This time last year and what has changed?

March 11th, 2021

We are now one year on from lockdown number one in March 2020. Who would have anticipated at that time how much the world was about to change and that we would still be in lockdown one year on?

This time last year

So, what was happening a year ago. Personally, I had just come back from a skiing trip, nursing a fractured shoulder. As we went away there was news of something called Covid-19 beginning to reach Europe. The resorts were not very busy (so no queues for the lifts) and things were starting to get cancelled. However, I do not recall being particularly worried at this time; it all seemed a long way away and no one seemed to be overly worried (as the attached picture demonstrates!).

By the time we got back people were getting scared and social distancing was becoming a thing. That meant I was nervous about going to A&E to sort out my shoulder and see how bad the damage was. Shortly afterwards things really started to change as we headed into lockdown.

What’s changed?

One year on, I have been reflecting on what has changed and what we have lost and gained in a year of coping with the impact of a global pandemic.

  • We did some rapid learning and quickly adapted to providing all our services virtually. After an initial and short-lived lull in instructions, we are now very busy. Sadly, we are seeing the impact of virtual working and the pandemic on working relationships and mental health.
  • There is some anecdotal evidence that people are more willing to engage in mediation as they are able to do so from the comfort and safety of their own homes rather than meeting in person. It may be that this is removing one of the previous barriers or anxieties of mediation and it may also enable people to feel freer to express their emotions
  • I miss not being able to see clients and mediating in person. I find engaging online tiring and still a bit strange as we have to work harder to read the non-verbal signals. We were all a sceptical about how online mediation would work; all our mediators have been astonished about how well we have adapted to doing everything online and how well this has been working. No doubt some of it is here to stay.
  • We have converted all our training programmes to online and have also carried out large scale team facilitations online. A year ago, I could never have imagined doing this and that it would work so well.
  • I have learnt new technical skills. I had not heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams, my limit previously was a bit of Skype. I am now pretty proficient at breakout rooms, sharing screens and the like.
  • I have had to get over my reluctance to sit in front of a computer screen and present webinars; we have now run a number of highly successful webinars with global audiences. Whilst I would love to see faces when presenting, I can see the benefit of connecting from your own location and how much more effective this format is in terms of use of time and reduction in travel.
  • Our vocabulary has changed. I had not heard of such things as furlough, zoom fatigue, social distancing, zoombombing, covidiot or Blursday. Many words have also taken on new meanings such as quarantine (word of the year for the Cambridge dictionary), lockdown, shielding and firebreakers to name but a few.
  • Geography no longer matters; our enquiries and instructions are coming from all over the UK in much greater numbers. We are all saving time and resources from not having to travel and this has made us reflect on how much of this was really necessary or sensible previously. However, we do miss going to new places and seeing the environment in which our clients work. It would be wonderful to get back to this at some point but we will all question the necessity and practicality of travelling more in the future.
  • There is a particular advantage of conducting meetings virtually with the workplace investigation work that we do. Meetings are much easier to schedule and there is a real saving of travel time and cost.
  • I have lost all the incidental walking associated with visiting clients or doing things in person. This means that I have had to work harder at making sure I have time away from sitting in front of a screen. I have learnt the importance of taking proper breaks, getting outside and moving and this has led to us scheduling mediation meetings in a different way.
  • Lockdown has also led to me really appreciating and discovering my local environment in new and different ways. It has also been a stark reminder of the things that are really important and that I may on occasion have taken for granted; friends, family, good health, the great outdoors, a comfortable and safe home and economic security are top of my list.
  • We are all far less bothered about how we look on screen, the interruptions from children, pets or deliveries arriving and working around other things in our lives. I think that this has broken down a few barriers, we have a better insight into each other’s personal or family lives and can see the human side of each other in a way that would not arise in meetings in offices when suited and booted.
  • Whilst I miss not being able to see team members in person (particularly over a nice lunch) we have all connected virtually more frequently than we would have done otherwise. We have made an effort to connect and to check in with each other as well as to discuss our experiences and learnings from new and different ways of working.

I am not sure that the world will (or indeed should) return to how it was a year ago and no doubt some of the things that we have got used to recently will remain in some way. However, I do hope that the current restrictions begin to lift in a safe way for everyone soon, that we can return to meeting each other in person and enjoy our normal freedoms to travel and see (and hug) family and friends. I also hope that those businesses who have been particularly impacted can reopen and that the economic consequences are limited as far as possible. Finally, we need to remember to appreciate the things that are really important to us all.

In the meantime, stay safe.

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The report was very professional, it dealt with all the issues raised and was particularly thorough. It clearly took the time to fully understand all of the issues and background. It was complex but the report really helped to break it down and I’m hoping we can progress in a positive manner following the recommendations.

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