Empathy – Navigating the pandemic

It is a word you hear in business often now, and probably something people really need to also incorporate into their personal lives now more than ever.  What does empathy mean?  Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of empathy is - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

If there is one thing this pandemic has really brought to mind for me is that a lot of people really cannot get past their own situation.  There is a lot of anger between people based on social distancing and closing businesses to keep people safe and the opposite camp that keeps pushing herd immunity and opening the economy back up.

What might be the biggest driver of human emotion and decision making is fear.  If you want to understand why people are pushing so hard to “stay inside” or “open up the economy,” both standpoints are driven by fear.  What we all need to understand is that people have concerns and are afraid.

Close it down – Stay at home

Those that are looking to keep things shut down have the fear of losing loved ones or literally just the fear of people dying in general. You can count on the fact that they do not want to get sick themselves nor do they want to see others get sick and die. This fear is trumping their desire to see businesses open and people working. What you may or may not know, some of these people may have already lost loved ones or someone close to them from the COVID-19 virus.

Open it up – Get the economy going

Those people looking to open up the economy and get things rolling have the fear that there will be a depression and that they will be poor.  Some of these people have lost their jobs or have taken pay cuts already. They are already seeing the economic impact of the pandemic, and they do not like it.

Now you have read this far and you are thinking “duh, Mike, no shit…” but what is happening is these people are all angry at one another and most of them may not even know that their decision of what the correct thing to do is based solely on their own personal perspective.  People who have lost a job, suffered a pay cut or fear losing their job, immediately went to “open up the economy.”  People who view themselves or loved ones as susceptible to the virus immediately went to “close everything down.”  It is simply human nature.

Whichever perspective you have here, you most likely think you are correct, and the other standpoint is incorrect.  My question here is “do you have more compassion and empathy towards whatever the opposing view is?”  People have legitimate concerns and fears right now and only through understanding and focusing on how to move forward will we get through this.


Covid-19 the Change Agent

With the advent of Covid-19, we have an influx of Stay at Home orders across the United States, Italy, Bulgaria, France, Spain, China, and many other countries in attempts to slow the spread of the virus. Whether you feel this was necessary or not doesn’t really matter, it is the current situation and what we are dealing with.

With so many people being told to stay at home and not gather in groups the Covid-19 virus is causing a lot of changes to erupt in the way people do things.  The good news is humans as a whole have been extremely adept at adapting to change. This is one of those events in our history we are adapting to rapidly.

Trial by Fire

Right now many children across the United States are currently either being home schooled by their parents with some direction coming from schools, or actively participating in online learning with schools and teachers who haven’t had formal learning on how to switch from classroom to virtual. 
Also important to note, employees at supermarkets, pharmacies, and some other retail stores are now front line people in the face of the pandemic. If you go to the store like I do, more and more people are going through the self-checkout lines. Even deliveries are changing slightly, by using prepay, and by simply leaving the items or food delivered at the door.

Office employees who were never forced to work remotely are now using virtual conferencing systems, and we are seeing it is not the easiest transition for those being thrown into it out of necessity. I have many friends from my world of remote employees giggling at their friends who are struggling, but have no fear, they will adapt, and then they will never want to go back to the way it was before.

Families are having game nights using Zoom, so they can play online with family members in other communities. Friends are getting together and playing online darts from their homes, just so they can stay in touch and have fun. These things happened prior to the pandemic but have become much more commonplace in just 3 weeks in the United States. 

The New Normal

This pandemic will move us even faster towards less direct human interaction when it comes to things such as learning and retail sales. There will be a “new normal” when this is all said and done. The digital age was already upon us, but necessity has made people adapt rapidly in the past month or so to take up things they had been reluctant to do prior.

We are approaching a time when children may no longer have “snow days” if they get snowed in. Children who get mono or another long illness may be able to participate in their classwork remotely more easily. We will be quickly getting to the point where in-class learning and virtual learning are more clearly intertwined in a true blended learning experience for our children. I see this happening already on the corporate side. We will need to adjust our teacher training to prepare them to work more easily in a virtual/online environment now that they have been thrown into it out of necessity.

Retail stores and restaurants will move towards more self-checkout and ordering kiosks immediately to remove the direct contact. More companies will be allowing work from home than ever before, as they are seeing that people are still being productive now working remotely.

The world was already moving into the digital age and the age of automation at a rapid pace, but the onset of a pandemic will push us forward as the change agent we didn’t see coming.  The next few years will be an interesting ride as we see what the “new normal” will bring us.