The COVID-19 pandemic has turned most of our lives upside down. The streets are silent, businesses have collapsed and many of us are now in our sixth week of working from home.
It is a monumental change, but with change there is always opportunity. My conversations with clients and mentors in a range of sectors suggests that, as well as the challenges, this time has also prompted reflection. Considering how we deliver our services, run our businesses and respond to customers. Might we do things differently to improve our service or make it more efficient? At a personal level working in physical isolation has offered some people time to think about their careers and how they manage their teams. Mentoring and leadership programs encourage people to think and reflect on their careers, their strengths, their gaps and where they might need to change to achieve the life they want.
One of our mentors, Helen Darch, Managing Director of Nedhurst Consulting Group, puts it this way: “I’ve learned that crisis can disrupt in a positive way, that it can free people to innovate, and it can unleash the good in people. It’s a little like rotating the kaleidoscope in your hand – all the same ingredients are there, but you get to see things in a quite different way.”
Above all, the feedback I’ve heard suggests that – after the initial upheaval – many are enjoying the relative quiet and time for reflection and, particularly in the context of thousands losing their jobs, they are grateful for a role that they can do from home.
For Elloise Brady, Major Grants Executive of The Hunger Project, It has meant being able to stop the conveyor belt and be conscious of “how I show up and what I show up for”.
“I continue to learn far more from this change than I ever have before and will endeavour to make changes in my life that reflect the lifestyle I want to live,” Elloise says.
Similarly, for Helen, it has brought clarity about what is and isn’t important, and has freed her to focus on what really matters.
“It has sharpened my focus on pursuit of purpose as the driver of time and effort,” Helen says.
As a result, she feels she will be wiser, better prepared for crisis, with a clearer understanding of what matters and what doesn’t – including breakfast meetings, which she has enjoyed skipping!
Elloise has found the most difficult aspect is communication with her team, and the casual conversations, problem solving and immediate feedback from working with others. But at the same time, it’s had an outcome of more purposeful and concise conversations and a range of other positives, including no longer spending 2 hours a day commuting (with its associated stresses), and having greater work life balance, while at the same time feeling both more purposeful and more productive.
Interestingly, a poll conducted by Citrix found that 7 in 10 Australians working remotely report being at least as productive, if not more productive.
Most organisations have had policies about providing flexible work arrangements for many years, and yet the take up has often been minimal. The experience of the past few weeks has perhaps been the ultimate test that flexible arrangements can work and without exception, the feedback has been that we will see much more flexibility when we are out of the other end of the pandemic.
I’d be interested to hear your perspectives here on working during the pandemic – the highs and the lows – and advice you might want to share with others.
After all, we’re all in this together!
By Sophie McCarthy, Executive Director, McCarthy Mentoring