As we look ahead to the second half of 2021 it is becoming more obvious to us that life might not return to pre-Covid normal for a long time. And we have begun to wonder if it ever will. While it would be easy to see the negative side of this, we wanted instead to offer a positive point of view about how the near-future might look. We see it as a new type of living, a kind of hybrid life that has echoes of pre-2020 mixed with new ideas, innovations and strategies that only came about due to the strange times we have collectively lived through.
The Present is Awkward.
With rolling lockdowns, daily updates on COVID cases and the ultimate conundrum of ‘should I wear a mask here or not?’, life has become a little unpredictable. It would seem that we are still discovering how deep this rabbit hole of a pandemic really goes. Will this covid journey suddenly end one morning and everything will go back to normal? Turning this pandemic into a distant shared memory for our planet, like some kind of B-grade movie that we all saw, but have no desire to ever watch again. The truth is we don’t know yet how this story will go.
The future is hybrid.
What we do know is that we have moved on from normal life with clear borders between our work and home lives. We have moved into a hybrid life where we can work anywhere, be entertained anywhere and get together anywhere via a combination of online connections or carefully arranged in-person meet-ups.
Being able to work or socialize anywhere sounds like a great thing, with a lot of freedom. But the past year has shown us that ‘anywhere’ really means from our living room, home office or kitchen. Our lives got smaller and bigger at the same time. We offered co-workers and bosses a look at the inside of our homes for the first time via Zoom. Even our friends got to see rooms in our homes they would not usually have seen when we face-timed while lounging on our bed.
Now we have transitioned from lockdown to a hybrid life where work sometimes happens in the office and sometimes at home. And, where our social lives might sometimes happen in a bar, they might just as easily happen online from the comfort of our sofa, especially if friends and family are separated by closed borders or positive test results.
What does this mean for us? If the future is hybrid, how can we make the best of this new normal?
We need to be flexible.
A hybrid life requires us to be able to deal with sudden cancellations, changes of plan or location. A hybrid life is filled with uncertainty and this is the way it is going to be for a while. Our suggestion, when things change unexpectedly take a break, put on some music, make a coffee and go with the flow.
We must learn the real art of work-life balance.
Over this year and a half, we have learned that our well-being is essential. For many of us, our workplace will still sometimes be our home office or in the kitchen, as companies move to a hybrid work arrangement to avoid crowded workspaces.
This constant state of flux, from one workspace to another is tough. It requires that we focus on learning to reduce anxiety, avoid burn-out, say no to extra things and relax more often. Making clear rules for your hybrid work life is important. This might mean not checking work emails in the evening and on the weekends and not being available online outside of work hours. It can also mean saying no sometimes to friends who want to chat or facetime when they know you are working from home. Set your own rules of availability.
We need to be open to learning new skills.
As we rely more and more on technology to work in this hybrid life, we need to keep upskilling. Ask for training from your work if you are struggling with a communication tool that you are not familiar with.
We need to stay connected socially.
It can be tiring to spend the day working online, interacting with colleagues via zoom, emails and online collaborations. We can feel drained even when we haven’t stepped out the door or changed out of our PJs for the day. But it is important to have social connections. Even if it is just meeting a friend to walk the dog together or sitting with your partner on a sunny terrace for a coffee. Make time for real-life connections too.
It is essential we increase our empathy.
Your colleagues, friends and family are all trying to navigate this hybrid life too. Cut people some extra slack and be extra patient with your parents when they struggle with technology while trying to connect online. We are all learning and finding our feet in this hugely disruptive time. Be open about how this is going for you. Share your experiences and help others where you can.
We need to embrace the change.
Find aspects of this hybrid life that you love, and focus on them. Remind yourself each morning how nice it is that some days your commute to work might only be as far as from your kitchen to the table. Maybe the coffee at home is far superior to what is on offer in your office. Embrace the changes and look for the ways to make it better; add new skills, follow a new passion, enjoy sitting in your garden on your coffee break.
It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.