As I type this from my makeshift home office [in waaay too close a proximity to my beloved husband], during week 476 of lockdown in Melbourne, even I am rolling my eyes at yet another piece of content threatening to bang on about the benefits of Covid. So before we kick off, let’s all join [virtual] hands, close our eyes, take a deep breath and in our best yoga-teacher voices, chant “Covid f’ing sucks”. Done? OK then.
I think we are all in agreement that along with Grease 2, the 2016 election of He Who Must Not Be Named and pretty much everything we wore in the early 2000’s, we wish Covid hadn’t happened. But it did happen, and it’s continuing to happen, so rather than lament this new life in tracksuit pants, we’re reflecting on the ways in which this very strange time in history has strengthened the TDP Team.
Connection isn’t a given anymore.
I know this sounds like a bad thing, and I can’t pretend that not having opportunities for in-person collaboration, sense-checking or just run-of-the-mill wardrobe admiring hasn’t been tough on all of us. Existing as a team who can connect only virtually has been really challenging: we are – for the most part – creative, emotional people who read the room and each other. We need tone, body language, nuance.
We rely on the friendly banter and water-cooler chat, not just to connect us to each other, but to reassure us that whatever professional conflict we may have, it’s never personal and it never leaves the confines of the [theoretical] boardroom. If we’re only interacting with each other in a professional capacity – following up on tasks or giving feedback – then suddenly our working environment feels lonely and even a little hostile.
I think most of us have felt this way, which is why we’ve worked so hard to foster that connection while working from home. We start each Monday morning team meeting not with work talk, but with personal reflections – we spend that time listening and talking to each other as people, not just as colleagues. Now that we can’t rely on incidental interactions, we’re making more of an effort to instigate them. While our more conscious way of being with each other has definitely been the result of Covid, I know it will outlast it. Being disconnected from each other has made us really value that connection, and I’m confident that even when we’re finally reunited in the office, we’ll keep working hard to keep it.
Nothing strengthens a team like being in the trenches together.
And maaaaan, have we been in those trenches. We’ve written about navigating the tumultuous tides of early Covid times, and of how we’ve handled this with our team, so I won’t go too far back into that delightful chapter. Suffice to say, like so many Australian businesses, there have been genuine moments of doubt as to whether we’d make it out the other side. While feelings of fear and instability aren’t what I’d normally recommend as team building tools, there are certainly benefits of a shared experience. While businesses were closing around us and you couldn’t turn the news on without hearing of mass redundancies, we really rallied as a team, aware that our futures were just as uncertain as those of our friends and peers. In those dark moments, seeing how hard everybody was working and innovating, I have never felt safer or more supported by a team. Knowing that we were all truly in it together has strengthened us in a way that little else could have.
Vulnerability is the great leveller.
Regardless of experience, age, position or personality type, Covid brought out the vulnerabilities in all of us. As a leadership team, we made the decision early on to be transparent about our situation and I think it led the way for other members of our team to be equally open. There comes a real safety when you know that you don’t have to push your anxiety aside or hide your fears from your team. For us, feeling safe to be our authentic selves, to admit when we’re having a really bloody tough day, and to be able to be vulnerable with each other has only served to cement our relationships.
We share the wins.
OK so hopefully we’ve never been the greedy types when it comes to wins, but it does feel like the unlikely and unexpected benefits of this strange time have been even more appreciated by the whole team. After suffering some [not insignificant] early losses, we have been, overall, one of the lucky businesses. We have innovated, done the dreaded ‘pivot’ where necessary, and for the most part we’ve come out the other side. Please don’t misunderstand me – luck definitely played a part in our survival, but the incredible hard work and ideas from our team have made all the difference, and it feels like the team knows that, too. We are now in the really fortunate position of being able to celebrate our wins and our survival as a team.
We don’t take a single thing for granted.
Alright, maybe we take some things for granted [we couldn’t stop Cherie buying us extravagant birthday presents if we tried, so might as well just lean into that one], but for the most part, we now understand that nothing about our positions, this business or even the world we live in, is a given. I don’t mean to sound gloomy, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s surely that even in our relatively privileged bubbles, we are not immune to the whims of this strange world. We all understand, better than ever, that we are the lucky ones. Even separated by lockdown, connecting only via Zoom calls and Slack chats, we know that we’re lucky to have each other. As truly awful as redundancies, [very temporary] pay reductions, uncertainty and general Covid related turmoil is, all of these factors have made us painfully aware that we can’t take our jobs, or each other, for grant. And for that reason? We are stronger than ever.
So what about you? Are you hard eye-rolling as we thank Covid for the unexpected benefits to our team, or do you too have some Covid silver linings to share? Let us know in the comments!