By Leigh Ann Errico, Executive and Team Coach at LAeRRICO & partners
“I can’t wait for things to go back to normal” is a line that I’ve heard more times than I can count this year. While we all miss certain aspects of life pre-pandemic, not all of the changes brought on by coronavirus are bad. For one, the collective embrace of our humanness is a shift that I hope is here to stay.
Before March of this year, most people showed up to their place of work every day primped, preened and put-together (although likely frazzled behind the façade). They were able to compartmentalize their life from their work—and were expected to.
But life isn’t drawn with clean lines; it’s messy—and 2020 has finally given us permission for the mess to be seen.
As Pema Chödrön said:
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
For the past several months, we’ve all been reminded that our co-workers have families…because of children photobombing or making noise in the background during Zoom calls. That we’re not invincible…because either we or those we know have gotten sick or lost loved ones. That work-life balance is important…because of finally having the chance to go on a walk outside during the work day, when the temperature’s just right.
I feel like this year has given me the chance to exhale with my whole being, and I don’t want to go back to holding my breath. Do you feel the same? The only way for us to hold onto this positive of the pandemic will be to clearly and thoughtfully redraw our boundaries.
Someday, hopefully soon, when the virus mostly goes away and we go back to the office, even if just part-time, boundaries will need to be a central focus of teams—both learning to create new ones for oneself and to respect the new boundaries of others. We’ll need to spend time in self-reflection to identify our own unique needs, then clearly make request(s) to other(s) in order to realize the vision for our new life with new boundaries. We’ll also need to stop questioning the dedication or motivations of others, based on how much they let their life bleed into their work. We’ll need to learn to build buffers into our schedules, to respect certain times of the day as off-limits, to pursue more workplace flexibility, to take the time off that we need to recharge, and to forget feeling like we have to hide the fact that there’s more to our lives than earning our paychecks.
Making this humanness stick post-pandemic is a mission that I hope we’ll all get behind, because life’s just better when it’s served raw and lived authentically. I’m so passionate about the value of this COVID-driven transformation that I applied for and enrolled in the Health & Wellness Coaching certification program at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership this year. My 2020 pivot to make supporting well-being even more integral to my coaching practice is so that I’m expertly-equipped to help employees and teams reprogram themselves to revere humanness, rather than reject it. We all finally understand its importance thanks to the pandemic, and science shows, after all, that better mental and physical health unleashes productivity, creativity and success in our work.
We’re not robots; we’re not fairy tale characters; we’re not photoshopped models…we’re humans—and we should be the best humans that we can be.
Moving forward, 2020 will be referenced as a turn in the zigzag of our lives. “Pre-pandemic” and “post-pandemic” will be used to differentiate between two distinctly different time periods. My goal is to help you and your team make humanness a defining characteristic of your post-pandemic life. Are you with me? If so, let’s talk!
Leigh Ann Errico