When we look back to 2020 at some point in the future, each of us will recall moments or sustained periods of significant challenge, uncertainty and perhaps even personal loss. Hopefully, we will also recall some of the positives that we took from the last six months.
As a nation we have shown that we can come together in times of crisis. We have largely followed new rules, adapted our social and working lives and generally made the sacrifices required of us during this unprecedented situation. We have cared for our elderly, looked out for our neighbours and supported our vulnerable members of society. We have identified a new found respect for those who put their lives, quite literally, on the line for us and have enabled us to carry on – often those that have not had the recognition that they deserve in the past.
We have shown incredible agility and innovation – erecting Nightingale Hospitals in a matter of weeks and quickly assembling teams to work on vaccinations at unprecedented speed. The commercial world has reacted similarly, with the likes of Burberry switching production from high-end fashion to personal protective equipment and JCB re-opening factories to build medical ventilators.
In our working lives we have also had to show a similar adaptability, a need to respond to the changing world around us. We have had to find a new way of working – often a virtual one. Perhaps surprisingly, this remote way of communicating has led to a new intimacy in our working relationships. Through Zoom meetings and conference calls we have gained a new insight into the lives of our colleagues and employees and have perhaps gained a new respect for those dealing with illness, caring for elderly relatives or juggling home schooling with the demands of the office. This empathy will hopefully remain with us as we emerge from the pandemic with a better understanding of our teams and their individual needs and situations.
We have had to embrace new technologies. And to do so quickly. Before lockdown, very few had even heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams. We have had to work with new systems and applications, often taking on tasks we have never encountered before.
Many of us have also used this period at home as an opportunity to upskill ourselves – enrolling on online courses or attending (virtually) the myriad of webinars and presentations on topics close to our heart. Perhaps this ‘lockdown learning’ will be the start of a continuous period of personal development as we seek to further develop new knowledge and skills?
We have had to sharpen our problem-solving skills as we navigate the maze of ever-changing rules and regulations, thinking of ways to keep our employees safe and well yet also trying to deliver our professional responsibilities. And it has not just been the physical safeguarding of our employees that we have had to contend with. Never before has the need to observe and maintain good mental health been so pertinent. As well as providing comfort and reassurance for our colleagues, we have had to motivate, inspire and encourage them during days of back-to-back Teams calls and through some very complex challenges.
But there have also been flashes of light in the shadows. The warmer side of ‘lockdown life’. Those early humorous video conferences where no one knew how to un-mute themselves, the rainbows in every window, the Thursday night ‘Clap for Carers’, the joy of eating together as a family again. Some of us have had the opportunity to fundamentally shift the balance between ‘work’ and ‘life’. Humility, gratitude and a sense of perspective are all gifts we may want to hold on to.
In addition, we may have discovered hidden talents – either for ourselves or our work colleagues. Who knew that Phil from HR baked such amazing cakes? That Amira in accounts volunteered for a food bank or that Greg in IT was such a fantastic wildlife photographer? Again, hopefully, we will emerge with a greater understanding of those around us and their capabilities and ambitions.
So, in summary, agility, innovation, empathy, resilience, creativity, personal-development, gratitude and appreciation have all been evident during the last few months. If we continue to embrace and display these skills and qualities we shall be laying a strong foundation to allow us to cope with whatever challenges lie ahead. What will be your lockdown legacy?
Martin Tucker is managing partner of Faerfield, specialists in executive search, interim management and board development