The New York Life Newsroom is running a regular series that focuses on how our people are living and working in these challenging times. Here’s our conversation with Rebecca Sekosky, Head of Human Resources for Madison Capital Funding, a New York Life Investments company, who talks about what it’s like to be sheltering in place with her dog, Jemma, while managing through the stress of ensuring employees were safe and cared for as the pandemic started. She has been with the company for almost 11 years and is based in Chicago.
1. Let’s start easy: How are you?
I went to Florida recently for three weeks to stay with my brother, so I feel pretty great right now.
2. Who have you been sheltering in place with?
I’m single, so it’s been me and my 6-year-old dog, Jemma. Right when all this started, I had just rescued another dog which added to the stress I was already feeling. I tried for two months to make it work, but I realized it just wasn’t a good fit for my resident dog, so I found others who were able to adopt her. Now it’s me and Jemma at the house and she does nothing but sleep in a chair all day—it’s perfect.
3. How would you describe your role?
As Head of Human Resources for Madison Capital Funding, a New York Life Investments company, I manage performance management, organizational development, recruiting, onboarding, compensation planning, training and development, policy and procedure development, and retention and recognition programs. I am very passionate about driving company initiatives and taking an active interest in employee needs to achieve success.
4. What does your day look like now?
I’m an early riser so I start the day by walking my dog, making coffee, and signing onto my computer at around 6:00 a.m. I make sure I walk Jemma a few times a day, just so I can get out of the house. I work until about 4:30 or 5:00 p.m., unless something business critical is happening, and try to completely shut down my computer then. If I don’t, I just keep checking emails, so I try to be diligent about turning it off.
5. How has your working life changed in the last few months? What has been challenging and what has really helped you?
Initially we thought this would last only a few weeks, so we were implementing what was needed for employees to begin the two-week work-from-home rotation plan. We thought everything would be fine in a month so I was working on what this would all look like for that amount of time. Then all of a sudden, we realize, this is going to last much longer than a month! This is usually a very busy time for me but since many initiatives were put on hold, I didn’t have as much work as I typically do. Things have picked up quite a bit since then which is exciting.
A nice thing is that management has been very understanding and has drilled into our heads that we shouldn’t be glued to our computers non-stop. They encourage us to get up, go to lunch, get coffee—they are very supportive of regular breaks and encourage vacations as much as possible during these strange times.
6. What do you miss most about the office?
I really miss the people and getting out of my house. As a single person, sitting in the house alone can be mind-numbing—I just need to be normal again. I really miss the normalcy. The first few weeks were great—I didn’t put makeup on, didn’t have to get dressed up. Now I’m like “this isn’t fun anymore!” I realize now how much more engaged I am when I am showered, dressed, and have some makeup on.
7. How are you practicing self-care right now?
I’m working out when I can and with the weather turning around, I am getting outside more. Walking the dog helps too. This has been a nice opportunity to connect virtually with friends and family in different states—we check in regularly. Everyone is going through the same thing and it’s ok to have a conversation admitting I’m bored, depressed, or lonely. It helps to hear others say yes, this is horrible and that they are having the same feelings!
8. Have you learned anything about yourself over the last few months?
I have learned I definitely need a routine. Without one, I flounder. The routine helps keep me motivated. Also, I’ve always been fine being single but I am very outgoing, so this experience has made me realize just how much I love being at work and around people.
9. What are you watching, reading, playing, or listening to as a reprieve?
Another thing making this situation so hard is the current state of the world regarding the racial and social issues post-George Floyd. I am absolutely floored by the current state of the world and it’s been very hard and emotional for me. I’ve been educating myself as much as I can—something we all need to do right now. My friends, brother, and I are having some deep conversations about it and realizing things about ourselves that we hadn’t before.
On a more positive note, there’s not a Netflix show I have not seen—I’ve watched them all!
10. What are your go-to comfort foods during the lockdown?
With all this time at home I have moved from grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner to a five-course meal every night! Home-cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon every day, and I have also been indulging in Jeni’s ice cream—salted caramel with flecks of chocolate, SO worth the price!
11. What’s on top of your to-do list when all of this is over?
Stop eating bacon and eggs every morning! But seriously, I will be appreciative of the fact I can go to work every day and enjoy the people I work with and let them know that I appreciate them. It’s been hard being away from everybody.
I also plan to take vacation as soon as I can!
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