Adapting: Where Will We Be 1 Year From Now?
I am going to be careful not to state that we are entering a period of life after Covid-19.
Living Amongst Covid-19
If we are to believe anything, it might be that the Covid-19 coronavirus will live amongst us for years, and when I say years I mean decades, to come. Like flu, polio, mumps, measles and rubella and other diseases that scientists continue to understand and defeat in medicine.
We will live amongst Covid-19, knowing that we are protected against it in the main but perhaps our lives being touched by it without the fear that has been felt over the last 12 months because until very recently, in the last couple of months, there was nothing to fight it.
It almost seemed humans were ‘sitting ducks’ and we had adapted to a life as we never knew: one of shelter from other humans, with no contact.
So how are we going to adapt to this new life of living amongst this disease, having been locked down for extended periods?
It was a mental challenge for most being locked down, feeling their liberties were taken away, their education was disrupted and most of all, their loved ones missed.
It was really hard but it might be, for some, easier to look back and realise how resilient they were and how they adapted to the huge changes enforced on them that has created a new type of ‘normal’ (what is ‘normal’?!). Strange Times Call for Resilience
We have come a long way in a year. We have adapted in ways which we knew were not possible.
My real fear, which I have maintained throughout the pandemic, is how people will adapt when ‘this is all over’. And by that, I mean now. I know it’s not over, however, we have been provided a ‘roadmap out of lockdown’, and now we shall need to adapt like nothing we have ever known. Again.
Why should it be any different? After all, humans can adapt, we have evolved by adapting to change.
The truth is this. Humans adapt because they have to, not because they necessarily want to.
We are naturally creatures of habit and once something works for us we are more likely to stick to it, whether that is a system or process, a belief or value.
10 Habits to Start in 2021 Will life, as we knew it, ever be the same?
I don’t believe it can be. We have gone too far, evolved if you like, for us to ‘snap out of’ what we have adapted to.
1. Returning to Work
The biggest question of returning to work will be answered by companies’ leaders.
Is it realistic to expect and enforce employees to be at their desks at a certain time for a set number of hours each day now?
After all, the majority of people have worked longer hours from home, juggling more than they have done before with home-schooling, family care, caring for sick relatives, collecting deliveries, they may have had poor internet connection, mentally and physically enforced isolations and other stresses that have presented themselves whilst trying to be visible in their career to ensure they continuing to develop.
I am interested to see how it might work for companies if they adopt a dictatorial attitude to employees ‘being seen’ five days a week in an office; after it has been proven that is not necessarily mandatory for people to be in an office environment full time in order for them to get on with their work and be effective (provided the systems and human resource management processes are adequate).
There will of course be a school of people that prefer being in an office, probably those seeking career development, enjoy the social interaction with their colleagues or those that find managing people virtually a challenge.
The other group might find themselves more productive at home, in which people feel more fulfilled in both their professional and personal lives.
I would recommend a hybrid way of working that is mutually agreed to allow everybody to work productively where many ‘wins’ will benefit both employers and employees.
2. Working from Home
Those used to working remotely or virtually from home might believe it will be easy to revert to what they are used to, however, I have no doubt that no matter how much we, as parents, know the best place for our children is school, the lack of buzz, excitement and general noise will be something that will make life feel a lot quieter around the house during the day.
Together with the absence of debates about home schoolwork, our other halves might be returning to their usual place of work, leaving a definite silence behind.
Adapting to a much quieter environment from something we have become accustomed to will most certainly bring challenges to some, whether it is from a mental health perspective (perhaps in the form of a feeling of loneliness, insecurity or anxiety) or more practically, a lack of discipline because the accountability partners have returned to their paths.
Although those that have worked from home successfully before the pandemic, I believe that returning to working in exactly the same way as before March 2020 will prove more challenging for many reasons. Most people have lived, breathed, eaten and worked in close proximity with others for a year and that is bound to have a lasting effect on them.
We have learnt a lot about our family that we live with during the last year.
A huge learning curve that has highlighted individuals’ strengths, weaknesses and just plain flaws.
It has taken a significant amount of tolerance, empathy, understanding and honesty to live harmoniously together indoors with little escapism possible.
External relationships have also been tested.
Friendships may change in that they may have strengthened or weakened due to the lack of ‘in person’ interaction.
Some friendships may show their worth if little communication has taken place but they have not suffered.
Relationships within the workplace will need to adapt as privacy is often kept between colleagues and the differing experiences and beliefs of the pandemic will undoubtedly present themselves through the behaviour of people.
Social interactions in general, with strangers, are likely to change.
I had hoped that, if nothing else, people would show each other more patience and humility, akin to how people treated each other at the start of the pandemic and during the first lockdown, in which strangers on their daily walk smiled at one another or said ‘Hello’ as they passed.
It appears that people are beginning to revert to their previous ‘out for themselves’ ways as I sadly witness people shouting and beeping at one another from cars or ramming their supermarket trollies in front of others as shelves are carefully being restocked.
I wish I had been right, believing things had changed and that we had learnt to treat each other better but I tend to agree with a few people that I have spoken with that, as things return to how we knew it, people will revert to their ways and that the positive adaptations were only temporary.
4. Mental Health
Mental health, for me, is the biggest concern.
It is not in a human’s programming to live the isolated and intangible way we have for the last year.
Whilst this blog would serve mental health an injustice if I was to discuss the subject here (it deserves to be well-considered before writing about it) the toll on people’s mental health is significant.
The first lockdown sent the majority of people into a spin with their mental health being negatively affected. Adapting to a life in which they may have felt their liberty was taken away, the human touch couldn’t be felt, their living and working conditions were compromised and even amenities were a challenge to obtain all made for the biggest adaptation required that this generation has ever known.
Mental health charities have been overwhelmed as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and have found that there have been a higher number of people, not diagnosed with a mental health problem, that have sought help.
The Centre for Mental Health’s Briefing reports the findings clearly and from my take on it, although it may be challenging for people to accept the adaptations required, it is important to note they are not alone in how they feel and the experiences they have faced because a significant number of people have felt exactly the same.
How Mental Health Charities are Responding to Covid-19
So now that everyone has adapted to a life of lockdown, people begin to face the challenges that present themselves when adapting to a life that is slowly easing from lockdown.
For me, this is the biggest test for society.
Adapting to something that might never be the same is new and unknown once again.
We know we can adapt - we have done it.
How we adapt to life during coronavirus whilst living our lives outside lockdown (for now), I believe, will be affected by how behaviours of people change.
Employers, employees, family, friends - just like going into the very first lockdown, none of us knew how different people would react and behave.
I still speak with people who do not watch the news for fear of what they might learn and how their mental health will be affected.
The challenges faced a year ago will be different from the challenges that we adapt to now.
Whether it is heightened anxiety, more focused obsessiveness or a deep rooted depression coming out of lockdown into another unknown will surface for some. Mental health challenges will present themselves in a variety of ways for a range of people at differing times.
We are different now. People’s views and behaviours may have changed. Outlooks may have altered.
It is now our challenge to adapt to one another as we get on with living amongst coronavirus.
Government website: Covid 19 Response Summary (Spring 2021) - Roadmap out of Lockdown
BBC Worklife Article: How the World of Work May Change Forever
The Health Foundation Blog: Emerging Evidence on Covid 19's Impact on Mental Health
How Mental Health Charities are Responding to Covid-19
Adapting to a new way of working may be just what will kickstart your business. AKA Virtual Assistant would welcome the opportunity to help.
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