The oak tree

All Change; Next Stop, “New Normal”

May 6, 2021
Paula Paterson

Adapting in the Covid-19 landscape

During the Covid lockdown I have had a weekly “whine…with wine” on Microsoft Teams with a friend I have known for more decades than I would care to put into print. We were partners in crime as University Students and our chosen degrees (Psychology and Sociology) made for deeply philosophical conversations about the human condition.  Not much has changed beyond the years and distance, as I have discovered because of the pandemic, as our “whine...with wine” is as philosophical a conversation now, as it was then.  If it had not been for lockdown, Teams and Zoom would have remained an occasionally used business tool, but through isolation, loneliness, and the need to connect with other human beings, it has become a well-used lifeline.  A “Sign of the Times, to quote the Purple Prince.

One of the topics that is never far away in our ‘chats’ is the changing landscape Covid-19 has presented, and as we are gently released from lockdown, our adaptation to the “new normal”.  The question is what is the “new normal”?  I think this has been an important question while easing the lockdown restrictions, because Covid-19 is still present and poses a real risk in our daily lives. There is the continued recommendation to work from home where possible, socially distance, maintain fastidious hand cleanliness and recently to wear a face mask.  Gradually schools are reopening, as is industry and the ‘kick starting’ of the economy, whilst remaining conscious of the Covid-19 presence and our responsibility to abide by, what appear to be, relatively simple rules. The “new normal” is how we move out of the “enforced lockdown”, which has either been as the result of government recommendations to stay home, self-isolation or shielding due to age or existing health issues, into….what?  The magical 2 metres (or in some sectors 1 metre plus), hand washing and now face coverings in congested areas is the key.

My most recent experience of this, as is most peoples, has been grocery shopping.  The numbers entering the premises are managed to alleviate congestion, there are hand gels and sanitisers on entering (for you and your trolley), and a one way system that guides you around the aisles, with 2 metres marked out on the floor with tape, for those who don’t know what 2 metres looks like…and of course, a face covering   This has now been extended into other retail outlets as they open, and the larger shopping centres.  There are staff there to ensure the guidelines are followed at the point of entering the supermarket with a quick ‘induction’, and once inside, to make sure the rules are adhered to.  The ‘strangeness’ of this has been a challenge.  The lack of freedom to make choices even more so.

For the “new normal” to be successful, and for us to be successful in it, we need to rise to the challenge of change, and respond by taking ownership of our own decisions and behaviours. There isn’t always tape marking out 2 metres on the floor, or someone there to guide us through a one-way system and we are, most definitely, creatures of habit. We take some emotional comfort in them, but they also require less cognitive engagement and energy.  Our brains are just ‘wired’ that way, quite literally, as neural pathways are established when habits are formed.  Changing habits takes effort; a conscious effort that requires energy, presence, and mindfulness to make the change and form new habits.  The Change Curve (Kubler-Ross) depicts the typical stages, and challenges people go through when faced with change; and boy are we facing change!  The Change Curve was developed in the 1960s but has a relevance and poignancy currently. It’s a way of understanding how people, and organisations, experience and respond to change, but also gives us insight into how we can manage ourselves through change by recognising and accepting the emotions associated with each stage, both for ourselves and others. In organisations, this is particularly relevant for leadership, who are both the catalyst for change, but have responsibilities in offering guidance and support in the ‘breaking and making’ of habits, whilst being attentive to wellbeing.

I recognise the earlier stages illustrated in the Change Curve in myself, but also what I have seen in others and on the news, nationally and globally, but as we are gradually released from the restrictions of lockdown, we will need to move into the Change Curve’s  ‘Experiment’ phase and try to understand what the “new normal” means.  To some extent we have, and the success of this has been variable.    Industry is beginning to prepare itself for the “new normal” by creating more space between desks, installation of Perspex screens, hand washing and sanitising facilities, potentially more people working from home, and less people on site or in offices.  Some of the ‘barriers’will be visible, but some will be in adapted or new rules and procedures.  There is no room for ‘casual compliance’, so as individuals we need to take responsibility for our own decisions and behaviours.  We know what 2 metres looks like, we know how to effectively wash our hands, when to put on a face covering and we know to self-isolate if we experience symptoms or have been contacted through the track and trace (or track and protect) systems.  We need to apply this, diligently; as our livelihoods, and quite frankly lives, may depend on it until the coronavirus is eradicated or no longer presents a threat.

But there are going to be industries that will find this more challenging, such as travel, hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars.   As a visitor to client premises, how will we be welcomed and guided? We have knowledge of the “core rules”, but how will individual organisations apply these?  There will be ‘nuances’ that we will need to understand and comply with. Communication and dialogue will be key, prior to visits, during inductions, and welcoming continued guiding and supportive conversations to ensure the “rules” are adhered to.  So not only will our behaviours and decisions need to acknowledge the “new normal”, but the application of skills and attributes such as discipline, leadership, emotional intelligence, and communication to manage ourselves and other’s we will interact with.  

At FidesOak® we have recognised that our own ways of working will ‘look different’.  We have embraced technology using both Teams and Zoom, but also a technology platform that allows us to facilitate ‘virtual’ workshops and online coaching.  We have formed staff working “bubbles” and complete coronavirus exposure questionnaires prior to operational site visits. It continues to be a challenging time for so many businesses, however there is a growing appetite to get our economy moving again and critical to this will be creating a working environment where our colleagues and clients feel safe. We will continue to support our Clients so use our eminence and insight to help you find solutions.   Trust that ‘we have got this’.  We are creative, innovative, experienced, and ‘up for the challenge’ to get you through this.

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