We’re in the tunnel. The light draws closer each day. What does life look like as we begin to leave our 4 walls? Business and life will look different once we are able to fully engage post-COVID. Some things will return to the way they were, others will continue as they have for the last year, and a lot will look and feel a bit strange for a time.
For those who have traditionally worked from home, this COVID year has brought new opportunities. We have met people virtually that we never would have otherwise. We were forced to pivot or fold - to look beyond what was right in front of us, innovate, and do things differently or cease to exist.
So now after a year of Zooming, what continues in the digital realm, and what goes back to in-person? My feeling is that some in-person will return, but for many situations, the convenience that a virtual work world provides is here to stay. The 6-step commute and yoga pants lend themselves to efficiency and productivity in a shorter period of time. But, of course, in-person interactions are engaging, revitalizing and provide an emotional boost. It is important that we strike a balance between the in-person and virtual worlds, because some live interaction is needed to build strong relationships and for the good of our mental health.
What will in-person events look like? The question is on everyone’s mind - here are my thoughts as we re-engage with humanity. For meetings, there should be a hybrid option available for those not ready to be around people. It may take a long time before everyone is comfortable being out in the world, and that’s ok. We’ve all approached this past year with different expectations, and we need to continue to support each other. For networking mixers and events, we need to be cognizant of others’ comfort levels when we do meet face-to-face. Can we hug? Do we shake hands? If you are facilitating, set the expectations ahead of time so that people attending know what’s expected and how to engage with others.
Remember, it’s a process. We shut down overnight last year; it was fast, startling, and shocking. Re-engagement will be a process as well, rolled out over a long period of time. Some of the changes that we’ve adopted will stay, some will fade away, but either way, it will be ok. We’ve learned a lot, struggled a bit, and celebrated the blessings of people and opportunities virtually.
As we continue to strive for the light at the end of the tunnel, remember to be patient with yourself and others. Re-engagement may take a while, so embrace experiences, find the good in everything, and enjoy the journey!