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Take care of yourself, each other

Chair's Message

Katie Gabriel, CPA | August 2021 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated July 29, 2021

I won’t bury the lead: By the time you’re reading this, I should be on maternity leave.

While the timing of my leave isn’t ideal, I’ve learned through loss, a pandemic, an economic downturn and many other circumstances that some things are left out of our control. This has been hard for me to accept as a Type A CPA.

I’ve loved being deeply involved with the MNCPA and I’ve eagerly awaited this year as chair. I’ve talked with previous chairs and was told to take advantage of every single opportunity because the year goes by so fast — and now my time is interrupted.

Quite frankly, I was nervous to share this news because my leave falls during my term as chair. To my delight, my news was welcomed with a hearty congratulations and an assurance that there is a reason we have a vice chair (thanks, Bob Cedergren). I’m privileged for the support, and I am eager to welcome a new baby into my growing family and the time I’m afforded to lean into that. I’m working ahead where appropriate on some MNCPA commitments, but there are a few key events that I’ll have limited involvement with while on leave.

My employer had a similar celebratory response to my news. Fortunately, we’ve built a great team, allowing newer colleagues the chance to step into new opportunities. The chances are my team will handle things differently than I would. Is this the end of the world? No. Heck, they may have a better approach and have greater success. I know from recent experience from having my son that being on leave was glorious. While it was hard work, in some sense it felt like I was on sabbatical — and that was because I disconnected, took email off my phone and checked out.

This general principle can and should be applied to any length of time away from the office, particularly vacation time, which is top of mind during a Minnesota summer and fall. I know that many, myself included, didn’t take much vacation last year and many lost precious vacation days. Don’t let that happen again.

Put your vacations on the calendar. But then, let me ask, do you really unplug when you take a vacation? It is hard for many to completely step away from work, and we’ve learned this can lead to burnout. I sometimes hesitate to use an out-of-office message because I don’t want people to know I’m not readily available. Or, I’ll put it on but then respond to messages throughout the day. The result is I don’t feel refreshed when I return to work.

The trend is fortunately changing so vacations are accepted as necessary, and gone are the days of earning your stripes for only needing to survive on five hours of sleep each night. Take the time to disconnect — even if only for a day, and especially if you’re sick.

What I’m realizing, though a familiar adage, is that it truly takes a village, and one person cannot — and should not — do it all. I feel fortunate I have this support and realize that not everyone is in the same situation. I encourage you to take small steps to build more coverage and contingency plans, help each other out while on vacation (or leave), bring in extra resources if the team will be stretched too thin, and prioritize what needs to be done. We all need to take a break, recharge and take care of each other.

Katie Gabriel, CPA

Chair, MNCPA board of directors