To say 2020 has been tough would be a massive understatement. It feels like it’s been one crisis after another, and we’re all mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
But we’re a resilient bunch. And a la Sam Cooke, we’re always on the hunt for that good news. So we reached out to some of our friends and colleagues, leaders who span various industries, with a simple question: What’s one silver lining that’s come out of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Here’s what they told us:
A better environment
Virat Bahri, deputy director: “It’s an opportunity for the world to reset, rejuvenate, and heal itself. One obvious area is the abuse of nature. This crisis would last long enough for some changes to become permanent, in my view.”
Productivity and focus
Phil Strazzulla, founder: “The lack of meetings has meant I’ve gotten a lot of time to iterate on my ‘deep work’ habits where I try to concentrate with no distractions on a given task for at least an hour. I now have a new morning routine, and an office setup that is designed to let my mind focus.“
Dr. Samuel Tourek, Ph.D., clinical psychologist: “I would say that this crisis is really highlighting the resiliency of the human spirit. I’m witnessing so many different and unique versions of suffering in my conversations with people, and invariably, there is meaning and purpose in moving forward. Grief and loss, for sure, but life beyond it, too.”
Work-life balance and mindfulness
Victor Lipman, management trainer and author: “It’s made many people slow down, and given them the time to think about what’s really most important to them.”
Craig Weber, consultant and best-selling author: “I have a sharper focus on what really matters most in life, both personally and professionally. Specifically, I’m more conscious of the preciousness of life, the matchless significance of spending time with the people I love, and the importance of working hard to make a constructive difference in the world.
This heightened awareness has increased (but not eradicated) my ability to ignore all the frustrating but ultimately insignificant nonsense that I often let distract me from what matters. The key will be to maintain this focus after the crisis has passed.”
Christina Heiser, content manager: “I feel like I actually have a better work-life balance now that I’m working from home. Because I no longer have to commute, I’m getting more sleep, I have time to fit in a workout almost everyday, and I eat dinner at a reasonable time. This has all been great for my mental health and my work productivity.”
Chris Conti, financial advisor: “As a financial advisor, before all this I had gotten used to doing evening meetings with clients, mainly because many of my clients work during the day and are only free in the evening. Because of the pandemic, many of my clients are working from home and are now available for daytime virtual meetings. This leaves my evenings free to catch up with friends and family, relax, unwind, and just take some time for myself.”
Will Stevens, digital marketer: “I’m incredibly fortunate to have had a number of positive things that have come out of this crisis. Health and livelihood are luxuries these days—and it magnifies that even in the best of times, having those things can enable a meaningful life.
One particular positive is, after wanting to for probably a decade, I finally purchased and am learning to play the keyboard and piano. There just wasn’t any more getting away with the ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m not at home enough’ types of excuses. It’s been fun and humbling, and a creative way to wind down after a long day.”
Leadership at every level
Tracie Sponenburg, chief people officer: “Empathy is a critical leadership skill, and we are taking the understanding of that to new levels, coaching our managers to navigate through unique employee situations, and dealing with things we have never seen before.”
Liz Taylor, medical care coordinator: “My silver lining is that there are people out there who have been able to shine brighter in crisis. The natural leaders, thinkers, and doers. Not always the management or the leadership, but the bees.
In healthcare, and in these crazy times, the true compassion, courage, heart, and knowledge of the front lines in hospital teams is and has been incredible. Especially given that we are completely understaffed, underprepared, and under-protected. It is kind of the worst best-case scenario, and there is incredible pride being part of the system that has to keep going.”
Culture and community
Francis Ma, director of marketing and communications: “When you work at a business that is headquartered in one city with remote offices throughout the country, there can be cultural shifts when those groups are in meetings together. Inevitably, there is an inside joke at HQ that the other remote offices will not get/understand. Though it’s small, this subtle difference creates a divide, and at its worst can create real divisions that affect production.
Since the COVID-19 crisis happened and most people have gone remote, the idea of that divide has been scrubbed out. All the inside jokes are the same because they are (typically) all about Zoom calls. There is no Boston or NYC office anymore because it’s all the same. It’s a strange silver lining to experience during this pandemic, but it’s helped fix one of the hardest issues businesses faced: their culture. I think the big question is what happens after. Do we go back or is the future some sort of hybrid? No matter what, I think it’s something the employees will help decide.”
Meredith Rapoza, director: “I am consistently floored by the number of people going above and beyond in every way to take care of the kids and families we serve and to take care of the staff who are exhausted and underpaid, yet who come to do a thankless job without complaint or hesitation day after day, shift after shift.”
Gwen Savych, director of customer success: “It makes managing my remote teams somewhat easier. I ‘see’ them all much more frequently. Also, lines between our global offices are blurred. Managing a team in NYC, Boston, and on the West Coast has put everyone on the same plane, and there are no splits between locations. It has also enabled us to schedule regular happy hours and twice-weekly team touch-bases where we don’t talk work, but get to know each other on a personal level.
Plus, the line between my personal life and work life has been blurred. My teams and colleagues have seen my husband, toddler, and my home. Two people on my team recently commented how cool they think it is that I as a female manager balance work and my toddler at the same time. It helped them feel more comfortable about managing both.”
Perri Devon-Sand, public educator: “I am hopeful that in a few years we will stop overlooking and underfunding the people and the services that are truly essential to helping this country function. Perhaps we will finally reconstruct our health care system to make it more accessible to all communities, but with a particular eye toward communities of color. Perhaps we will look into our budgets to ensure that all students, regardless of their zip code, can participate and engage in rigorous, stimulating, and culturally relevant pedagogy so schools can truly become more equitable and democratic institutions.”
Daniel DeMento, musician and non-profit organization founder: “As part of the larger and very important conversation about what and who are ‘essential’ in our lives, I’ve been pleased to see music and arts receiving more recognition than usual—as the powerful forms of expression, connection, diversion, and healing that they are.”
Meghan Duffy, public school principal: “Personally, time has slowed down. I have been able to re-train my mind on what it means to actually relax. Professionally, I’m so encouraged by what meaningful connection can look like in times of crisis—even virtually. People care so deeply for one another; they are willing to go above and beyond to learn new tools overnight. That is inspiring for the human spirit.”
Family and friends
Erin Balsa, marketing manager: “My husband and I have been working from home 40+ hours per week since this started with zero help. It hasn’t been easy, but our kids, ages 3 and 5, have grown closer. They’ve had to find creative ways to keep each other entertained. (The above photo is of them.) I’m an only child so watching their bond grow stronger is really special to me.”
Roslyn Boatman, media and communications lead: “Covid-19 came a few months after I moved house, city, and country. It was a lonely, lonely, time with chronic FOMO. Now, we are chronically connecting, everyone stuck at home, just like me. Our quiz nights, group chats, and online yoga practices have been exactly what I was missing and craving so much.
I’m still alone in a new place with my cat, but now everyone I need is right there with me at a click. Sure, they were there before, too, but it was the virus that brought us together in a way we wouldn’t be otherwise.”
Jennifer Moebius, vice president of brand and communications: “My kids gained so much independence. They are doing so much on their own because they don’t have to rush around anymore. The other morning I woke up, and my six-year-old had made gingerbread toast. Who would think of making gingerbread toast? I think we have a business here!”
Marc Turcotte, operations manager: “One positive thing that has come out of this has been the ability to slow down and genuinely connect with people, both personally and professionally. So often, every day is a race to get to the next baseball game, the next birthday party, or the next meeting. For the past two months, I’ve been able to slow down and play with my children, have a personal conversation with a business associate, and connect with friends I haven’t had the time to reach out to in a while.”
Jodi Bisio, HR business partner: “Innovations and driving with a sense of urgency had been key accomplishments when life changed in an instant. Understanding the new needs and priorities of customers, and how to now support them virtually; manufacturing new products; and training new hires and employees all require a new set of capabilities and competencies. We needed to pivot and act quickly with new ways of working in order to take care of our people and our customers.”
Jackie Dube, senior vice president of talent optimization: “A few weeks ago, we did a strategy assessment with the senior management team. We became more self-aware about some of the ‘back of t-shirt’ things we hear about PI—namely, that we’re fast-paced, but have trouble getting things done.
Yesterday, at our management execution meeting, our VP of operations said, ‘Well, we can’t do that and that; we can’t just say yes to everything.’ In our former life, we didn’t have as much discipline to say no. I’m glad we’re more disciplined and more self-aware as an organization.”
Alyssa Dver, co-founder and CEO: “We’re busier than ever right now delivering virtual workshops/keynotes and selling our online classes, assessment, and coaching. People have seen the true character (and home settings!) of their leaders come out during COVID and are subsequently really questioning the alignment with their own purpose and values. It has totally raised employees’ awareness that they can’t do their best work unless they are confident about their choice of career/job and employer. (We have market research DATA to prove this!)”
Scott Rice, Director of Health Care Services: “In addition to slowing down, commuting less, and spending more time with family, we’re also seeing overdue advances in telehealth. Health care is making up ground in terms of digital adoption (as are industries like government and education). Companies are also exploring new models and finding savings in new and different ways, being more innovative out of necessity.”
Jean Spencer, senior manager: “One positive thing that has come out of this crisis is a reminder of our fallibility. Being able to err inherently also means there are errors. Moments of crisis remind us to look backward with humility. They remind us to look critically at our decisions, the repercussions of those decisions, and either reaffirm or change our positions. Inevitably, we will find errors.
COVID-19 has ushered that moment’s pause across business, personal, and geographic borders, providing a once-in-a-millennium critique. Questions we didn’t know we had are now requiring answers. Questions we knew we had are demanding answers too. Ultimately, the silver lining will be defined in how truly we rise. How thoughtfully we approach. How well we choose the right responses versus the expedient or profitable responses.”
We will rise.