Reverberations from the pandemic and the effects it’s had will likely be felt for years. The hardest hit? Women, as evidenced by the increased levels of burnout, exhaustion and reports of heightened pressures. 3Mers who identify as female are not impervious to the impacts of the pandemic, but they are also resilient and supported by the company and their personal network. Here are three inspirational stories from women who have learned to navigate their new normal and have grown as a result.
How Julia found ways to unwind and remove stress
Like many around the world, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for Julia Hu, senior technical manager in the Medical Solutions Division (MSD) at 3M, but it also turned out to be a year of growth and development. Julia leads the product engineering team for product maintenance of Greater China Area (GCA). Due to COVID-19, MSD faced raw material supply challenges for some of their most vital materials, including hand sanitizers, IV kits and wound dressing. Julia and her team spearheaded the effort to identify alternative supply sources for these critical materials.
“We were running out of the pumps for one of our hand sanitizers due to the rapid uptick in need,” Julia said. “By working around the clock, the team successfully qualified a new pump with obtaining approval in four days – a remarkably shorter timeline from our typical 30-day turnaround.”
While Julia and her team made impressive and positive impacts on 3M, it did take a toll on her mental health. “I noticed that my stress was steadily increasing due to the demand at work,” she shared. “I called the Employee Assistance Hotline at 3M to seek professional advice. Thankfully, I received valuable suggestions on how to better unwind and my stress levels went back down.”
Some of the most helpful pieces of advice she received? Communicate and distract.
“I’ve learned that engaging with friends, colleagues or family members greatly helps in both making me feel supported and in relieving pressure,” Julia said. “And I’ve also found that distraction, or temporarily separating myself from a situation helps me to reset.” Julia also said she shares her tried and true techniques with her team to help fend off stress.
Though 2020 had been a difficult year, Julia has found a silver lining. “My friends and colleagues are working to change their lifestyles,” she said. “Many of them pay more attention to hand and surface hygiene, have begun exercising or have gained interest in cooking healthy food. That is the one positive result I’ve seen.”
How Peggy’s challenges became growth opportunities
Peggy Wang had just moved into her expanded role in GCA’s Consumer Business Group’s Construction and Home Improvement Markets Division when COVID-19 struck. “2020 was already going to be a year of change – I went from engaging with a local team and customer base to connecting with the U.S. division along with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” she said. “I needed to understand three markets and customers, which meant I had to travel more, something impacted by COVID-19.” On top of that her husband, and her two sons (13 and 14) were now all at home. Peggy and her husband had to balance their busy work lives with ensuring their children were keeping up with their remote studies.
These drastic life changes made for a challenging time. Peggy shared that at first, she had a hard time adjusting and found herself frequently frustrated. However, she said the “experience taught me we face challenges and change every day. I’ve worked at skills that allow me to have a more balanced state of mind. I’ve found that when I approach a situation with listening and with empathy, it allows me to better analyze the situation to find the solution.” She also said approaching issues in this way has improved how she works with her team members and her family.
Peggy said overall she stays at 3M because of the opportunities to learn and experience different roles and has made her more confident to take on challenging situations and tasks, and to pivot when she needs to.
“Always have a plan B,” she said. “Life and work will not go exactly the way you think it will It’s important to think ahead and prepare as much as you’re able.”
How Shelley learned to focus on her health
Like many all around the globe, Shelley Che’s 2020 proved to be challenging both personally and professionally. As the director of Area Division Leader of Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division at 3M China, Shelley’s responsibilities ranged from managing customers’ needs and concerns to her team’s safety and health.
“I wanted to protect my colleagues and make sure they stayed healthy,” she said. “When the outbreak first happened, I made sure they knew to stay home, follow the health rules and get the support they needed.”
As 3M China began to bring employees back into their buildings in late spring of 2020, Shelley prioritized health over the speed of return – something enforced and valued by 3M around the globe.
“I chose to have people come back into the office in a rotating pattern, which took two months to get everyone back to work normally,” she said. “And while we needed to keep business going, we were able to maintain good relationships with our customers with virtual visits instead of in-person.”
While the pandemic caused stressful, and sometimes exhausting, situations in parts of her life, Shelley also found that with more time at home she was able to focus on her physical and mental health. “I spent a lot of my newfound home time focused on nutrition and changed my daily diet significantly,” she said. “Not only have I lost weight, I now find myself with increased energy, which plays a big role in supporting my overall quality of life.”
Shelley said for her, how 3M has handled the pandemic reaffirms the reason she’s been at 3M for 16 years. “I am impressed with how 3M continues to take care of their employees throughout this period,” she said. “And I have had tremendous opportunity for growth here. I encourage all my female colleagues to jump at any opportunity that comes up – you never know where it will take you.”
For more inspiration, check out this article to hear from five women who are leading through the pandemic.
How 3M has increased employee support
The well-being of all 3Mers around the globe is a recurring topic of discussion amongst leadership, especially during the pandemic. We know the burdens our employees have and continue to encounter in this environment, so our focus is to ensure 3Mers have the right tools and resources to succeed.
We’ve increased our employee support resources, with an emphasis on support for caregivers, and continued our focus on enhancing FlexAbility.
Interested in joining a company that champions diversity, equity and inclusion? Visit 3M.com/careers for more information.