I’ve been hearing a lot lately the phrases “getting back to business” or “when things return to normal,” or the “new normal.” I’ve also been hearing an equal number of people saying that they really don’t want to return to business as usual; and that there is a deep beauty and value in this time sequestered at home with our families. It makes me wonder how many of us would have chosen to slow down or stop otherwise? What might “business as usual” look like in the future? What if we never got back to business as usual? Would that be such a bad thing? Why would we want to go backward instead of forward anyway?
If a viral pandemic doesn’t get our collective attention, then really what will? It seems to me that this presents an opportunity for a sort of cosmic time-out. One in which we are each obligated to distinguish, in some fundamental way, what this time can teach us. For to allow this opportunity to pass by as if it were a mere inconvenience to our “normal” busy, non-stop, hectic life styles would be an epic mistake.
Another Look at Business as Usual
Let us not forget that “business as usual” created an entirely other kind of global pandemic; one that we’ve essentially ignored for the better part of a century. It’s the pandemic of stress in the workplace and it’s laden with overwhelm, anxiety, a sense of isolation, and disconnection. In fact, “a recent survey of 20,000 U.S. adults found that nearly half of people suffer from feelings of loneliness. According to the study, “loneliness and social isolation are at epidemic levels.” * These conditions existed well before the COVID-19 crisis and for many were acceptable conditions to “business as usual.”
Now, while we may be physically distanced from work; we are reconnecting at home. Many families are learning to be together again: learning to be respectful of one another’s time and space, learning to play together, learning what it means to be bored, and learning how to be more creative to resolve that boredom. Others are experiencing a lessening sense of loneliness because we are reaching out to one another with empathy and compassion, and creating communities locally where before there were none. It reminds me that isolation is simply the physical distance between us, but loneliness is the emotional distance between us.
What We’re Seeing
Teams for many of our client partners are adapting quickly and effectively! They are learning to work together albeit in a different way. They’re figuring out how to work from home, how to communicate to maintain a sense of connection and alignment, and how to focus on results more so than the time it takes to achieve those results. Innovation, creativity, and resiliency are innate traits of all human beings; and now many have been called to flex those skills into action in meaningful ways. Some of the support we’ve provided our clients has shifted to include reducing overwhelm while working at home as they made the sudden and unexpected move to working virtually. The creativity and ingenuity demonstrated by our client partners is just amazing, inspiring, and life affirming.
What Value Can We Take Forward?
So, in this in-between time; before quarantines and lock-downs are lifted and we rush back into our old habits of business as usual in work and in life, I would like to linger here for introspection and reflection.
- What are you learning about yourself?
- What do you now appreciate more than ever?
- What no longer works for you?
- What are you willing to leave behind forever?
- What do you want to carry forward into tomorrow’s world?
- What new perspectives are inspiring to you?
For me? What I have learned is that sometimes beauty and horror dance together. There is this constant irony in life. In the middle of a horrible situation we’re learning how to love, how to be patient, how to release our need to control, how to play, and how to appreciate what it means to be in this….together.
* Cigna Health Care Study – May 1, 2018
Author – Anne McGhee-Stinson
Director of Practice and General Manager
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