Few people expect to return to the same life they lived before the global onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. Has the way that we work changed for ever? Will we ever shake hands with a stranger with confidence again?
What life might be like after lockdown is being described as the “new normal,” and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this week’s #MTtalk.
Please Join Us!
When: May 22, 1 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. GMT; 10:30 p.m. IST)
Topic: The New Normal
“If all that we see are the scattered pieces of ‘what was,’ the story of ‘what is yet to be’ will never be told.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough, U.S. author and counselor.
Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes you’re afraid of things that don’t exist – like the monster that lived under your bed when you were a child [editor’s note: nope, I’m telling you that thing was real!].
Fear can also masquerade as a jealous ex: it wants you to cling to the past and not face a future filled with new possibilities. Of course, fear is also an important warning system, shouting, “Get out now!” At other times it just says, “Stop and think.”
Journeying Into the New Normal
We are all familiar with our pre-pandemic world. We had our routines around the things we did and the places we went.
For most people, going to work meant going somewhere other than our own home. We went to the gym, met with friends, went to coffee shops, hugged one another warmly, and shook hands with strangers.
For now, that is gone. Going to work likely means opening a computer on our kitchen table, if we even have a job to “go” to. We avoid crowds and distance ourselves from friends. We wouldn’t dream of touching a stranger, and our regular coffee shop visits have come to a grinding halt.
What was known, has become unknown. And although humans are good at pushing boundaries, it’s always uncomfortable at first. But eventually, what was “beyond” and “unthinkable” will become the new normal.
What Is Normal?
Normal is now, and normal is yesterday, but it’s not necessarily tomorrow.
I like this explanation of “normal,” that I found on vocabulary.com: “If something conforms to a general pattern, standard, or average, we describe it as normal, but of course that standard can change over time. What is normal today may be “abnormal” in the future.
As they say, normal can indeed change over time. It changes when what “is” becomes obsolete, unacceptable, irrelevant, or impractical.
It changes when we find new ways of doing old things. It changes when “we’ve always done it that way” is no longer the best way. And sometimes it changes without warning, and fast.
What If the New Normal Is Better!
One question I asked myself a few times over the past few weeks is, “Do I actually want things to go back to the ‘old normal’?” Although I would obviously not want people to lose their jobs, their businesses or their health, I don’t think I’d like a complete return to what we had before.
Previously, I did part of my work from home, but I also gave face-to-face lectures at university. The pandemic forced me to re-write my modules as online courses, so now I do all my work from home. And I love it!
I want children to go to school, to learn and socialize. But I also want them to enjoy the depth of connection with their parents or caregivers that they may have lacked pre-pandemic. I hope we’ll see more of that in the new normal.
A daily commute can be a positive experience. But is it really necessary five days a week, if we can work from home? Wouldn’t going to the office perhaps two days a week give us more quality time with ourselves and our families? And it’d be much more environmentally friendly, too!
Keep the Compassion
We’ve seen care and compassion rise to remarkable levels. People are supporting one another physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I’d love that to remain.
In South Africa, where I live, we have a word: ubuntu. It means, “I am because you are.” It says that we cannot ignore others’ plight and be truly fulfilled and happy.
It’s like a human body: if one of your limbs is sore, the whole body knows it, and directs its energy and attention to healing that wound. I hope that’s part of the new normal for the body of humanity.
I hope that spirit of caring is part of our new normal.
The New Normal Twitter Chat
In our Twitter poll this week, we asked which area of life you think is going to change most in the new normal?
More than 60 percent of respondents voted for “how and where people work.” Only a few participants thought that our shopping habits will see the biggest change. You can see all the options and results, here.
We’d love you to participate in the chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:
- Can we go back to the old normal? Should we even try?
- What scares you about the new normal?
- How have you changed as a result of the pandemic?
- What habits have you adopted that you would like to keep?
- What are some lessons your community/workplace can take from this time?
- If you started with a blank page to create a new normal, what would you put on the page?
To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you to browse. (Note: some resources may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.)
Coping With Change
Coaching Through Change
Managing in a VUCA World
How to Keep Calm in a Crisis
Living With a Lack of Job Security
How Resilient Are You?
Surviving a Downturn
Back on Track
Dealing With Anxiety
How to Join Our #MTtalk
Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat.
To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hash tag #MTtalk in your responses.