Could there be a silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud?
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Firstly, please don’t get me wrong. I am definitely not saying that I think the Coronavirus pandemic is a good thing. It is a sad, stressful and worrying time for lots of valid reasons. However, I am also a firm believer that adversity provides some of the best learning opportunities. Improving our wellbeing is about changing our habits. And it can be very hard to challenge beliefs about why we “have to” do things the way we do. The drastic measures needed to contain/delay/manage COVID-19 may be a nudge to rethink some of those limiting beliefs about the way in which we work. For example... 1) “I have to travel a lot. My clients expect me to be onsite/visit them personally” - I hear this a lot. It is a challenge for wellbeing (people can end up feeling burnt out, isolated and it makes it hard to create exercise routines or to commit to hobbies). But what would happen if you couldn’t travel? We’re now finding out, and hopefully proving through that, that you can serve clients and build relationships just as well remotely. This then opens up the opportunity to challenge other related beliefs, such as “You can’t manage that account part time. The client will expect someone to be available everyday” or “The client would expect someone older” etc. Challenging those beliefs will be good for diversity too.
2) “I have to be in the office. My job can’t be done from home”. Certainly this is true of some types of jobs, but I often hear it from people who do jobs where it probably would be technically possible. What they really mean is that the company won’t enable or allow it, or no one else does so they are scared of how it will look. Well, we are now in a situation to really test the technology and get creative to discover quite how many jobs CAN actually be done remotely. And whilst, when things have settled down, many of us won’t want to continue working like that permanently (the social element of work is important for many), what we will know is that we can, and that gives us the opportunity to choose to do so when it will be beneficial - for health reasons, for work-life balance reasons or just to work in a quiet environment that may better suit some people and some tasks. And once we have overcome that particular belief about what we can or can't do, maybe it will open our minds to challenging a few other self-limiting beliefs too. 3) “I can’t take time off when I’m ill. There is too much to do/no one to cover me/it looks bad”. There are times when we may wake up feeling a bit under the weather, but getting up and going in makes us feel better. But then there are times when battling through means protracting our recovery - and spreading our germs to others. Working from home may be an option, but should we really always try to work through it? The advice about COVID-19 is that most people will recover with rest, pain relief and hydration. A lesson to listen to our bodies and stop when we need to; to take time out and recover quicker before carrying on? And for organisations, it may be an eye opener to the most critical roles which have been left vulnerable to cut backs; the trend we’ve seen for over 10 years now of companies expecting people to do more and more with less and less. Where there is no slack, vital knowledge and skill is at risk because it is held with just one person, with no one left who can step in. That isn’t just a wellbeing risk, it’s a real commercial risk. This could flag up the need for some better contingency and succession planning!
Right now the most important thing is to follow the government's public health advice and stay safe. But in adjusting to what we are being asked to do, it won't hurt to think about what we can learn from this and the more permanent changes we might like to make to improve the way we work and enable us to thrive.