The 3 Things I Learned From the Government Shutdown

As the Chief Operations Officer for a small Government consulting firm, I have experienced the stress, sadness, frustration and exhaustion that comes with being sidelined by a Government shutdown.  As I sit in our beautiful new office today…the very one we opened in September only to partially close in October…I am feeling joy – for seeing my coworkers again, for getting emails from our clients and for simply being out of my house.   Beyond realizing that I could never work from home full-time again, I learned three random and important things during the shutdown: 1) Life is a giant game of “whack-a-mole”.  When one thing drops down, another always pops up.  As painful as it was to not report to work for a company that I so dearly love, I set down my MacBook and picked up my school-mom-shuttle-bus-keys and got busy with the many maternal duties I had let fall by the wayside.  My kids benefitted enormously by my newfound availability to help with their after-school activities and offer my time as “room mom” for their school.   I was happy to be helping out in meaningful ways, and my kids were proud to have me so directly involved in their world.  What started as pure diversions from my stark reality turned into bona fide “jobs” that I’ll continue to make time for.

2) Impacts of major events are felt more than seen.  Admittedly, as a Government contractor, I was extremely frustrated by the lack of news coverage of the impact that the shutdown was having on businesses that supported the Government and the ripple effect into their communities.  From my faithful dog walker who wasn’t needed while I was at home, to my local dry cleaner who sat quietly in her shop, I realized just how many small businesses I supported by simply coming to my place of work.  I’m sure Starbucks served a few less lattes and the food trucks registered far less lunch sales.  While I’d like to say that these people will recoup their lost revenue, they will not.  We will not.  This is a harsh reality that will be felt by businesses for a long time to come.  My lesson comes in the form of a new respect and appreciation for the wide web of people/companies who support my daily life, and for the clients that we serve as a company. When they work, I work.  When I work, they work.  A simple, yet poignant, fact that I’m fundamentally mindful of every single day.

3) A community is truly defined when the chips are down.  While I was sick with worry about everything from making payroll to rolling out new employee benefits to talking to staff about being on leave without pay, I was receiving emails from colleagues who wanted to help.  Our people wanted to donate PTO to teammates, work without pay to stretch payroll dollars, treat each other to coffee to stay in contact, and countless other small (and large) gestures.  These messages and offers truly fueled my desire to help lead us through this difficult time in the name of preserving the caring community we had grown over the last 6 years.  My energy went from being sucked out by watching CNN to soaring with optimism around where we might go in our next chapter of corporate maturity- wiser, stronger and more caring than I could ever imagine.

So as I finish this blog and move my sights to the massive backlog of emails and to-do’s from the last few weeks, I am curious to know what you have learned—about yourself, about your place of work, about your community, or about life.