The ‘Gift’ of COVID

By: Robert Garrett

I was recently talking to the Head of Human Resources for a large organisation about their corporate strategy. During our chat she said something that caught my attention, “to be honest, COVID has been a gift”. It was an odd phrase in light of the current state of the planet – over 315,000 deaths globally (at the time of writing) and a significant rise in unemployment and financial devastation.

She went on to explain that the organisation has set out to change their workplace culture, making it more flexible to meet the demands of the 21st Century. Over a period of a week or so, this old, change-resistant culture had to adapt, to enable several thousand employees to work from home. The pandemic became the catalyst for change, powerfully demonstrating that thinking differently about the way we work is possible.

Applying this same thinking to your household, have there been some behaviours, or mindsets that have challenged you during this period? Perhaps some positive habits created that you don’t want to lose? How are you thinking differently about the way you live, now that some of the restrictions of home isolation are being lifted in our nation?

Plenty of positives

Every person I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks has shared how their family life has improved during this period of home isolation. Without the demands of driving children to an endless array of extra-curricular activities, parents have swapped their taxi duties for spending more quality time together as a family. For many families, this has meant regularly eating meals together and engaging in conversation, rather than racing to the next event.

With the easing of restrictions, I’m not sure that I want things to go back to the way they were pre-COVID. In a sense, we’ve laid down a lot of things as we’ve cleared our calendars of any commitments outside of the home. The ‘gift of COVID’ is that many of us have experienced a new reality and I think we need to be very intentional about which things we pick back up in this post-isolation phase.

What is the ‘gift’ of COVID to your family?

Revisiting the family budget

For me, as a self-employed consultant, the absence of income has necessitated a review of the family budget. After reading “The Barefoot Investor” over the Christmas break, we’ve been revisiting all those big financial commitments that are major pillars of our monthly budget. Things like the home loan and insurance policies, which have been on ‘auto-pilot’ for too many years, have all come under the microscope.

Maybe it’s time to call your bank, your financial adviser, or utility companies and ask for a better deal. If they won’t ‘play ball,’ maybe it’s time to change provider. By shifting a life and income protection insurance policy I’ve been able to halve my monthly premiums. In fact, by restructuring part of the policy to be paid from my superannuation, the premium I now pay from post-tax dollars has reduced by 80%.

Family council meeting – what to pick up

How about starting a collective family conversation about which things you’re going to ‘pick up’ again post-isolation? The age of your children may determine how democratic you want this conversation to be. As parents, you might decide to limit the number of activities that your family is involved in.

Continue good practices commenced in isolation

Many families have talked about implementing new practices during this period of isolation – one mum started doing online yoga with her teenage daughter, a father taking up bike riding with his boys. I’ve started reading through a book on transitioning to manhood with one of my teenage sons. All positive changes that don’t have to stop because restrictions have started lifting.

Are there some positive practices that you’ve implemented in your family over the past few months? Commit to continuing them.

Working from home

Lots of leaders have had the ‘ah-ha’ experience that their people can be trusted to work from home. Many have been surprised that productivity has either not suffered or has actually increased. McCrindle Research found that during this forced period of working from home, 82% of people saved money, 76% saved time, 65% said they had a better work-life balance, and 69% said they were just as productive, if not more productive, at home than at work.

I doubt there’s ever been a better time to present your case for working from home a few days a week, reducing commute time, and spending more time with family.

Don’t miss the gift

There are very few opportunities in life that enable us to step back and consider what’s really important.

Before you’re tempted to return to ‘normal’, I leave you with this thought from author, poet and social justice advocate – Sonya Renee Taylor,

We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalised greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

Article supplied with thanks to More Like the Father.

About the Author: Robert is an Australian author of More Like the Father. Robert and his wife Cath have 3 children; his two great passions are strengthening families and equipping and encouraging fathers.