We are all going through a very odd period of time right now. Adopting new working practices, finding new ways to connect with colleagues, friends, and family, and changing the way we communicate with customer, clients, and stakeholders. And throughout this process we have also all become a little more aware of our own daily practices: washing our hands, not touching our face when we go out, navigating around other people when approaching them head-on, wiping down our groceries, letting that Amazon box settle outside for 24-hours to allow the virus to decay before opening it, checking our mask and gloves before entering a supermarket and then wiping down the car door handle with a disinfectant wipe once we return home. These are new practices in our everyday routines that we have incorporated quickly and, while still feeling strange, have become a quasi-habit.
In addition, as a society, we are finding ever more creative ways to connect with each other: musicians are recording amazing “concerts” remotely while other put on impromptu recitals from the front of their houses; birthdays are being celebrated by families coming together and doing drive-bys; citizens are leaning out of their windows and clapping or howling or bashing pots & pans to show gratitude to those who are out there every day to help us in these times of need. And we are all connecting globally with friends we have lost contact with, family whom we usually forget to call because of the hustle and bustle of normal life, and leaving care packages for elderly neighbors who may otherwise not be able to procure what they need.
Landlords are offering rent forgiveness. Banks are providing mortgage relief. Governments globally are increasing unemployment benefits and extending tax filing deadlines. And health insurance companies are picking up some of the tab for medical expenses.
Likewise, in the business and the corporate world, we have adapted and created new routines: meetings, sales calls, strategy sessions, training courses, and casual “water cooler chat” have all transitioned into the virtual world. And because of all of this, we have learned a few things about ourselves. We have learned how to manage our time better – becoming what every job description asks for – a “self-starter”. We have learned to structure our day to include elements that help engage and motivate us to keep moving forward, whether that be a quick walk around the block, a mid-morning hike on a nearby trail, or just sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee for few minutes.
But most importantly, we have all developed a little more humility. We care for each other a little more. We take the time to listen more. We get to know about each other’s lives and family a little more. And we cut each other a little more slack knowing that working from home has its own constraints, complications, and conflicts.
And all of this is leading to better professional relationships that are based on understanding, compassion, and a forced need to slow down a little and focus on the person, not simply the pursuit. We are all going through a very odd period of time. However, if we emerge from all of this and simply snap back to the way we operated previously, we have learned nothing from the current state. While we never chose (or would choose) to go through this, the fact is that we are all moving through the same paradigm, and we must learn something from it.
We cannot let this collective experience go to waste. When we all get back to our “normal” state of being, what must we take away from this unified history? Maybe how to communicate better. Maybe how to be more compassionate. Maybe how to care for each other a little more. Maybe be a little more considerate. If nothing else, maybe we will all be just a little cleaner.
But we must change.
Let’s not make this horrible experience go to waste. Let’s not make the lost lives and painful illnesses be futile and forgotten as we return to a purely commercially focused and bottom-line driven agenda. Let’s remember the professionals who are putting themselves at risk every day for us and take that spirit of dedication and self-sacrifice and incorporate it into our daily working practices. And, most importantly, let’s care for each a little bit more, knowing when to lean-in and help, or extend a deadline because family should always come first, or take time to nurture the personal and career aspirations of an individual, because what we are noticing now is that people matter. And without people, we have nothing.
We must learn from all of this!
Liam Abramson is a founding partner at Starfish vILT, a boutique learning & development organization specializing in developing, designing, and delivering virtual, face-to-face, and blended learning solutions.