We’re 20 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and so many aspects of our daily lives, professional and personal, has dramatically changed since March of 2020. Boundaries between work and home have blurred or disappeared altogether.

CEED Global recently sat down with CEED Slovenia member and mentor Maja Golob—entrepreneur of 20 years, founder of the marketing company Spago, leadership and team coach, marketing consultant, and author of Stop Chasing Weekends, a book for women that advocates a healthy work-life balance.

Maja noted how the pandemic has exacerbated the already existing problems women have historically faced in balancing their businesses with their personal lives, often putting aside their own needs and aspirations. “If we don’t take good care of ourselves,” Maja stated, “then we cannot take good care of our businesses.” But today in the era of COVID, women entrepreneurs are navigating and seeking to balance an increasingly complicated landscape.

In a volatile business world, where constant, unpredictable change is the norm, it’s harder than ever to draw a line between business and personal life. It often seems like the workday doesn’t end at all. “I see clients starting their days early in the morning,” Maja observed, “getting their kids ready for school or even helping them with online school, preparing lunch while jumping from a Zoom meeting to meeting, working till late night, emails coming in at 10:00, 11:00 pm …” all of which “has put even more stress on us and made the situation worse.” It can be much harder for women to take time for themselves while taking care of their families and business, leading to burnout and work fatigue, an issue Maja knows well and opens up about in her book.

But besides the potential impact that blurred work life and home life is having on women’s ability to practice adequate self-care, Maja pointed out one of the other losses we’re experiencing from remote work: the lack of informal, in-person interactions and casual conversations. At a time when depression and anxiety are dramatically increasing around the world, especially for women, the loss of regular human interaction and check-ins is significant. “When you’re in the office, you meet people face to face, you have a coffee and a chat… all these bringing us closer together” Maja said, further explaining that during these interactions,

…when you see someone is not okay, you have a chance to offer support; or you tell someone how you feel, what’s going on in your life or what’s bothering you. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to, or get another view on the subject or just have a shoulder to cry on. In the virtual, online world, a lot of that is lost… meetings are focused on business, lacking opportunities to address other aspects of our lives, that affect who we are, how we connect with each other. After all, we are so much more than what we do for a living.

With so much about our new reality drastically altered from two years ago, perhaps permanently so in some cases, Maja said that if she were to write the book today, she would place an even greater emphasis on the need to “make time for the people in our personal circle of trust, especially for those we care for, surround[ing] ourselves with people, who have the same vibe and share the same values.” In her book, written a few years prior to the pandemic, Maja writes, “I realized what we’ve long lost in our modern society and are now trying hard to rebuild again: the ties, the bonds between us, relationships with friends and family, the feeling of belonging, the dignity of being who you are…the quality of the relationships with people we respect and care for and who care for and respect us” (102).

Maja also pointed out that focusing on psychological safety and the quality of interpersonal connections is something businesses should inspire and build within the company for the benefit of all, their employees, customers, and the businesses themselves. In her book, Maja writes that as individuals, we need to find our personal mission which “provides clarity and gives you a sense of purpose. It defines who you are and how you’ll live” (79). Maja expanded on this in our conversation, stating a personal mission statement “is your personal compass, that drives everything you do. It tells why you get up every day, why you do what you do. It has to come from your gut, combining not only your passions and talents, but also skills and competences. It is what keeps you going and what makes your life worth living.”

She also explained that “it’s important to find the business environment where your personal mission can be brought to life. Employers can and should facilitate their employees’ personal development, starting with discovering employees’ personal values and how they fit within the company’s values.”  Maja believes that “employees need to know how they fit into the big picture, and how their work helps to fulfill company’s purpose and mission. That’s why every company should have its purpose statement not only written on the website, but lived through every single employee” because as she sees it, “company purpose unites everybody, all employees. It is the reason that the company exists, and it tells how the company impacts those whom it’s serving.”

Close-knit, positive interpersonal connections are integral to both personal and professional success, something Maja experienced herself when she joined CEED in 2013. In reflecting on her initial impressions of what CEED membership would entail juxtaposed to her actual experience participating in CEED’s programming, Maja said,

My first thought was ‘how could a group of people who don’t have a clue about our business help us,’… As it turned out, we all had similar problems… you know, business is all about the people: your team, your customers and other stakeholders, how you engage and communicate with them and how you create value for them. We were a bunch of entrepreneurs from different industries, with more or less similar problems, supporting each other on the way to solving them…[it was] very, very well invested time for personal and professional growth. And a great group of people.

Maja is currently mentoring women entrepreneurs as part of CEED Slovenia’s AWEsome Women Entrepreneurs Program, a global initiative with 50 participating countries and over 2,000 women entrepreneurs, supported by the U.S. Department of State and the US Embassy in Ljubljana. Coaching and mentoring women in business and their teams, Maja has noticed that they often feel the need to try harder to prove themselves and have a difficult time asking for help for fear it would make them appear incapable or even weak.

When asked what is the one thing women entrepreneurs and women in business need to know right now that they often don’t, Maja answered, “That it’s our time. Women are nurturers by nature, and it’s time to connect people, ideas, organizations… to lead with love, connectedness, and empathy…not to compete, but rather bring people together to co-create a better world…We need to start asking ourselves: what can we do better together than we can do on our own?…We should not be afraid of our authentic power, of who we are,” Maja said, because if we can “improve connections within our company, with customers, business partners, and the community, if we can learn to listen to each other and to understand each other better, then we can co-create a greater future for us all. ”