The month of March marks exactly one year of having navigated and lived through the global pandemic. And while it can be unsettling to realize that for the past 12 months, every aspect of our lifestyles has changed, there are still areas that glimmer with genuine positivity.
When I was tasked with taking a people-first approach for this blog, I was asked whether my experience of the past year helped me change for better? At first, I thought, ‘aren’t we all just in survival mode?’ but as I reflected on the question, I began to see that in fact I have been changed by this experience.
Like most people, family, health and stability have always been my top priorities. But, as the effects of the pandemic began to unfold, I began to value these aspects of my life more so than ever.
Before the pandemic, my lifestyle was very much a different affair. My work schedule was a hybrid model comprising of one to two days working from home and the remainder of the week in the office. The days that I was in the office, my commute would take up to four hours a day (yes four!). It sounds ludicrous now, but back then, a commute of four hours was normal for me. Combined with other commitments outside work, I realized that I treated my home like a hotel – only returning at night to sleep.
According to statistics from PWC Canada, I am part of the35% that found themselves more productive working remotely full time. This in part can be attributed to two factors. First, as a self-confessed workaholic I suddenly discovered more time was available to focus while at home. Second, my mindset began to shift. After months of living through what felt like a better work-life balance for me, I began to realize that my life pre-COVID was a rat-race like existence. Subconsciously I was always mindful that there was always something outstanding when it came to both my time and my responsibilities. This frenetic feeling of urgency slowly began to dissipate as time passed.
This shift in mindset and I guess my overall outlook began to filter into other areas of my life. Previously I had little to no interactions with my neighbours (because I was never home). With the arrival of summer, we began to slowly start engaging in outdoor activities in our local area.
My neighbours were on the same page. After months of being stuck indoors, everyone was suddenly spending more time outside and a sense of community began to emerge. We started doing more (socially distanced) activities like playing badminton, exchanging food, and sharing gardening tips. I was reminded of a more carefree time in my childhood where everyone in my neighbourhood knew one another.
While I admit that some areas of my life have changed for better, I cannot deny the reality and daily toil of having to socially isolate from others. Admittedly there are days where I find myself feeling like I’m either climbing the walls, or like there is no end in sight. But I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.
These struggles have very much been remedied by the combination of the right technologies and a strong peer network to help me feel both supported and connected. In fact, many new peer connections have been established entirely remotely. I often joke that my work best friend and I (although located on opposite sides of the country), have forged an entirely virtual friendship via Microsoft Teams.
In hindsight, our remote working conditions have inadvertently provided the opportunity for me to fully embrace the technologies that were always available. I have delved deeper into the functionalities of Microsoft Teams for collaborative working practices with my peers, as well as utilized Cloud solutions with no interruptions in my productivity regardless of how and where I work.
It’s no surprise that mental health has become a key priority for many organizations as they manage their workforce throughout the pandemic. According to Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey, organizations that actively support their employee’s life experience see a 23% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental health.
As an employee, I’ve always felt Ricoh has supported the health and wellbeing of their workforce. However, in the past year, I’ve noticed a concerted effort from the organization at large to regularly check in on their employees. I take comfort in both leadership and peers alike, who regularly make the time to check in and ask, “How are you getting on?” This simple question speaks volumes in supporting one another during, what has been, a difficult time for all.
I am thankful for the ways in which I’ve changed, for better in the last 12 months. I have begun to value the importance (and practice) of gratitude and am more considerate of the unique challenges others are facing on a personal level. And, as I’ve been forced to slow down I’ve learned to appreciate my home for more than just a place to rest my head at night.
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