For many individuals, certainly the Gen Y and X faithful, this period will be one of those rare instances that induces the complete, undivided attention of the entire planet. What were the other occasions? Perhaps an Olympics edition. A US presidential reveal comes to mind. September 11 for sure. Add Covid-19 to the list. The latter being the most pervasive of them all.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been circumventing my way through the heavenly South Island terrain of New Zealand. As I sit here in the small remote town of Weston on the far-east coast, where the rest of the world may as well be another galaxy away, I’m watching the rest of my species descend into uniform fear and uncertainty, so I ask myself, “What are we going to learn from this?” If our brief history on planet earth has taught me anything, it is that we are resilient beyond our own comprehension. Time and time again from the deepest pits of despair, we have risen to adapt and evolve. From the wars, depressions and global financial crises, we have overcome of our failures to restore progress and return to a familiar path of survival.
As my mind attempts to compute the chaos at hand, I’ve arrived at 5 lessons (so far) to be learnt from these fickle times but more importantly, the consequential opportunities it presents to build a stronger, smarter and evolved community.
1. Can I work from home forever?
For the many laggards, a resistance to enabling their employees to work from home is all too real. In light of a new world, coupled with a dawning reality that their entire operations could fall apart, businesses are forced to advocate remote work. Welcome to the party, I say!
Where to from here?
To employees exhausted by the daily commute. The employees that are self-motivated. The employees tired of rigid, archaic, systems; this will undeniably be your most compelling opportunity to make your work-from-home dream come true. Having worked the Monday-Friday, commuter life, for the better of a decade and now being a digital nomad for almost 2 years, I can say with great ease, the former lifestyle is well and truly behind me.
If you genuinely feel like working remotely induces your most productive state, here are a few checks before you present your case to the grand jury.
- What are the challenges I may have working from home?
- What impact do these challenges have on my daily productivity?
- How can I overcome these limitations/challenges?
- Do I have access to data and resources to complete my tasks, as I would if I were in the office?
- How does it feel to not socialise interactively during the day?
- What do I love most about working from home?
- What does working from home enable me to do that otherwise, I would not be able to do?
While you’re at home now:
- Set up an office-like space.
- In your first week of working from home, make a list of the tasks you would like to achieve daily and weekly, just as you would typically do in the office. After one week, measure your success rate. Go one better and over achieve.
- Write down your wins.
- Note what times you feel most productive. Conversely, note periods of lull and distraction. Review this after week one. Follow this schedule in week 2 to see if it holds true.
- Have a break, have a Ki…nah. As unusual as it may sound, with no imposed breaks or obvious distractions, it might be easier to burn yourself out working from home. Make sure you allocate appropriate break periods. It does not have to be conventional lunch or coffee breaks. You’re at home now, so choose your breaks when you actually feel like clearing your head or need some time away from the screen.
- Exercise during the day. Remember, it doesn’t have to be before, during lunch or after work anymore. Fresh air at 3:30pm with a coffee is great, but fresh air during a run or workout at 11:00am, without a coffee is unbeatable and a great way of revitalising your mood.
- Do the things you’ve always wanted to do, but couldn’t get across to doing because you had to commute to work! Working from home/being remote must be something you enjoy and not because you just want to get away from the office. So make sure you’re doing the things that make you happy.
Watch out for these red flags:
- Cheating yourself! This is a big one. Ultimately, if this is the lifestyle you want, you need to be honest with your employers, but more importantly, you must be honest with yourself. Refer to the ‘Ask yourself’ section.
- Wearing your pyjamas while you’re working. It sounds great but you’re sending the wrong message to yourself. Just like they say if you can’t sleep, don’t lie in your bed, otherwise your body will habituate to being awake in that bed. Your body is used to comfort and lethargy in your pyjamas, so don’t wear them to work.
- It’s not a holiday. You’re at work. Type it. Print it. Stick it.
What we’re going through now will be spoken about for decades to come. From the rubble of misfortune will rise the foundations of opportunity. Change is in your hands now.
2. Wildlife trade must end
This really blows my mind. Unbeknown to greater political powers at work, I want to believe the slap on the wrist during the SARS outbreak was hard enough for us to not repeat the same atrocity. Does it actually require a deadly continent traversing pathogen, with a root cause in the consumption of endangered wildlife, for us to realise that killing innocent animals and shipping them off to China, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar is counter intuitive and ultimately, fatal to ourselves (case in point)?
In light of developments and public pressure, China and Vietnam have both announced a ban on wildlife trade. Hang on, I think i’ve seen that tree before; both these nations have previously announced a ban, so how permanent or even worse, legitimate, is this latest announcement? Legal sanctions on wildlife trade (especially endangered wildlife) are simply not working. Aside from the by-product effects of carrying and transporting wildlife, we will have eliminated the existence of hundreds of species in the process.
What is the opportunity?
Twice bitten now. The Chinese government has once again failed to clamp down on trafficking associated with illegal wildlife trade. It is now glaringly obvious that external authority must be imposed on these factions in the Chinese community who continue to propagate the sale of wildlife and any associated by-product. The UN office on Drugs and Crime is the lead international body overseeing wildlife crime and to-date their methods have been underwhelming, to say the least, to effect any permanent change. This is now their opportunity to flex whatever muscles they claim to have and hold these Asian nations accountable to the inhumane practices that occur within their borders. Sanctions must involve criminal persecution of notable Asian influencer’s, lifting the Chinese media veil on wet market practices and establishing an on-ground operational body to fight crimes through physical enforcement.
This is one is a little subjective. It shouldn’t be though and now that the virus has spread, our cleanliness as a community is under the microscope. While we’re quick to ridicule and be berated by third world nations with seemingly less than average sanitary conditions, like India (which has the smallest count of cases with respect to population – minimum 20), it’s prudent to review our own hygiene tendencies. The United States, UK, Italy, France and other G8 nations, are suffering at the hands of individuals who fail to adhere to basic living responsibilities.
Everyone is being hygienic now. Great! How do we make this permanent?
Unfortunately, this is will continue to be a matter in the individuals hands (pun intended). What it will regrettably take is for a person who is in contact with or has suffered from the virus, to truly comprehend and advocate for the importance of self-hygiene. Practising good hygiene doesn’t come from TV ads or billboards, it comes from within family doors, what we were taught as children and how we pay it forward to our own offspring. If you weren’t taught adequate hygiene practices as a child, now is the best time to learn the basics. Most health authorities have published and advertised the best ways to avoid catching and spreading the virus, and that is through thoroughly washing your hands with disinfectant, abstaining from non-essential contact to your face with your hands and maintaining distances at social gatherings and public places.
4. Leaders or Learners?
Health, wealth and lifestyle form the fabric of our livelihoods while we’re here on planet earth. We’re lead to believe that our livelihoods are in the hands of those at the helm. So, how did our world leaders handle us in our time of need? Personally, I find it hard to believe that old, white men, dressed in suits all day, barking identical rhetoric year after year, are an accurate representation of the people of today and certainly not the leaders of tomorrow.
As of today, the virus has left over 5000 people dead and over 150,000 infected. Tired of Trump? Hate Johnson? Want more from Morrison? Well here is your chance. Now more than ever, politicians around the world will be tested on their leadership. They will be held accountable for their actions and the outcome of their nation once the virus has left. It is your opportunity to change the course of your nations political future and to that end, reshape the course of history. Are your leaders leading or are they still learning?
5. Finally, never forget that your country cares about you
A passport is not just your ticket to travel. Your passport is an unwavering membership to your nation. With that subscription you receive benefits from that country that no other individual, aside from one holding the same membership, will ever get. Reading stories about evacuations and then watching these missions take place is heartening. Do not take your citizenship lightly; your right is to be protected and served by the powers of your nation. Your privilege is having that citizenship.
The Coronavirus has been a catastrophe in many ways. But the silver-lining is that by virtue of this shake up, we will have learnt so much about ourselves, what we value and the people around us. Don’t let that insight escape; hold it tight, learn from it and then make it work for you.