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Leaning Out…


Editor’s Note: The following was originally published on LinkedIn by Elizabeth Wood, Chief Human Resources Officer at Levi Strauss & Co.

Not counting my early (and highly successful) babysitting career, I have been working now for more than 30 years. This has been pretty much without a break, other than vacations, two short leaves when my children arrived, and a few weeks here and there between jobs. I’ve been lucky to work with some great companies and lead teams around the world – which has meant full days at the office as well as work outside “normal business hours” – dinners, conference calls and emails, business trips and offsite meetings. Nothing heroic, but busy and fulfilling and rewarding. I love it.

This summer, however, I was faced with a situation I had not encountered before – out of nowhere came a health condition that meant I would need surgery, then several months of treatment. And it was impossible at the onset to predict whether I would be able to work intermittently, on a reduced schedule, or at all. Faced with this uncertainty, my inner Carrie Bradshaw asked: How do I find the best way to “Lean Out?”

First, I have to acknowledge my good fortune in several ways. I have never faced serious illness before now. I work for a company that demonstrates its commitment to the well being of employees with great leave policies and both short and long-term disability plans. This is a safety net I will never take for granted again – I met many people who had no choice but to continue to work throughout even the most grueling treatments, or risk a drastic loss of income. I also work for a boss whose immediate reaction was “Take all the time you need – we’ll figure the rest out.” And finally, I was fortunate to have a great team in place, ready to rise to the occasion.

Read Elizabeth’s learnings from her time off on LinkedIn now.