Return to Routine

June 18, 2020

Staying home during the pandemic opened up a lot more free time for many working people. Even those lucky enough to maintain their employment throughout the economic upheaval of COVID-19 found themselves with several more hours of time each week. No commute, fewer meetings, the slowdown of initiatives – all kinds of change created ample opportunity to fill time in new ways.  

Now that offices are reopening, will the hobbies, pastimes and projects picked up during the pandemic get dropped during recovery? Or will the creative endeavors and ingenious work-arounds we developed over the past several months find their way into our daily routines?  

One thing’s for sure – if we want some of our newfound activities to stick around, it will take intention and a fair amount of gumption. Humans are notoriously afraid of change, and they tend to feel most comfortable following the pack. For that reason and probably hundreds of others, it’ll be very easy for us to slip back into old habits.  

As I write this article, I’m about 24 hours into my return to the office. To ensure some of the a-ha moments I experienced during The Great Pause inspire actual change in my approach, I’ve jotted them down. More reminders than to-do’s, the steps are simple enough to implement, but stand to have a dramatic impact on my interactions with people and contributions to my company. Here are just a few:  

30-Minutes Meetings

Throughout my work-from-home experience, 30-minute meetings proved to be much more productive than any hour-long face-to-face would’ve been were we allowed to conduct them. Maybe it was a newfound appreciation for focused “alone” time or a mass discomfort with virtual conferencing, but everyone I connected with remotely was intent on participating only in meetings with substance. I’ll carry this positive outcome forward by keeping meetings brief and always centered on a concrete agenda.  

Work-Life Balance

Prior to the pandemic, a healthy balance between personal and professional pursuits received a lot of lip service, yet I’m not sure we all fully bought into the possibilities. As we hunkered down to slow the spread of a potentially deadly virus, however, I think the achievability of that balance came into full view. I fully intend on working hard to maintain that balance as we return to the office, and to support my team in their pursuits of it, as well.  

Incremental Innovation

With a greater amount of available time during COVID-19, many of us found time to work on so-called “pet projects” we hadn’t been able to tackle before. I was able to carve out time to work on several new initiatives to improve the banking client experience, and want to maintain that flow. To ensure this happens, I’ll continue to block off chunks of time on my calendar for iterating, innovating and challenging myself to think critically about “the way we’ve always done things.”  

While no one can say for certain which of our modified behaviors and values will become a permanent part of our work and personal lives, it would be silly to think none will stick around. The trick will be deciding which we want to be long-lasting and working hard to make it happen.