As we settle into our third week of “stay home” quarantine, there is no shortage of advice, feedback, opinion and self-help blogs, posts, videos, live sessions and more to keep us informed and entertained. So, in writing this message, I’m not here to give you more advice on how to handle the current challenges of this pandemic situation (there are plenty of people doing that) or get into a rah-rah “we will get past this” message (tons of people doing that as well). Instead, I started thinking about the realities and lessons that are fast emerging out of this situation, and I’d like to share a few personal observations.
First, let’s all accept that online learning is officially having its moment. Yes, online education has been around for many years and tons of people have studied that way (and gotten online diplomas that led to great careers) – but with COVID 19, all learning moved to online and suddenly we see its true potential. Even the most antiquated school had to figure it out and provide their students with an online curriculum. This is a game-changer – not only for the education of kids of all ages as I’m experiencing with my children – but also for how businesses look at the education and development of our staff. As an agency with offices all over the country, we’ve always invested heavily in bringing our teams together to learn in person, which can be limiting. What this quarantine is revealing is that with the right systems in place, we can take learning to a whole new level, making it more consistent and collaborative than we realized was possible before. We’ve seen our teams sharing and collaborating at a whole new level through video conferencing. Co-viewing videos and following them with live discussions – no different than if we were all together in the same room – if anything, we are even more captive and less distracted. A new perspective on videoconferencing and its potential will allow businesses around the globe to improve training and onboarding processes, making them equally as efficient virtually as in person.
Next, our sense of community has shifted – for good. Our tribe has always been those in our proximity – our family, friends, co-workers, people we see regularly at our local workout class, neighbors, the baristas at our local coffee shop… We thrive on human connections. And, while social media has already conditioned us to “connecting” with complete strangers via digital platforms, this crisis has taken the digital community to a whole new level. Suddenly video platforms are making virtually every human interaction more meaningful without necessitating contact. From virtual happy hour with friends to a FaceTime call with a friend you rarely keep in touch with, to teachers having Zoom meetups with their students, we are all getting some sense of normalcy from what once might have seemed impersonal. Even workout communities have changed. This past weekend I took yet another class with a favorite instructor – live – along with dozens of other devotees (people from around the country that I’ve never met) and it felt like a community while we were all exercising in living rooms, back yards, bedrooms, hallways – feeling excitement, challenged together – as well as mutual disdain for the millionth ab crunch. It feels very personal as kids enter our video frames – laughing at our efforts – and we view of the inside of a stranger’s home. This is the new community – it’s bigger than ever, and the boundaries of how you can bring your community to a broader audience are starting to expand.
Finally – America is starting to cook. As a society, we love watching cooking shows and following chefs, cooks, and influencers that post recipes on Instagram; yet our own kitchens don’t get much chopping and sautéing action on a regular basis. With many restaurants closed and only some open for takeout, we’ve started cooking more for our families as we stay home. From making full breakfast with eggs and bacon on a daily basis to taco Tuesdays at home, and experimenting with complicated recipes that we’ve always wanted to try but never made the time, we’re trying it all. Personally – I’ve started baking. I’ve never been much of a baker (and have failed at it many times before). But with so much newly available time (no commuting and no living on an airplane as I always do), I’ve started trying out some recipes, and it’s been great; for the family that is – not so much for my waistline. Just like I am baking, many of my friends and people I see on social media have started experimenting with food and having fun. My hope is that we’ll come out of this with a renewed appreciation for the art of cooking and the simple pleasure of food made from scratch. It can be centering and rewarding for ourselves and our families, and let’s not forget fun.
While I know that being home 24/7, changing our schedules, living without hugging our closest friends, and without access to our place of business may have started out as trying, I do believe that this experience is going to reveal many lessons from which we will grow as humans and business professionals. We’ll come out of this with a new appreciation for life as we know it, improved methods of communication, and a regained sense of what community means to us.