Be resilient — The emotional toll of the pandemic, social unrest and injustice continue to cause trauma. Being able to slow down and share my thoughts and feelings around those topics with my friends, family and colleagues were extremely important.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Monica Clark.
Monica Clark is Head of Communications for Pizza Hut International at Yum! Brands, which has more than 11,000 restaurants across 114 countries and growing. There, she leads the integrated communications strategy and approach including internal, external, crisis & brand reputation on behalf of the International business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am the head of communications for Pizza Hut International at Yum! Brands, which is great because I have the opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues all over the world. We have the best people and pride ourselves on having an amazing global community, so it’s wonderful to learn first-hand about different cultures and different flavors from cities and countries around the world. I also get to be one of the first people to try any innovative new food products — hello stuffed crust!
I have been here for two years, and in my first year, we focused on elevating communications and building the communications function from the ground up. My previous experience includes 12 years in corporate and marketing communications at Whirlpool Corporation and 17 foundational years in television news producing for shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and WGN Morning News. I am ready for any media relations, public relations, crisis or corporate content challenges thrown at me.
What has been the biggest adjustment while working from home from your in-person workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
The biggest adjustment from working from home has been the dogs barking in the background! Disrupting my train of thought and my new surroundings.
It was actually a pretty seamless adjustment, outside of my furkids, because I typically would work from home from time to time anyway, so my desk and office were already set up. I already had a predetermined place that I like to work, so having that space determined probably helped me out quite a bit.
I think in the first few months I did move around the house because when we first went into this — while I knew working from home was going to be long term — many thought it was going to be short term. So, I did enjoy working in a variety of places — outside on my patio a few times, around other areas of the home — but then I migrated to my office so that I would have better concentration and focus. That’s where I’ve been working ever since. I do find that I work much longer hours from home, so I do have to force myself to take breaks, go for walks.
What do you miss most about your preCOVID lifestyle?
I miss my coworkers, my family, my friends. I miss those human interactions that we take for granted. Now, we’re looking at everyone through the computer screen. While it’s awesome to see everyone’s smiling faces, I do miss just the day-to-day sitting down, grabbing a coffee, grabbing a glass of wine with my co-workers, friends and family.
The pandemic was a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic? What do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response?
I think that having one crisis on top of another crisis on top of another crisis has caused or forced everyone to have some self-reflection, including some tough conversations with family, friends and colleagues. I think the unexpected positive is perhaps the willingness of many people who don’t look like me, to look inside themselves, and say not only do I personally need to make a change, but I need to help my community and the broader world make a change and make a change so that there is equity and inclusion for everyone.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
For me, I compounded the pandemic by deciding to proceed with a double knee replacement. I was scheduled to have the surgery last year and then I put it off, so it fell to this year when COVID happened. We were locked down, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to do it, but I went ahead in partnership with my surgeon and was able to get both of my knees replaced. So, not only was I battling the stay at home, but I was using the stay at home to heal and get better. It was a very difficult period, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But then I realized I wasn’t missing anything because everyone was locked down. It really helped me focus on my rehabilitation, my mobility and getting back on my feet. So, I used that period to really put in the work and spend time on myself and get better. For the first time in a very long time, I put myself first, which is a difficult thing for me to do most of the time.
I also read this really short book — I swear it’s under 50 pages — comprised of affirmations called “42 Gifts I’d Like to Give to You”. I keep it on my makeup stand in my closet, so that every morning as I’m getting ready, I will read one or two of the positive affirmations. Literally, I haven’t finished the book on purpose because I’m rereading the affirmations so that I start the day positively. That has helped tremendously — I should have been done with this book in a day. But purposely? I haven’t finished it because I like reading the affirmations over and over again.
What has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
Obviously, the crisis upon crisis — the surgeries, the pandemic, George Floyd’s murder. It is just one thing after another. The positive thing for me personally is recognizing my own resilience and my own strength and giving myself credit for those things. In times like this, I think we can easily dwell on the negative, but what I have been mentoring other people to do is reflect on all of the positive things in your life vs. the negative. This certainly is a time when people are certainly suffering — more than any other time in history we should be focusing on the positive, and how each of us can help to bring about significant changes in the communities where we live and work.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be resilient — The emotional toll of the pandemic, social unrest and injustice continue to cause trauma. Being able to slow down and share my thoughts and feelings around those topics with my friends, family and colleagues were extremely important.
- My focus, drive, and passion will keep me steady.
- Show the level of empathy to others as I want to receive myself.
- Be very intentional in all communications and interactions.
- Reset and have a growth mindset — Working and leading a global communications function during a global pandemic was tough and having to learn so much so quickly as the virus spread around the world. Our number 1 focus was ensuring the safety of our teams and customers around the world — making sure we were prioritizing in the right way to protect everyone was paramount.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
Yes! It is out of my affirmation book — told you it is a good one! “We have a choice: to spend a lot of time fighting for what we know is right, or to just accept what we know is wrong. We must stand up for our rights and for the rights of others, even if most people say we can’t win.” — Susan Polis Schutz
How can our readers follow you online?
LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/monicateague/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.