My experience of the second lockdown or circuit breaker, whichever you prefer, were vastly different.  During the first lockdown in March I was recovering from major surgery so my view of the world was completely different, it was all about recovery, healing and rebuilding my physical strength.  In truth the “lockdown cocoon” that was enforced on us helped me greatly, aided by the good weather and country walks around the roads where we live, it was perfect and I found the much needed time to look after myself.  In fact I embraced lockdown life and flourished because of it.

Fast forward to October 2020 when the NI executive announced the second lockdown to curb the rise in COVID19 cases and I was back working in my business helping small business owners to navigate HR in a COVID world.

Lockdown 2.0 saw my three kids and hubby (a school principal) return home for two weeks. There were WIFI battles and my kids have learnt excellent negotiation skills – “how long is your call?   An hour?  So I can get minecraft for an hour afterwards?” that will serve them well 😊

Far from the serenity of the March, during the second lockdown I was busier than ever juggling complex case work with a family and .. oh yeah trying to keep all my loved ones safe from COVID!

There are many success stories of 2020 with businesses pivoting and responding to new needs in this changing world.  However there are also business, who, sadly, are failing and having to close their doors or reduce their staff.  There are business owners having to make very difficult decisions.  Tensions are high and emotions are spilling out into the workplace with conversations becoming more tense and managers finding it more challenging than ever to manage their staff – many of whom are working from home.

I am always grateful for those clients who trust me with their business, especially those who are facing such difficult times and come to me for help.  I have always been very hands on when working for my client taking on case work.  I even said in it my proposals – “I will stand in your place for these conversations with employees”.  In reality that meant since July 2020 I have been “standing in” for client’s every day.  I have been having conversations, sitting in meetings, writing reports, drafting speeches and letters all with the same purpose of helping that client navigate an extremely stressful time.

I have not just been just a HR consultant and mentor, but also a counsellor, listening to clients sometimes in tears as they tell me the situation they are dealing with that day.

All of this I am glad and privileged to have been able to do.

But it comes at a cost.



Reduced ability to help others.

This is where my lessons have come.

  1. Working in this very hands-on way I can only help one person at a time

If I am helping you in such an involved and hands on way, there is no room for me to help anyone else.  In the past few months for each client I helped, I have had to turn away 2 new clients because I didn’t have capacity.

This brings me to lesson 2:

  1. If I say yes to too many people, my family suffers and I suffer

I have never turned away a past client when they reached out for help so .. this past few weeks whilst I have said “sorry no” to new clients, I have continue to say “yes I can help you with that” to past clients – even though I still didn’t have capacity.

So where did I find the time? 

I found it in my family time, in my sleep time with nothing left for me at the end.

This is breaking a cardinal rule I had for my business when I set it up. I left my corporate career to build a business “around my family” and up until recently I have achieved that and am so unbelievably proud of that achievement.

However, the whole two week mid term was the worst one I have ever had as a parent, I was working constantly. Head buried in the laptop or turning off to take calls at all times of the day and night.  

Not a very proud moment for me. 

One that I cannot let happen again.

2020 has forced me back into unhealthy working practices that meant (and I am totally ashamed to say this) that my kids didn’t dress up for Halloween … all because I was working and on a long call (yes a Saturday) and too tired to even thing about it.  We did a movie night instead.

A dear friend reminded me of how resilient my children are; and how well cared for they are so this one “slip up” wouldn’t damage them.

But it damaged me.

I broke my own vows.

I broke my own boundaries and now with hindsight, if I am honest – no one benefitted from it.

Oh the other part of my life for the last 3 months is that one of my parents has been in hospital 2 hours away with the other one, at home alone.  So in the middle of it all I have been doing a 4-5 hour round trip every other day since the 8 September to leave up a care package and dropping off / collecting laundry at the hospital then on to a brief socially distanced visit to my parent at home alone.   

So you can see, between work, hospital and my parents … my husband and kids really have not got the best from me.

Life is short, it can change in an instant. 

Meghan Markle said “it is not enough to just survive, we are here to thrive”. 

Those words have been ringing in my ears so very loudly these past few weeks.

So where does that leave me?

I am taking control and I am here to thrive!

I now know that:

* I want to help as many people as I can with HR in their business

* Family first and to do that I can’t pour from an empty cup

To be fair I have always known those two things.  But oh 2020 you tricky devil you… with my business taking a hit (3 months off for surgery and then very quiet couple of months) I found myself falling into the trap of saying yes to everything … in the hope I could make up some of the revenue I had lost.

This was folly and a mistake.

This was a decision taken from fear and lack.

Now not for one second do I regret helping the clients I have helped with case work these past few months.  Definitely not.

But I have had a lesson to learn – or to relearn if I am being honest.

So with a bit of space I realise that I was wrong to put my dreams of my membership on hold. 

In fact that was the very thing that I could do to help MORE small business owners.  With that in mind I am have made some important decisions:

Starting with this: I will no longer take on “case work” for clients.  Instead I will work with them to examine their problems, explore their options, educate them on the tools they need to use and empower them to go it alone.

I will not be the over-protective mother!

I will let them go it alone.

I will take off their training wheels.

I will be there “standing behind them” rather than “standing in for them”.

That is how I will help more small business owners. 

That is how I will make the impact I know I can. 

That is how I will safely have time for me at the end of the day.

By freeing up the time in my dairy from time intensive in-person case work, I will now be able to thrive and move forward with my dream of helping as many small business owners as possible by:

  • Making HR easy and accessible
  • Launching my membership to educate and support small business owners
  • Introducing my online mentoring sessions to help as many as possible

We all can agree that  2020 has been quite a year.

I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason.

I also believe if the same thing happens time and time again and you are frustrated by it – there is a lesson in it for you.  Oprah famously says “it is a like a frying pay up to your head”.

Well October and November have been a huge, heavy frying pan repeatedly hitting my head!

Time for a change.

Time to thrive.

I would love to have you along for the journey and we can all support each other moving from surviving to thriving.  Keep your eyes on my blog and socials this week to find out my plans for helping more small business owners to make HR easy.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  What lessons has 2020 taught you – or re-taught you?

Johanna x

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