2020 has been easy for no one. Between the global pandemic, national systemic racism and injustices finally coming to the forefront, and being an election year on top of it, it’s hard to get a handle on it all.
Someday, this pandemic will be behind us. Although it’s difficult to imagine right now, we will someday return to the office or be able to see our friends and family. Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought and reflected on what I’d like to remember and take with me from this stay-at-home order. 2020, while one of the strangest years, will always be that year that we all re-set. It will be a year we talk about and say “remember when?” Hopefully, we are learning and growing and becoming better people from this year. Believe it or not, whether personally or professionally, there’s surprisingly a good amount of habits or ways of thinking that I hope are here to stay.
What I’m Taking from Quarantine – Professionally
Separation of Work and Home Life: I know that I am in the majority at Coyne when I say, I take work home. A lot. Sometimes it’s because there’s just not enough hours in a day, sometimes it’s because I want to get ahead of a looming deadline, and sometimes it’s because I need to think on my drive home before I can be creative again. Whatever the reason, it happens, and while none of us will ever avoid working at home, even when we’re back at the office, there are ways to not let it affect every aspect of your home life.
When this stay-at-home order began, I had my desk set up perfectly in my bedroom. It was great, and pretty, and useful to have everything in one place. But it quickly became a disaster for me, for a few reasons: mail, scraps of paper, and other clutter would collect on my desk during the day; I’d have breakfast, lunch and dinner at this desk; and most importantly, it was a few feet away from my bed. I legitimately wasn’t sleeping at night, which in the overall context of what was happening in the world, isn’t uncommon, but for me it was more than that. It was that I stared at the desk all day long, and it was looming there every night, so there was no separation in my mind between work and my personal space.
After my mom (why are mothers always right?) suggested moving my desk out of my bedroom to separate the space, I didn’t think it would do any good. However, it made ALL the difference. Now, with the desk in my living room overlooking windows, I’ve slept 100% better since then. Moral? Moms are magic, but separating work and home is super important for our overall well-being, and I plan to never take work into my bedroom, even once we’re back in the office.
Video Conference Calls: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I think video calls are here to stay. Have you ever been on a conference call and said, “Oops, sorry – no, you go!” Yup, me too. While video calls certainly aren’t bulletproof (see Colleen’s Bingo in this post), there’s a cadence to them that’s easier than most conference calls, where there are 17 people on (because, WFH) and you’re not quite sure if you should jump in or not. With video, the flow seems clearer, and there’s less confusion on who should be speaking.
Visualization matters, too. This Forbes article explains that “humans process visual information far faster and more capably than text or audio,” because of the way that our brains work. It makes sense from a business perspective, too: being able to read facial expressions can make us better presenters; it allows us to pivot to a different topic if we are losing our audience; and connecting with clients, potential clients and our co-workers “face-to-face” allows for better relationships overall. My hope is that where it makes sense, we consider video calls even beyond quarantine – whether to discuss business with someone who is traveling or an important client presentation.
Understanding: This is a little less about just me, and more about what I hope we as a society take from this crazy time: I hope we all keep this sense of understanding. I personally love seeing everyone’s kids, pets, and living situations at home; it’s an excellent reminder that we are all human beings doing the best we can. Where many co-workers, clients or vendors may have been annoyed before, we’ve seen this surge of understanding and sympathy for those that may not have a perfect WFH set-up (who does?!) and it warms my heart to see the compassion we are showing one another in the face of an impossible situation. We are all lucky to be in the position we are in, and once this stay-at-home order is lifted, I hope we don’t lose sight of that.
What I’m Taking from Quarantine – Personally
Cooking daily: Spoiler alert: I’m no Computer Mark, our resident IT guru and world-renowned* chef. I’m so far from Computer Mark it’s laughable. Before this quarantine, I barely cooked. I CAN cook, I largely choose not to; whether I was getting home from work too late (a story many of you can relate to) or not wanting to make a mess (anyone?), I’d make the bare minimum I’d need to eat somewhat healthily, but the rest of the time it’s takeout or something super easy to whip up. What can I say, I’m more of a baker. But this time at home has forced me to hone my cooking skills, so that I’m not blowing all of the great money I’m saving into takeout (while still supporting small businesses periodically!). However, now that we’re all at home, what do I care if I make a mess? I have more time to clean it up. A new recipe? Sure, what else am I doing on a Sunday afternoon? It’s good for my confidence in the kitchen and I’m crossing my fingers I can keep these skills post-COVID.
Taking daily walks: I used to run, and now I don’t. And besides the occasional “power-walk” with my mom on the weekends, I’m not a huge walker, either. No one likes cardio, right? But the biggest separation between the “work day” and “starting my evening” has been a nightly walk. It clears my mind, gets my blood pumping, and allows me to decompress. I know I’m not alone in this, either, but it is a habit I’m hoping to continue in the coming months – whether at the office or not, fresh air can sometimes be the perfect remedy to a tough day, and I’ve often come back from a walk with a different perspective, or ready to tackle one more task before I call it a day.
Slowing Down: We all move at hyper-speed most days. Whether answering client emails first thing in the morning, rushing kids out the door for the school bus, or simply racing through our days to get to the weekend. While this time is far from ideal, we are all making the best of it. A lot of us are doing so by being forced to slow down our entire lives. As a type-A planner (most of Coyne raises hand), this time is impossible. There is no planning except for a day or two in front of us. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Perhaps focusing on the present day – whether what are we doing for our clients RIGHT NOW is the right strategic approach, or how can I help my physical or mental health TODAY, is just what we need.
As public relations professionals, gracefully pivoting when an unexpected situation arises is in our nature – whether scrambling at an event, adjusting during a new business presentation, or how we interact with clients, we automatically know when we need a new game plan. This creative mind shift is something that we all can take from this time – and we already have the skills to be able to conquer it head on, post-pandemic.
We’d love to hear from some of you on social media (@CoynePR!): What do YOU hope to take from quarantine?