Four Lessons From COVID-19 You Shouldn’t Forget
Six months ago, the crystal-coated ball dropped in Times Square and we cheered in a brand new year. At that moment, none of us knew what waited for us just a short hop ahead. Before the first quarter even had a chance to close out its books, businesses shifted from in-person operations to a new digital reality that most of us weren’t fully prepared for. Terms like “social distancing,” “spot positivity rates,” and “Zoom meetings” made their way into our common lexicon. And of course, every time we thought we had our footing, something shifted.
Businesses and people are wading into waters we never expected to find ourselves in. Many of us are navigating the delicate work-life balance when work and life both take place at home. Even as some offices and establishments begin to open, we’re tasked with learning to adapt the way we engage and behave in public. We stop to have our temperature taken at the door before we enter the building. We adapt to meetings while wearing face masks. If you’re feeling like you’ve stepped inside some sort of dystopian novel, no one would blame you. Yet there’s plenty of good to be gleaned from these tumultuous times.
In late February/early March 2020, the coronavirus was something most of us heard sound bites about on the news. It was “out there” but certainly not here. Maybe we had some casual idea of what we could do if we had to adapt for it. We had informal conversations about what our business (and our schools and our houses of worship and our clubs and organizations) would need to do if this virus lived up its pandemic potential.
Within a week or two everything shifted. This was no longer theory; this was reality. We gathered our laptops and our notes and turned the light out in the office. Maybe you thought this would be a short-term shift in your work habits. “Two weeks and we’ll be back. No problem.” But two weeks turned into a month, into two months, into three, and counting.
Here’s the thing, though: We’ve adjusted. We learned how to hold meetings online with the same (or in some cases maybe even better!) productivity than our in-person roundtables. We’ve learned to work remotely while juggling a digital-school schedule for our children and (im)patiently trying to track down toilet paper online. We’ve learned to make adjustments on the fly and to keep running even as the terrain changed. We’ve proven that we are adaptable.
It’s not just that we can adapt. We can thrive. As the country slowly begins to reopen and we start to gingerly stretch our wings into this phase of the pandemic, it’s become clear that we’ve developed an ability to cope with the unknown. We’re willing to step forward, even if it’s a bit gingerly, into new ways of living and working because we’ve learned to live fully no matter what parameters the world wants to wrap us in. We are resilient and now we know it.
Four months ago, your experience with video calls may have been limited to the occasional FaceTime with your teenager or the larger-scale call someone else set-up in the conference room. Today you are a pro. Maybe you once you wondered if your job could even be done at home, and today you know that yes, it can, and it can be done well.
Retail owners who never considered digital storefronts are now taking orders online and building a virtual presence to complement their in-person shops. Restaurants are adapting to outdoor eating and delivery services. You’ve begun to explore online reservations, enhanced your website, and expanded your social media presence because your tech status has been upgraded from “I know enough to cause trouble” to “I rock this!”
Value of Connections
Human beings are social creatures. Even introverts need a little face-to-face time with their pack. Pre-COVID-19 we spent a lot of time running from thing to thing. We wore our busyness like a badge of honor, and we accepted the digital go-between of texting and social media as substitutes to deeper interactions.
The pandemic forced us to slow down and stay home. We learned that we value time with people. We value conversation and just sitting down over a slow meal. We began to make phone calls and send cards and letters. We broke out the board games for family game night. We bought up all the yeast and flour (or allergy-friendly flour substitutes!) the supply chain had to offer because we embraced cooking together. When we connected with our colleagues, we brought the watercooler talk to our video calls because that moment to catch up and connect was more meaningful than we realized before. We reprioritized and remembered that ultimately the winner isn’t the one with the busiest calendar.