According to research, it takes an average of 66 days to change a habit. It just so happens that most of us have been under Stay at Home Orders for approximately this amount of time. Here’s a look at some of the things that have changed:
1. Working from home finally earns the respect it deserves! There is less stigma attached to working from home. Many of our employees will never fully return to the office and we are not only accepting of this, but encouraging it. Aside from the initial transition, productivity is up, and we have developed improved ways to measure this.
2. Innovation acceleration and the acceptance of automation: We have possessed certain technical capabilities for nearly a decade, that simply were never accepted by our industry partners. Now, necessity being the mother of invention, we have moved years ahead in only two months! Perhaps having developed the ability to adapt and change is the real milestone that will continue to fuel us forward, as opposed to the innovations themselves.
3. The office environment will never be the same. After having completed a renovation at our Minnesota headquarters, we will be making a round of adjustments, aimed at prioritizing social distancing and safeguarding the health of our employees and their families. Policies will adapt to ensure that our priority is on accomplishing the business goals while accommodating a broad range of diverse employee needs.
4. The death of office politics? Maybe not, but have my people-leader colleagues noticed that there has been a real decline in complaints and HR issues? Some of this may be driven by the in-office experience, but this is not the whole picture. People seem more focused on what is truly important, more engaged in their work and invested in the outcomes.
5. The planet is thriving. A worldwide decline in human activity is helping to heal the planet. This will be a short-term benefit, but provides strong evidence for those who may have doubted that our actions do make a difference. Will there be more willingness to embrace sustainable change? Time will tell.
6. This has been a time for personal growth and improvement for many. Aside from the memes about weight gain and wine for lunch, many have taken the opportunity to assess and hit the reset button. It’s not too late to chart a better course! Many have realized that we cannot take good health for granted. This is something most of us will prioritize differently in the future.
7. We have become more comfortable in our own skin. It may be unrealistic to assert that we will never return to the salon, along with all of our beauty or personal grooming rituals, but we have become more comfortable in our own bare skin! The home hair color experiment may have been an epic fail for me, but many have succeeded, and who knows, I may rock the purple hair look someday, just not today. Perhaps we will be less reliant on those rituals and on the products that have proven detrimental effects on both our health and on the environment.
8. Shopping and spending habits have changed. It used to be that impulse buying was related to waiting in a checkout line. Now, we are spending less in almost all categories. For some, however, impulse shopping has gone digital. Did I really need those spring shoes, especially in light of the fact that I’m not going anywhere anytime soon?!
9. Who knew you could cook like that?! People are cooking again. Recipes and meal preparation tutorials are among the top Google searches. Mealtime has become what it was in a bygone era, when it was normal to sit together as a family, to share the evening meal and discuss the day’s events.
10. We no longer need to go out for most needs. The gym has been replaced with jogging, online classes, long hikes, power walks and basic free weights that were former dust collectors. Workout equipment is sold out everywhere. If you were thinking of getting a treadmill or elliptical, good luck. Will we ever go back to the publicly used equipment and group sweat?
11. Patriotism has taken on new meaning. The flag has become less about politics and identity, but a symbol of enduring determination that knows no border. Each of us are united in a common cause. The life and health of our communities has become a top priority. Healthcare workers, truck drivers, the rail industry, retail workers, airlines and mail service carriers - thank you for your service.
12. Basic human goodness is on display. People helping neighbors has become the norm. Donations to food banks and other organizations helping those in need are up! In most communities, it used to be that we rarely, if ever spoke to our neighbors. Now, people make it a point to say, “Hey - how are you? Are you ok? You need anything?” Random acts of kindness are also reportedly up.
13. Shining a light on our societal issues: We now have greater awareness of problems that have been there for far longer than this crisis. Domestic violence, mental health, senior care. We must do better in all of these areas. The state of long-term care homes and how we’re caring for society’s most vulnerable is finally on the radar. We should expect to see policies rewritten to ensure the health and safety of families, to protect our senior citizens and to emphasize mental health.
14. The realization that politics is for mature adults only: Facts matter. Expertise matters. We are no longer interested in being entertained or admiring your socks. We expect you to know what you’re doing because we realize, now more than ever, that our lives are in your hands.
15. The marshmallow test: We are all getting better at foregoing immediate gratification in favor of a greater, long-term benefit. Our collective ability to focus further down the mountain is improving! Whether it’s the stock market, retirement goals or other milestones, we are embracing more strategic thinking to offset short-term losses.
16. We suddenly realized we don’t know everything! We are seeing value and learning from the past with a greater sense of humility. In the 1950’s, social distancing was a norm during the polio epidemic. In 1952, over 60,000 American children had become infected with this virus that left many of its victims paralyzed. In that year alone, over 3,000 died. If we look to the past, we will find those who will share their experience with us. This is not new, it’s just new to most of us who have never lived through anything like it.
17. Communication has improved. Having a conversation, hearing someone’s voice and seeing their face has become exponentially more valuable. We have a thirst for information and for reassurance. With this in mind, more regular, accurate and timely communication have become essential to running our businesses. We are not in the same physical space at work, and as people-leaders, this means we cannot see and hear what is going on around us. Inherently, we must put forth a greater effort to engage the team.
18. Closing the diversity gap: There has never been a time in our work lives where what you look like matters less, with more emphasis on experience, results and the ongoing ability to get the job done! Hours of work have less relevance than ever before, making it more possible to achieve work-life-balance. Many feel that this will be an ongoing expectation, long after the dust settles.
19. Business travel may never be the same. In-person meetings have always been considered best, but do we really need to travel across the country or across the border for that meeting? Prioritization of legitimate business needs, and our newfound comfort with using technology may make business travel less prevalent in the future. Another advantage of reduced travel is the associated cost reduction and benefits for the environment.
Only time will tell, whether or not we continue to make the best of these opportunities, beyond current circumstances and well beyond this list! I look forward to revisiting it from a vantage point much further down the mountain.
Wishing you well,
Jennifer J. Toal