Momentum Metropolitan’s Annette Breetze says “care” is her word of the year

Set respectful boundaries and understand the importance of self-care, she says.

It was during her childhood in a small rural community on a farm in East London that Annette Breetzke, head of human capital, at Momentum Metropolitan, learnt about community, independence, and the importance of planning ahead.

“As a result of my school career, planning ahead and independence are a huge learning curve for me. During my high school years, I was enrolled at a hostel and would return home on weekends only. Every Monday my parents would drop me off at school and I had to ensure that I had everything I possibly needed for the week ahead,” she says.

On the other hand, being raised in a rural area also taught the mother of three humility and the importance of nurturing a sense of community.

“On the farm, you are at the mercy of the elements, which teaches you humility. You have no control of the weather, yet you somehow remain positive even under extreme conditions,” she adds.

Annette is very aware of the value that lies in a close-knit community, people who are always there to support and help one another, no matter the time of day. That is where her passion for people originates.

After completing a BCom in law at the University of the Free State and working in Bloemfontein for seven years, Annette and her husband moved to Johannesburg, where she took on her first role in human capital.

“My financial management and labour law background stood me in good stead for a career in human capital. In addition to my undergraduate studies, I have also completed further studies in business psychology and psychology at Unisa, including the completion of various executive coaching and leadership courses,” she says.

Taking strain
The knowledge gained from psychology, coaching and leadership studies has been indispensable during the pandemic, with research showing the toll it has taken on employees.

Annette’s human capital team comprises a staff complement of 10, who manage four business areas within the financial services group: Capital Centre (strategy and office of the CEO), Group Human Capital, Group Brand & Marketing and Group IT Operations.

“Workplace well-being and practising self-care on a daily basis has become crucial due to the amount of loss suffered by employees during the pandemic. Bereavement support through our Wise and Well offerings together with the human capital team is therefore of paramount importance for those who have suffered the loss of family and friends,” says Annette.

“In turn, I have been very deliberate in ensuring that the human capital team members look after themselves and continue to practise self-care, as they are expected to play a huge role in looking after and caring for our employees and we do not want them suffering from compassion fatigue,” she says.

In this regard, Annette has been leading from the front, by balancing boundaries with employee support and finding a way to practise self-care.

“If you’re not okay, no one else is going to be okay. It is important to understand your boundaries and respectfully share with colleagues what it is about and why you are doing it. It can be as simple as questioning why something is being done and what needs to be achieved,” she says.

We do not all have to be present in all meetings, and ensuring that there are clear agendas and outcomes for meetings makes a big difference in the work-from-anywhere practices, she adds.

Being present
“Lockdown restrictions have proven to be quite a challenge for me, as I find myself to be an adventurous person. I simply love nature and being outdoors. I therefore, started walking daily and recently announced on social media that I wanted to challenge myself to walk 500km before my 50th birthday this year. I achieved this goal within three months,” she says.

Walking is now Annette’s go-to choice for self-care. “If I’m having a tough time, I go walking. If I’m excited, I go walking. It has given me so much and taught me to look at things from a different perspective. On my walks, I focus on being present in the moment. I look at one aspect of people or things I pass along the way each day, whether it is flowers, or dresses, or shoes,” she says.

Annette adds, “Shoes were a big one for me. I saw people with all types of shoes and some with no shoes, still walking, and I realised that I cannot judge other people as I do not walk in their shoes. It is only once we actually are fully in others' shoes that we understand what takes place in their lives and the struggles they have. Therefore, withhold judgement until you understand or know better.”