers! My heels must think I’ve abandoned them.”
How are you getting through? What are your coping strategies?
“I am very serious about fitting in my daily meditation (my favourite is the app 10% happier – they are offering certain elements for free during COVID-19). I also get sunshine and fresh air every day, but I know we are privileged to have a garden. I am also being kind to myself. I find the whole “People who changed the world while in quarantine” pressure, or the ‘Use this time wisely’ talk unhelpful. They probably didn’t have four teens at home.”
What is your mindset about how to use your time at home (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)
“I don’t have ‘newfound time.’ My work is accelerated in ways that a day feels like a year and the stakes are incredibly high. In addition, the additional ‘asks’ at home such as re-working routines, finding food for 6 in these times, caring for peoples’ emotional needs and worrying about family and friends all over the world, actually has me quite exhausted. What I do plan to do during this time is play the long game of mental wellbeing and learning to ride the wave for when we are ‘back to better.’”
Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?
“Meditation and open discussion. We talked about what we are grieving the loss of and how ‘Comparative suffering’ (see Brene Brown podcast) is a trap we don’t want to fall into. We’re now cultivating a daily practice of gratitude – for being together, for being healthy (so far), for having a garden and sunshine, etc.”
Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this – a silver lining perhaps?
“I do think the ‘Back to better’ will include accelerated advancement in working from home, location agnostic workforce and gig working, telemedicine and other healthcare advances and a newfound gratitude for the simple things in life.”