I’m basically a social person, or at least I thought I was. As someone with a very active calendar, most of my friends could not imagine how I was going to get through two months of COVID-19 quarantine without tearing my hair out. And frankly, I was a bit concerned as well.
Work from home? You betcha!
Week One began in a blended state of disbelief and euphoria. We officially closed the office on March 16. Naively, we initially thought it would be just a few weeks at most that we would be working from home. So we packed up office supplies, files, laptops, and other miscellaneous objects that we would need for “a short time.” The office refrigerator was emptied, the building’s heat system was turned down to Low, and the alarm was set. “We’ll talk in the morning,” we said. “We’ll figure it out,” we said. And, as I was driving home, the gnawing question arose: How do I function as an Executive Assistant when I and the person I’m executively assisting are no longer working in the same space?
Reality strikes deep
It would have been one thing if I was recovering from surgery and needed to spend a few weeks at home while life went on as usual around me. But this was different. It wasn’t just me whose life was changing. We were all in the same evolving situation trying to make sense out of the new normal. Where can we find hand sanitizer? Will there be enough food left on the shelves at the market? Who on earth is buying all the toilet paper? And while we were working out solutions for our personal needs, the question of how to address our clients’ needs created another level of concern and stress. Our individual plans for survival were just a microcosm of what our clients were addressing with their “non-essential” businesses.
Shifting into under and over drive
Thankfully, our team is a solution-minded, creative group of people who immediately took it to task to kick into high gear and busy themselves with answers to questions our clients had yet to ask. E-commerce websites were created for traditional storefronts and inventory sales to move current stock on hand became the new order of business for clients who had always been able to depend on walk-in customers. And in this flurry of technical mayhem, I found myself beginning to slip down into a murky bed of emptiness.
My role in the company began to feel “non-essential” itself and I was lost for words to describe the worthless feeling I had as a member of our team. And then I found an article on LinkedIn that talked about the stages of grief that most people were experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the lightbulb clicked on in my head. So that’s what it was!
Taking the bull by the horns
Harry Chapin wrote a song some time ago with lyrics that I had forgotten until the moment I needed them most. “When the whole world is changing, why should people stay the same?” What I failed to recognize is that everyone on our team had donned several new hats while I was still attempting to work in the status quo. And there was my Aha moment! Scott didn’t need an assistant during this time; he needed someone who could function independently with tasks that would support his ability to manage the multi-hat-wearing team. This was a time to reinvent my personal wheel and move into a new direction like everyone else.
Ask and you shall receive
I asked our tech team, talked with our Account Executives and even spoke with Scott. What could I possibly be doing at this time that would take something off the plates of our overworked team? What lingering unfinished projects were out there that no one had time to address? With my diverse background, certainly there had to be something that I could step into and accomplish that would benefit both our clients and our team. Subsequently, in that period of inquiry, I found what I was looking for and my faith in my abilities was restored!
I started writing this about my concern (ok, let’s not forget my nervous friends) over an empty social calendar. Much like the lesson that the COVID-19 quarantine taught me in my working world, so too I have discovered that a full social calendar creates more stress and anxiety than an empty one. It’s in the empty spaces that we find all the room to create, reinvent and change. And, in keeping with my optimistic nature, I discovered my personal silver lining in our new normal world.