2020 – The year of the survivalist


Survival experts, such as Bear Grylls or Ed Stafford, have made a career out of putting themselves in some of the world’s harshest most isolated environments and showing us how to survive. In a tongue in cheek anecdote, what is missing from their vast repository of survival tips is how does one survive in the ‘concrete jungle’ during a global pandemic. The challenges, although seemingly different, have some core commonalities. Our ability to provide for ourselves has come under attack via losing our jobs or pay reductions and our health and safety has been placed under threat by the unseen enemy that is COVID-19.

2020 has been a ‘black swan’ year not only because of the global pandemic but also because of how we have had to adapt to survive in these unprecedented times. If someone came to you at the start of the year and said that the following would happen, would you have believed them?

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  1. The global norm would be for your government to instruct you to remain home and adhere to curfews during ‘lockdown’ periods.
  2. You will be required to wear a mask in public and sanitise your hands as you enter shops and other public areas.
  3. You will need to learn the necessary skills to work from home and your boss will encourage you to work from home as much as you can.
  4. Wine and cigarettes would only be available for sale on the ‘black market’ for a large portion of the year.

These are only a few examples of the abnormal circumstances that we have found ourselves in, in 2020. If you had have informed me about the above in 2019, before the pandemic went global, I probably would have asked you if you were taking all the necessary medication that you require for your mental health, yet this is the reality we have been met with. Our ability to adapt to this changing environment has been tested. The negative aspects of these changing times have been documented in detail in the media but there have been a few ‘silver linings’ that provide optimism for some positive outcomes into the future.

Working from Home Arrangements and Flexible Work Hours

You never know what you can do until you try, and very few try unless they have to.”  – C.S Lewis

This quote is particularly apt in the case of working from home arrangements and flexible hours. Managers who have traditionally used myopic, micromanagement tools have been forced to expand their skill set to managing outcomes rather than activities. Similarly, employees have had to ensure that they provide themselves with the necessary environment so that they can effectively work from home. Whether you are a manager or a general staff member, adaptation has been an essential skill for employees and organisations that seek to survive this hostile economic environment. If organisations and employees can ensure a strong positive working relationship while working remotely, there are numerous benefits to both the organisation (eg: reduced costs associated with a physical office) and employees (eg: more control over work/life balance).

Re-evaluation of What Really Matters

Am I living it right?” – John Mayer

During a time when people and businesses feel like their livelihood is threatened, they tend to re-evaluate their current way of operating and make the necessary adjustments. These adjustments will differ from person to person or company to company but what they have in common is a re-establishment of what is core to their needs and what is superfluous to their requirements. This provides us with an opportunity to look at our current position with a fresh perspective and allow us to ask important questions about our current operations. What should we stop, what should we start and what should we continue with?

Building the New Normal

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive” – Albert Einstein

Much has been written and said about the concept of ‘the new normal’. Undoubtedly, a ‘new normal’ will rise from the ashes of the global pandemic in 2020 but what should this ‘new normal’ look like? Individuals need to remember that this ‘new normal’ will be theirs and impact directly on them. For this reason, organisations and individuals (or representatives) should enter into dialogue regarding how they envision this ‘new normal’ and take active steps to work together. In a perfect world, the ‘new normal’ would be greater than the sum of its parts. What this means is that if correctly done this ‘new normal’ can be mutually beneficial to employers and employees and result in a win-win situation. It does not have to be a winner and loser situation, however, both employers and employees need to operate in good faith and work together to achieve such a state.

2020, has been a difficult year for many people around the world. Our resilience, adaptability and resolve has been tested and if you are reading this, it means that you are still surviving and undoubtedly have one eye on the future. Despite the persistent barrage of negative information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, opportunities for long-term sustainable change exist and should be exploited. Strong leadership and stakeholder engagement is required for organisations to make the changes that are right for them and their staff.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” – Albert Einstein

Bryden Morton, Executive Director and Chris Blair, Leadership & Sustainability,  CEO