There come moments when the world actually changes from the way it was to the way it will be. It is almost impossible to identify those moments as they are occurring. We all suspect, though, that the Covid19 pandemic is one of those moments.
It’s been almost three months since the Covid19 emergency landed on our shores. Most of us have been in community lockdown for those months – working from home while taking care of our children and parents; going only on essential errands; washing our hands and our purchases; stocking up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, food. There have been no restaurants to eat at, no movies to go see, we have talked to our friends by phone or text; we have talked to our co-workers through Zoom. Zoom: a noun which has become a verb, a rare feat for any company, now joining the likes of Xerox and Google.
And underlying all this is the fear of what lies ahead for our health and the health of our loved ones, for our businesses, for our country, for the world as we have known it.
The changes we have already experienced are so dramatic that it is worth reflecting on what we have already learned. And, as we reflect on what we have learned, we may get a perspective on how we will navigate an unknown future.
We have already learned that we are more flexible and able to adapt than we imagined, developing new ways of doing things intuitively, taking each moment as it came, making decisions, seeing if they worked and changing if they didn’t. We have learned about new technologies that we didn’t know existed and learned how to implement them.
We have learned to trust each other and be kind to each other. We know that our co-workers are dealing with more than just the daily workload, because we are also dealing with more than our daily work, even when we are just working. And so, most of us have chosen to give each other more leeway, to be a little slower in completing assignments, a little more careful about checking for mistakes, a little kinder about supervising our subordinates.
We have begun to understand where our companies were weaker than we imagined, and stronger than we thought possible. We have understood that our co-workers have better ideas than we thought they could have, are more adaptable, and care more about the company than we ever imagined.
These lessons, if we remember them once things get better, will make our companies shine and our workplaces happier.
We know now where there was padding in our businesses and where we were just scraping by. We have begun to review our disaster plans, as none of us expected a worldwide, voluntary shutdown. We have begun to look at our business models and the structure of our companies. We have realized that years of financial benefits can be wiped out in months and the damage can be far beyond financial. We were struck by this as we watched the health system in the State of New York struggle with the influx of Covid19 cases and how little cushion was built into that critical system. We expect to see a re-evaluation of the way we structure our companies to make ourselves more resilient and one of the primary things that we will reconsider is the importance of centralization of our operations. Distributed operations are far more resilient than centralized operations.
We will continue to refine the work-from-home methods and processes because many will not want to go to a central location far from home. Others are waiting for the moments when the children can go to school and they can go back to work. If, however, a proportion of our teams decide to work from home for several days a week, we will have to develop methods to replicate the teamwork benefits when everyone is geographically together – celebrating successes; working on challenges together; thanking those who are retiring after distinguished careers; sharing pictures of weddings and children; contributing to birthday gifts; so much else.
There are moments when the world changes from the way it was and begins a journey to the way it will be. This is one of those moments and hard as it is, we are lucky to be part of it.
June 4, 2020