Normal is over

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By Laura Capell-Abra, Director at Stress Matters:

So, we’re now nine weeks deep into lockdown and the words ‘new normal’ seems to have replaced ‘unprecedented situation’ as the current Pandemic buzz-phrase. I’ve never particularly liked the word ‘normal’ anyway, but this phrase does suggest that the environment in which we work, live and play has changed, that we can alter our routines to adapt to it and well, that’s it. We’ll be alright.

Of course, the world has changed significantly due to the Pandemic. The ramifications for the future of the KBB industry are far and wide, affecting everyone from large manufacturers through to small independents. We only just starting to imagine how this will change the KBB world forever more.

I have, however, taken small pleasures in seeing how many people with more time on their hands are using it as an opportunity to challenge their routines and habits, review and adjust their priorities, take a step back and consider the true value of what they are doing and how it contributes to a fulfilling life for them and their families. On the other hand, many people have far less time and are having to juggle a full-time job with full time childcare. Then, of course, you’ve got the heroes who are working on the front line under immense pressure, putting their lives at risk. The point is that everyone’s ‘new normal’ is different right now and will look different again when we start being allowed out and back to work. And then again in three months, six months or even two or three years’ time. What’s ‘normal’ about that?

If there’s one thing that this pandemic has re-enforced for me, it’s that living in an unpredictable world where we need to embrace innovation and adaptability is the only kind of long term ‘normal’ we can expect.

It was a pandemic this year, Brexit in 2016, recession in 2008. With looming mental health and environmental emergencies, I doubt this is the last crisis we are going to be faced with. I know this is sounding a bit bleak right now.

I can almost hear you saying ‘great… so I’m constantly going to be on the back foot wondering what’s coming next, always having to make an effort to change my approach, struggle to compete in an unpredictable economy.’ But what if we see this as an opportunity to embrace a constantly changing environment as ‘normal’ and build our personal skills and business strategies around this guiding constant that we can rely upon? It would make us more adaptable and resilient individuals and more innovative and compassionate business leaders. It would keep us sharp in looking for new opportunities for increased productivity and growth.

Of course, we are looking to the government to help those in need right now and to get the economy kickstarted as soon as safely possible, especially in the harshly hit retail industry where many KBB businesses operate.

But perhaps the most powerful tool we all have at our disposal is the ability to step back, accept that ‘normal’ has gone and that ‘new normal’ is not helpful; and to instead focus on how we can develop skills that empower ourselves and our businesses to not just survive during inevitable change, but to embrace it full heartedly.

For those of us who have been lucky enough to have some reflection time, wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take action from what we discovered? Do you actually want to go back to fifteen hours of commuting a week, rarely getting your ten thousand daily steps in and spending far less time with loved ones than we’d like? Let’s make sure we action what we’ve learnt and make the new work and home routines we build for ourselves in the post pandemic world maximise fulfillment.

We cannot change the unpredictable nature of the world we live in, but by kicking out the concept of ‘normal’ and embracing the idea that change is always going to be inevitable, we can learn to thrive. Not in spite of it, but because of it.

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