On March 23rd 2020, New Zealand learnt that its near term destiny was largely indoors – we were transitioning to a level 4 lockdown. We established our bubbles. Stocked up on toilet paper, some a little too much. We gained the tag essential worker, or non-essential worker. Our movement was either essential, or it did not occur – and it became more localised. We gained a stronger appreciation for our nearest parks and green spaces. Children began singing happy birthday as they washed their hands – for the recommended duration. We got into the rhythm of daily televised Prime Minister briefings and many of us reconnected with our traditional 6pm news. Flour & yeast became prized pantry items, as ovens roared into life. In many ways, life simplified, for a while.
The experiences that followed led to various reflection points, which while discussed or acknowledged at the time, are worth keeping in mind as we look to the future.
As we start to approach the festive season and look back on the year that has been, the below are ten lessons and themes that came out of our original March 2020 lockdown that we should try to remember further into the future, when the news of March 23rd eventually becomes a distant memory:
- As a nation, we can take broad sweeping action to advance or protect ourselves, and we can do it at pace when needed. Our government (both members and the centralized structure we adhere to) can make policy, swiftly, designed to fit circumstances we have never seen before. Our communities can change course overnight – we are agile.
- NZ is an collection of innovators: we adapted our operations, came up with ideas that solved new challenges and enabled even those of us not comfortable with technology, the ability to seamlessly work remotely. We as a nation can be proud of how we adjusted and adapted; many businesses rolled out new policies, procedures, tools and operating models in short spaces of time, with limited information, to make the best of what was ahead of us. And team members embraced these changes and made them a success.
- We learnt to trust & lean on each other, at a community level and within organisations. Big decisions were made in short spaces of time, with little promise of what was to follow.
- Our definition of a senior leader was challenged: Workers who may not be highly paid, or ‘senior’ by traditional definitions, possibly from a younger demographic – many of these workers gained the definition ‘essential workers’ while they kept communities moving and functioning, with aplomb. We are incredibly grateful for the incredible efforts of these unsung heroes.
- We can live more sustainably. We cut down our travel. We were more conscious of our consumption habits. While this isn’t all simple to keep up, there are many positive habits we can continue to embrace.
- We were reminded how simple yet important it is to stay in touch with friends or relatives, both locally and abroad. Phone, Zoom, email. Whatever.
- Supporting local, NZ owned organisations – keeping profits in the communities of Aotearoa – is a simple choice to make. And it matters. It makes a difference to our ecosystem.
- Our work colleagues are our second family. Once non-essential businesses reopened and we had the chance to get back together in person, most people wanted to get back in there to reconnect with others – even if ideally many would prefer to work remotely 1-2 days per week.
- To be positive and enjoy the everyday parts of life – going to buy groceries, taking a walk, watching birds, feeling the sun – every part of each day can bring joy.
- We remembered the importance of reflection.
For many, especially essential workers, this was a period of extreme pressure and demand. Experiences varied greatly amongst us all.
While we are not through this pandemic, we are in a period where it’s easy to forget some of the lessons this year has provided. We wish the best as you think ahead to 2021. Kia kaha.