Leadership, Family, and Lessons Learned:
Four Generations of Women Navigate the Pandemic Together
Posted: March 18, 2021
Navigating a pandemic with a four-generation family bubble has its ups and downs. Kimberley Goode, senior vice president of External Affairs at Blue Shield of California, has experienced it first-hand while sheltering at home with her mother, her grandmother and her college-age daughter, along with her husband.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest adjustment came when Goode’s employer shifted all but essential office workers to work from home full time in March of 2020. When that shift began, Goode started working at her dining room table, competing with family members for WiFi and trying to keep the home quiet while navigating video calls with coworkers.
She also had to take on caregiving duties, assisting her 75-year-old mother and her 95-year-old grandmother to avoid the risks of having home-health worker visits. That meant squeezing in meal planning and medication distribution between work meetings and taking on responsibility for helping her grandmother get dressed and ready for the day.
“Becoming a hands-on elder caregiver required me to coordinate my calendar to manage both home and work responsibilities,” Goode says. “It meant planning for quick breaks throughout the day to step away from work to do what was needed at home.”
After a few months, it became clear that she would not be returning to the office any time soon, and home and work were colliding.
To get her arms around everything on her plate, Goode needed to establish a more permanent workspace with separation from home life and more organizing tools. She ordered a whiteboard to keep track of projects, borrowed her grandmother’s antique desk and set it up in the corner of the living room. Her new workspace is flanked by two windows that provide natural light and a bird’s eye view of package deliveries, now that most shopping is being done online.
Goode believes that managing through the pandemic has made her a better family member and corporate leader. “I’m more empathetic, and more conscious of what’s important and what’s not,” she explains. “I understand how dynamics in every household can impact what colleagues may need from me. For instance, parents who transport young children to and from day care or school have very different schedule needs than people who don’t. Business leaders should consider these unique differences, as we set expectations for productivity and success.”
Personal self-care is important at any time in your life, Goode emphasizes, but never more so than now. Listen to your body, she says. “I take micro-breaks during the workday. I walk down the driveway to pick up the mail or enjoy a few minutes of sunshine in my backyard. After work, I unwind mentally by riding my bike, walking, gardening, or watching movies.”
Goode acknowledges that her family has been fortunate this past year. “We have no cases of COVID in our family, and we haven’t been isolated or lonely because of our multi-generational household. And we’ve learned lessons that we’ll take forward into our future -into to our post-pandemic lives.”
When Goode thinks about post-pandemic life, she is grateful for the hope that COVID-19 vaccines bring. Both her mom and grandmother didn’t hesitate to get vaccinated when it was recently their turn.
“When I asked their doctors about possible side effects from the vaccine, they were very clear that there was a far greater risk of them dying from COVID-19 with their age and underlying conditions than any side effect from the vaccine,” she says. “We trust our doctors, made appointments and both are now vaccinated with no issues at all.”
On a personal and professional level, Goode hopes that others in the African American community will also jump at the opportunity to be vaccinated when it’s their turn. To help drive acceptance, she leads the communication, education and equity workstreams for Blue Shield in its role as the third-party administrator for the state of California’s vaccine program.
“The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African American community is exacerbating health inequity that already exists,” she says. “At Blue Shield, we want to do everything we can to accelerate the equitable distribution of the vaccine and to ensure we reach communities that are disproportionately affected.”
As Goode reflects on sheltering-in-place for a year, there are many lessons she’s learned as a leader.
“Although my mom and grandmother lived with us prior to COVID-19, the pandemic helped me appreciate spending more time together as a family,” Goode explains. “It has also taught me valuable lessons as a corporate executive and woman managing multiple family obligations. It has reminded me that business leadership can -- and must -- evolve with the times. Most important, it has reaffirmed the power that family love has to keep everyone strong, both mentally and physically, especially during difficult times.”