Here we go. We are about to hunker down to do the right thing for society as a whole. What will this feel like? How can we make this go as smoothly as possible for our collective physical & mental health, spirit and economy? What can we learn from others?
While it’s hard to say exactly what lies ahead, the thing that may help the most will be nurturing our connections in this time of separation.
A good friend and former colleague from Turkey who experienced American life as a student in Boston once told me, “In Turkey, the people work well together because the public systems don’t function as well. We have to rely on each other. In America, the people don’t have to work as closely together because the public systems function well.”
Well, here we are. As Americans, we now need to rely on each other as our system, faced with an immediate threat, is off to a tough start. This structural struggle to keep a new threat at bay means we must now adjust the most basic ways we go about our daily lives.
Connecting feels very important here. It is the fabric of resilience.
In our personal lives, connections create an essential support system in times of trouble. We can share ideas, information and physical things with loved ones, friends, neighbors and strangers. If you look at bare toilet paper shelves, sharing may not always be the first human instinct, but it really matters now.
As in any emergency, we can thank our first responders. Health care providers are risking their own and their families’ health for the common good. They’re under a lot of stress and involved in a marathon, not a sprint. Connections help them.
Connections are key in our professional lives as well. Working with large events and college campuses, our company needs to adjust existing programs while shifting emphasis to our digital platforms. To optimize our response, we can’t just see this through an immediate revenue lens. We need to help brand partners adjust their plans wisely and empathize with their personal concerns. We need to protect our vendors. In times of disruption, we need to mutually rely on our connections, and in so doing, we can build them stronger.
Leaders need to ensure employees feel enabled to make healthy choices and have the support structure they need. Younger employees haven’t experienced a recession. Older and immunocompromised employees have more health risks. Providing a clear path to professional success while lending a comforting hand for personal challenges is an essential balance. If we do both well, we will strengthen company culture.
Adding to the challenge, we also now need to pause our traditional routines to monitor scientific news, connect with health professionals and integrate learnings into our professional and personal decision-making. Our responsibilities have quickly expanded. Maybe we can even advocate for better overall solutions.
If we are proactive, creative, deliberate and open-eyed, times of change are great opportunities to generate insights that lead to valuable longer-term strategic ideas.
We need to do all of this while getting ready to battle a fever we all will get: cabin fever.
This is not good, but good can come of this. We’ll be more prepared as a society for the next pandemic. We can reconnect to nature, to ourselves and to others. Take a hike. Read a book. Help a kid create a video for a grandparent. Call a friend.
I hear my kids having a difference of opinion downstairs. Ready, set, I need to go. The cabin calls.