So, we now have our roadmap out of UK lockdown!
Schools re-opening next week, able to meet outside with friends from 29th March, shops and cinemas from 12th April. ….it all looks like the end is in sight (well, 21st June, to use the Government’s exact date).
For many, it has been a long time coming – this has been one of the most challenging events in modern history. I can’t wait to see what GSCE and A-Level history books make of it in 15 – 20 years’ time.
And, as the end date draws nearer, an increasing amount of talk has already started about what life will be like once things start to trend back to normal (whatever that means anymore!) and the lessons learned over the past year that we can build on going forward.
Personally, I’ve always been slightly wary of “learning” from big events – mainly because people, especially nowadays, tend to have short memories. Things that would have resonated and “stuck” at one point are now easily and quickly moved on from. Remember when the economic collapse hit in 2008 and everyone spoke of a new economic model, how the market needed an element of control and regulation, the demands for economic equality etc?
Fast forward 10+ years and to the average person on the street, how much has changed and what evidence is there of “lessons learned”? Nevertheless, whilst it’s all still fresh in mind, here’s some personal thoughts on what I hope we can all take away from this experience.
Everyone talks about how important it is, but for a lot of us, lockdown forced us into taking a good long look at whether we were working to live or living to work. Many simply rediscovered time we’d forgotten we had. With no more commutes, school runs, meetings – the whole pressing need of having to be somewhere at a certain time just simply stopped being so important for millions of us.
Granted, we had no say in it, but think about what the time meant. The chance to catch up with people and friends that maybe you had not spoken to in a while. Time to finally do that job / activity that you’d been putting off for ages. Even something as mundane as the chance to catch up on TV – there was something great about not having plans and re-discovering activities and simple pleasures.
Morale and well being
It’s probably not far off to say that collectively, everyone’s mental health has suffered a little bit since this time last year. However, a side effect has been an increased awareness and sensitivity around the issue that I hope carries over. Making allowances for people that are feeling low, taking time to check how people are – these are all things that I’ve been happy to see happen.
For many, work colleagues became a surrogate family and that time together turned into online cooking courses and quizzes, team birthday celebrations and really, any excuse to talk about things apart from the pandemic. I hope that’s not something we lose – that feeling of taking 5 – 10 minutes out of the day to just catch up and share something with someone else.
One thing COVID showed was the importance of pulling together to make the best of things. From a work standpoint, that meant working even closer to get things done. Picking up the slack from a colleague that had to do home-schooling for a while and couldn’t respond to an email. People taking on tasks that they hadn’t had to be before, simply because it needed to get done.
And increasingly, the typical hierarchy at work became flatter – suddenly, everyone was in the same boat, having to deal with similar issues. With the removal of those traditional barriers, there came an increasing openness and engagement that was great to see.
Clients are people too
I may be alone in this, but I’ve never had a better relationship with the majority of my clients than right now. Not only do I know what the inside of their homes and gardens are like, I now know their kids’ names, what they look like and what lessons they are struggling with via Google Classroom.
By the same count, they are familiar with my dated kitchen surfaces and collection of sports shirts. This whole process has really humanised a lot of the people I engage with and helped me see them in a whole new light and showed the importance of relationships in business above all else (though you still have to produce and in increasingly creative ways!)
So as we move forward collectively, I hope that we remember the positives of the past 12 months as well as the negatives. My grandfather used to say that you learn from every situation, no matter how bad it is, and that’s certainly been the case with COVID.
The pandemic forced us into a brand-new dynamic, but I feel that there have certainly been some good things that have come from the experience and I look forward to making those part of my work life going forward.