25 Jun 2021

How much “smart employer” means in the worst case

Paul Jascha Pagel from Generali Deutschland AG

I joined Generali a lifetime ago – it’s been my first and only employer. And I can imagine staying with Generali for all my life. There are so many reasons for this. The fact that Generali has always allowed me to grow my skills and abilities. All the things I have learned in this company. The colleagues I have met and worked with for years. And for sure all the challenging and exciting projects I got to work on over the years.

But one reason why Generali means more to me than just an employer I would like to share today: it’s a story of how much “smart employer” means in the worst case.

My wife and myself have a very close friend since forever, our families go on vacations together, our kids are best friends. We learned a few years ago that this friend has breast cancer, widespread unfortunately. It was a shock. For a few years though, she and her doctors managed to keep the cancer under control.
In the middle of last year, the situation got worse. She had to start chemotherapy which had a huge negative impact on her and her family’s life. Because of the pandemic and also to avoid any kind of infection her son had to stay at home full time and could not attend Kindergarten. The family was struggling, all operational pressure on her husband. As their best friends, we wanted to help, somehow. Since we are not living in the same city, it was difficult for us to have a real impact.

That’s when we had the idea to bring them to our home. To have the whole family move in with us for the rest of the chemotherapy so she could focus on her therapy and we would be able to help with everything else. But how? A lot of questions came to our mind: how can we take care of their kid and our kids at home? How do we handle our jobs in parallel? Before we would be able to offer this solution to them, we would need to figure out how to manage those issues.

So, the next day I reached out to my manager, explaining the story to him. My idea was to take a couple of weeks of unpaid vacation to cover the period of the chemotherapy or to reduce my working hours. Back then I was project manager for a big strategic project, so someone would need to replace me. I was nervous how his reaction would be, especially since the topic was so personal and delicate.

He was nothing but supportive. He did not only fully understand the urgency of the situation, he also gave me green light to do whatever would be necessary to support our friend. My program manager reacted in the same way. They even proposed to not go on unpaid vacation but allowed me to work whenever I can in a flexible way, with their full trust.

I felt supported, in such a personal way. My HR manager even called me soon after to discuss potential ways on how to manage the situation, after she had done research on what can be done in a compliant way. In just three days from the inital idea to the final solution, supported by all – I was speechless. This was – and still is – more than just smart employing. This feels like family.
Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and therefore we unfortunately never executed the plan. But nevertheless: I am sure now that whatever happens, Generali will be by my side.