Remember 2019? It was late that year when I took the Melbourne-based role of General Manager for Slade Group and the Interchange Bench. I’d come fresh off an extended break, including giving myself the time to do the Camino De Santiago Trail, to find some ‘me time’ for reflection after 25 years working full time, living in Perth and raising a family of three girls, now young women.

At that stage I had every intention of travelling regularly back to Perth where my young adult children live. That was pre-Covid, when people travelled freely within Australia, often part of any national role.  Our old world @work seems like an alternate universe, with remote working, remote meetings and WFH all part of the 2021 nomenclature.

With Melbourne and Sydney both in ongoing lockdowns, and continuing border restrictions in place between States, it became very difficult to catch up in person with colleagues, clients and candidates. While I certainly missed those professional relationship building opportunities, on a personal level the relationships I cherish with family and friends suffered the most. While as an organisation, Slade pivoted to a hybrid working model and adapted well to the online environment, it’s a whole other ball game to be separated for long periods from your loved ones.

Imagine having to factor in two weeks of quarantine for a one weekend flying visit! And that’s ONLY if very lucky in the timing to even be granted a travel pass.

From the get-go my dream job had challenges and achievements I had never imagined. Early in 2020, having just begun working on business improvements, we caught a whiff of a new virus, and then in March COVID-19 hit us hard. The important thing at that point was to ensure we minimised costs with a staffing level that was sustainable. The Board and senior management were vital in this journey. We all worked hard, which was very rewarding, developing a strong team focus that saw us through some really tough times. Fortunately, a well-established company with 50+ years in business, a diverse temporary and permanent client portfolio (including essential workers) and risk spread across commercial and government contracts held us in good stead for the remainder of one of the hardest years on record. Thank you also to the powers that be in Canberra for JobKeeper which kept us going through the darkest months.

But I was unable to make easy trips back and forth to Perth see ‘my girls’.

When the market improved, our brands’ strength really shone. We saw the benefit flow through job orders, whilst also attracting quality consulting talent. Covid fluctuations aside, our attention to building longstanding client and candidate relationships meant we were there for employers when the market for talent opened up again. The culture at Slade Group is mature and results oriented. The people are great to work with – diligent, smart, and they value themselves and each other. And through the tough Covid year(s) now we also had fun. Behind the scenes I had the support of Maria Cenic, our wonderful GM of Finance and Shared Services, together with her incredibly dedicated team, and my senior colleagues and a Board who are forward thinking and growth oriented.

And now at the end of my Melbourne Camino Trail, I’ve reflected and dug deep to make the right decision: I have decided to return to Perth because in the end, without close family and friends there’s a gaping hole in my heart which just can’t be filled by the joy and satisfaction of work. Melbourne, I loved every minute!

And so, for the future record when someone reads Samantha Cotgrave, Reason for Leaving: Covid.

 

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