It’s finally happening. After over a year of living with some quite unexpected and unprecedented constraints, the world is finally, slowly opening back up. Whether we return to a fully open state tomorrow or several months from now – and also regardless of whether you think it should have happened yesterday or should be put off until tomorrow – it is happening. The long-awaited return to normal is coming.
But as a million others have already said, “normal” won’t exactly be normal right away. Whatever the post-pandemic future looks like, there will be an adjustment period between the way we operate now and the way we’ll operate then. How we handle that adjustment is going to be a big deal.
So, to that end, here are a few things to keep in mind as you, your family, and your business begin to work their way toward the bigger and busier world we’ve kept in the closet for the last year.
Accept That People Will Be a Bit “Weird” For a While
For most of us, it’s been a very long time since we gathered in any significant numbers, and getting used to it again is going to take some time. My wife and I took our kids to an indoor trampoline park recently when our state regulations had relaxed to allow for 50% capacity, and the place was full – over 100 people there. Which actually wasn’t full, it was half-full at best. But it felt full. It felt strange at first, and I will hardly be the only person to have that kind of reaction to crowds and noise. So if your colleagues or customers are a little skittish at first, don’t hold it against them. We’re all going to need time to adjust, and we’ll all do it at different rates.
Keep The Good Things You’ve Created This Year
Every business everywhere has been forced to adjust, and some of those adjustments should be maintained even once the pandemic is fully over. A return to normal doesn’t mean a return to the exact conditions of the past. So keep the good things you’ve learned and done in the past year, and carry them with you as you move forward. That’s really the only way we ever advance, whether the year in question was great, boring, or apocalyptic.
Remember What We Missed Most Last Year
With very few exceptions, all of us were longing for the same things during our respective lockdowns – interactions with others, the ability to spend time together, to brainstorm in real time, to listen to the quiet bustle that lets us know there’s other life buzzing around somewhere nearby. Each of us works in a place that sells some collection of products and services, but the thing that makes our business worth having are the people who help make it run. Focusing on people and building strong connections with others will yield a much faster return to normal than focusing on any other element of our businesses. Of all the billion predictions that have been made in the last year, this is the one I feel the most confident about.
As for myself, I’m looking forward to busy airports, chattering families, live audiences, opening receptions, and quiet (or not-so-quiet) conversations in hallways and bars and really anywhere else. I’m excited about it, and I hope you are too. But if you’re not, that’s OK. You’ll get there when you’re ready. We always do.