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We Don't Have All The Answers - But We Do Have a Responsibility

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

I remember so clearly watching the news in January 2020 and learning of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in the People's Republic of China, experiencing the most aggressive virus with devastating consequences. I raise my hand and confess while being struck by how awful the situation was, I was absolutely in the mind-set of ‘they are experiencing a terrible time’. At no point, naively, did it enter my head that this would become a global pandemic.

But here we are, over a year later and I think it’s fair to say that life has changed for most of us. Personally I am experiencing nervousness as a parent, a business owner and a family member - I truly believe we don’t know what the long term impact will be on each and every one of us.

What can we learn from history? If we go back to the great plague in 1665 we know that the business and economy suffered to an extent. We learned of grass growing in London due to the fact it was so quiet and everyday ‘felt like a Sunday’. The loss of life was significant in proportion and crime increased with the shortage of food and resources. The situation also resulted in broken relationships where Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary “The plague is making us cruel as dogs to one another”

Sound familiar?

I think we can all think of someone who has bubbled with excitement over the ‘report someone on the Covid-19 line’ where you can do your duty and make sure any breaking of the rules is notified to the higher authorities. To be clear I'm not saying this is the wrong action to take, but the interesting observation is the low status high power mentality where there is almost a thrill in the process.

Then we consider Social Media where you almost feel the rubbing of hands with glee when someone might post something controversial which then becomes the catalyst for a keyboard war. Cruel and disparaging responses that would never be spoken face to face are suddenly acceptable under the banner of 'free speech'. A beautiful quote to consider, 'life is short - be sure to spend lots of time arguing with total strangers on social media' - Bizarre when we are all too aware how quickly time can be taken from us.

The actions and behaviours of some individuals unquestionably leave us scratching our heads in puzzlement.. The ‘this is my human right’ scenario for those pushing the boundaries at least, and quite frankly rebelling at most, against the parameters our governments have set out to try and deal with this situation in the best way they can considering the unfamiliar territory.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, Open the borders, close the borders, Vaccinate or don’t, Stay at home or party to your hearts content - so many situations we all interpret differently. Whatever the guidance is from the authorities there will be followers who agree and detractors who don't, each with very strong opinions exasperated by social media.

Turning now to the workplace. Teams who thrived together not only throughout the working week, but socially afterwards. Consider companies like Zappos or Southwest airlines who have relied on the culture developed by teamwork to deliver outstanding service and set them apart from their competition. Our colleagues who work with gusto knowing that a vacation is ‘just around the corner’ and thinking of the sand between their toes and the sun at their back. (Suddenly going to the supermarket can be the biggest adventure you might experience all year!)

Many colleagues will have worked through the change curve as companies have moved into a ‘working from home’ culture. The devastation at the start, how will my IT work? how will I manage remotely? who is there to help and support me? Who will I talk to?

Then in the middle, this is great, I can work to my own schedule, I can make a brew when I like, I have no commute and look at the money I am saving for my lunch. To suddenly, I haven’t left the house all week. There is no differentiation between work and home, it’s all just home. My personal space is now intruded by my work and my interactions are all on video.

There is so much time we could spend considering the emotional impacts on individuals, to name a few:

  • Fathers missing the birth of their children due to hospital restrictions

  • Family members sadly passing away and no opportunity to ‘say goodbye’

  • ·Children missing the most critical social time where they should be learning how to engage and interact

  • Burnout – Covid Fatigue

  • Major surgeries being deferred where the long term impacts of this are still being realised

  • Increase in depression and anxiety, especially for those who live on their own

  • Redundancy or Furlough

The reality is we just do not know how this will play out over the next few years, Will we 'just ‘get back to normal'?

I honestly don’t think so, some of this culture is transformational.

Will we ever work together as teams again or will the new agile culture put an end to that? Will we trust getting back on that plane and flying for our vacations? Will masks become a permanent fixture as it does already in some parts of the world? How will our communities come back together as we can see ‘be kind’ has certainly not been at the forefront of everyone’s heart and mind. For those who have learned to be ‘solo beings’ will they ever truly be comfortable back in company again?

So many questions and we don’t have the answers, but we do have a responsibility for sure.

Open your eyes to how people around you are feeling. Listen, love and support - help others on their journey. As a line manager take the time to care. Colleagues tell us they will give you more loyalty and commitment if they truly believe you value them. As part of the community whether virtually or physically remember we are all in this together. While we read it repeatedly and probably now are a little immune to the impact of it, we genuinely do not know what someone else is going through, so be kind, always.

And finally – consider educating yourself. Absolutely we don’t have the answers but there is help and guidance we can turn to which will ensure we are in the best position possible to support and help others, whatever their experience. Simply doing nothing with what we are facing is no longer enough.

Link to Mental Health

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