It is safe to say that no one can predict the future, especially with the current year. Rewind back to March 2020 – in an instant, employers imposed remote work policies, classrooms shifted online, and cases of COVID-19 began to increase exponentially. Countries across the world went into lockdown, placing social distancing measures and safety policies when going out. 

It is no doubt that these uncertain times are nerve wracking and have left us wondering about the future. After all, humans prefer certainty.  Whereas uncertainty generates a feeling of threat in our limbic system. However, every challenge always has a silver lining. The previous blog post, You Can Count on Change, mentions positive reframing. Positive reframing is a coping strategy of transforming negative thoughts and issues into something positive. Similar to how there are two sides to every story, there are valuable lessons to learn from living in a global pandemic. Here are three key takeaways that have impacted our lives positively! 

Lesson #1: Let Your Emotions Be Your Guide

When the pandemic first hit, organizations hit the switch and began implementing strategies to adjust. Through the perspective of an employee, they may be working at the office as usual; then the next day, they are told to start working from home. The shift did not occur easily; organizations may have hit multiple bumps in the road before realizing what works best for each employee. Employees likely felt a wide range of emotions throughout this transition phase, from confusion to frustration. 

The first lesson that COVID-19 taught us is the importance of focusing on and identifying our emotions. When identifying emotions, it is crucial to not label emotions as right or wrong, or good or bad; all emotions provide data to help us make better, conscious and informed decisions. Recognizing emotions improves emotional self-awareness, one of the factors contributing to decision making. As stated in Enhancing Your Emotional Self-Awareness, emotional self-awareness enables us to make the right decisions and notice individual behaviour patterns. 

Once we recognize our emotions, learning how to cope and manage these emotions is the next step. For example, an employee might be swarmed with multiple projects, have upcoming meetings, and an inbox full of unopened emails.The employee recognizes that they are indeed stressed. Now the next question is, “How do you deal with stress?”. What steps will the employee take to manage their stress? The truth is, there is no correct way to answer this question; the power is in the employee’s hands. Examples of possible coping strategies include choosing to take a quick mental break between tasks, talking to team members, or allocating specific times for tasks. Leaders can support their employees by starting the conversation, through checking in on Slack, email, or at the beginning of a virtual meeting. 

COVID-19 forced a period of uncertainty among the human race. Overcome these challenges by tapping into your emotions; let your emotional self-awareness guide your decision making and emotional regulation strategies. Some healthy emotion regulation strategies include: self-compassion, acceptance of what can and cannot be changed, cognitive reappraisal – reinterpreting the meaning of the emotional stimulus, being mindful, and physical calming techniques, such as yoga or meditation

Lesson #2: Show That You Care 

Human interaction and communication have changed dramatically through the pandemic. With a virus in town, caution must be taken when conducting everyday activities. For instance, going to the grocery store requires wearing a mask and social distancing from others for safety. As these changes take place, it is crucial to act with empathy and kindness towards others. Remember that everyone has different tolerances and comfort levels. When making plans to reconnect with family, friends, or colleagues, be mindful of their situation. If they are uncomfortable going out in public, rearrange plans to reconnect through video chat or a phone call. Know that the same rule applies to you too; let your voice be heard if you are uneasy with any socializing plans. When tackling a global pandemic, it is not an individual effort; every action counts. 

As every action makes a difference, let’s reflect on some ways individuals and organizations have been expressing empathy. Individuals around the world have been recognizing healthcare workers as they are on the frontlines taking care of others. In local neighbourhoods, people have mowed a seniors’ lawn and dropped off meals for immunocompromised individuals, indicating that there is no shortage of showcasing empathy and kindness. Organizations have also done the same, from grocery stores offering specific shopping hours for at-risk individuals to breweries making hand sanitizer to combat the spread of the virus. 

While continuing to adapt to the ‘new normal’, remember to treat others with kindness and compassion. Everyone is adjusting in their own ways and can all use some empathy to endure the storm together. 

Lesson #3: A Virtual World Can Open Doors 

Working remotely is not the only venture that has shifted to a virtual approach; schools, conferences, weddings and concerts are just a few activities that have done the same. With the shift to working, learning and attending events online, it proposes new opportunities. In a report conducted by AngelList and Buffer, 98% of survey respondents stated that they would like to continue to work from home, at least partially, for the rest of their career, while 97% of survey respondents recommend working from home. Although remote work was a temporary option placed due to the effects of COVID-19, the stats show that it is here to stay. 

In addition, the switch to virtual platforms has also allowed for increased accessibility. There is no longer a need for commute, which is also listed as one of the top three benefits of remote work. As commute time is no longer required, this allows for a more flexible schedule. Furthermore, geographical barriers have diminished, as everyday events now take place in one’s own home. For instance, conferences no longer take place at a venue, but are instead streaming live from the speakers’ and attendees’ homes. The same also applies to work; if employees do not have to physically be present in the office, this provides an opportunity for organizations to recruit global talent. 

Instead of seeing the switch to a virtual world as a barrier, keep an open mind. Take advantage of the change, and use it as an opportunity to tap into resources and talent you may not have been able to when they were miles away. 

Emotional intelligence is one of the top soft skills that can help improve your decision making, have more empathy towards others, and build stronger relationships. It is also the key ingredient behind the three lessons shared above. 

To learn more about what emotional intelligence is and how to apply it in the workplace, check out our keynote on Emotional Intelligence. If you are interested in learning more about how to manage change, you can also check out our Leading Change workshop, available in live or in-person delivery. 

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