Life Repurposed: Riding the Crisis Wave
Karen shares how she responded to the COVID-19 crisis at work and at home, repurposing life and embracing opportunities to learn and grow.
Covid-19 has changed my life and that of work and family. It has brought us together to fight against something that has brought tsunamic waves of grim outcomes on the physical, mental, social, and economic realms on a global scale. While many are still grappling to manage the present and being acutely aware of what lies on the radar, how can and should one be responding? While I am so thankful for our Singapore government’s foresight to plan for details including masks for every person in 3 waves so far, quality healthcare support to keep our fatality rate at the lowest on a global scale and way generous financial payouts, I am reminded of other countries where the poor struggle with basic needs to find food and seek medical help. Where the situation has been spiralling out of control because they have no means to get tested, much less get treated. As I watch and listen in this war zone that has long become my norm, I enter our sixteenth week of working from home. Life truly has been repurposed on many fronts. Here are some of the amazing discoveries I never otherwise would have had the opportunity to uncover, without this crisis:
Multi-balancing is real
Multi-tasking is passé. Multi-balancing is in. At about Week 6 of WFH, my work hours went a tad out of control and I no longer could clearly differentiate between weekdays and weekends. Planning routines and prioritisation became my lifelines for survival. Ergonomics also took centre stage, with attention paid to the right chair/table at the right height with the right angling of my laptop with the right lighting. With remote client meetings/presentations, even the details of my background (the real one, not virtual) was important. Scheduling other things like daily workouts, deliveries (ever at the mercy of Redmart and FairPrice availability), when to treat ourselves to special meals became the simple pleasures we previously had taken much for granted. On the workfront, the great need to salvage revenue had to be balanced with our capacity and capability to speedily convert our products from face-to-face into remote while never losing sight of the learner’s experience and showing care for our staff and clients all at the same time. The multi-balancing plunged us to think upstream and downstream simultaneously, whether we were prepared or equipped for it. Like it or not, this was our new normal.
The multi-balancing plunged us to think upstream and downstream simultaneously, whether we were prepared or equipped for it.
People always matter
Amidst the frontline charging and firefighting initially as we were all trying to make sense of the crisis together, was the even greater need to manage team communication and morale in remote and fast changing conditions. It was clear we had to honour both people and results. The 1:1s with each of my team members became non-negotiables. With the growing need to build greater capability in crisis and change management and dealing with much complexity and ambiguity, we increased our team huddles from once to thrice a week, just so we could all have a platform to voice any concerns, ask questions around and deal with real-time issues collaboratively, with everyone learning and getting better together in the process. Of course, the increased team huddles also meant more chances for us to laugh and celebrate together, times that were priceless to me. This isn’t a time for leaders to feel sorry for ourselves or watch out for our own backs, but a time instead to watch out for our people and have their backs instead. Am not suggesting leaders need to solve the world’s problems. I have countless times admitted unashamedly that I don’t have all the answers but have stayed committed to work together until we find a solution, that is win-win all round. It has never failed and always led to greater buy-in, higher chances of success and almost immediate rebound, even in times of failure. The posture of first seeking to always understand the realities of others has become my cannot-fail-to-do hallmark reminders of humility and courage and has kept me on the path of making sound decisions, always with the people in mind.
The posture of first seeking to always understand the realities of others has become my cannot-fail-to-do hallmark reminders of humility and courage and has kept me on the path of making sound decisions, always with the people in mind.
There is no such thing as overcommunication
One lesson I’ve learnt from this crisis is that it never hurts to know the WHY. The WHY is the fuel that keeps the plane in the air. While it’s never nice to hear bad news, shielding truth can sometimes erode trust, hurt teamwork and ultimately lead to false sense of engagement, all of which are not sustainable if we are building for the future. There is a reason why pilots tell us there is turbulence ahead and we all need to fasten our seat belts. I have been most grateful for the amazing support from teammates from other functions who have supplied data to us when it mattered, via shared dashboards so everyone could monitor results and KPIs collectively while we work on gap plans together after setting agreed and aligned goals. This fuel has kept us going, even as we hit turbulence along the way and needed to change courses from time to time. Overcommunication has been crucial in fastening us to our seats, keeping us well-oiled, super productive and agile as we work across teams to meet outcomes together.