COVID-19 has given working professionals something – time.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Memphian. Read the original piece here.

Few things feel normal in our current circumstance. Some are trying to find work as employers are closing doors, while others are scrambling to meet increased demand in high-need fields. While the so-called “new normal” looks different for every person and every industry, our shifted lives and toppled schedules leave us evaluating how we use our most valuable resource – our time. 

If you’re a business owner or professional navigating the transition to remote work following the Mayor’s order this week, welcome to the (socially distant) club. I began my work-from-home transition two weeks ago, and my office joined suit a few days later. We’re fortunate – public relations is arguably needed now more than ever, so our workflow has remained strong and consistent. But many businesses are facing major hardships, a decline in productivity, or are confronting the nagging question: “How do we get done what we need to get done in a time of such uncertainty, especially when we’re not together?”

For business leaders and professionals ‒ specifically those whose businesses haven’t come to a heartbreaking and crushing halt due to this crisis ‒ this can serve as an important time of clarity and perspective. Project deadlines might be out the window, and other projects might now be irrelevant. But this time does not, and should not, be put to waste (even if it feels like your day is shot as kids are navigating their own difficult transition to sheltered life). I choose to see the light in every situation, and this new work-from-home horizon has given me time, even with an increase in my daily to-do list. My calendar has become remarkably clear, and I’ve gained more than an hour of my day back that is traditionally allotted to my commute. This is time we can use to think critically, to assess and to think aspirationally. This is a new normal: We have time to make big moves.

We must work toward and plan for a time beyond COVID-19 – because it will be here one day. And when that day comes, we’ll all need a little extra help.

We have time to assess. 

How you operated pre-COVID-19 might look very different than how you will operate in six months. It’s healthy and necessary to evaluate how you’ve done business, and in light of a new future, make informed decisions about how you can do better. For example, your employees may react well to working from home, and it might make sense to adjust your office hours to add more flexibility. You also can assess your benefits package, your office setup, your technology allowances, your budget and literally every facet of your business. 

As an employee, you might realize that those long-standing meetings are no longer an effective use of time, and you can add hours of productivity back into your week by canceling them. Maybe in the past, you haven’t tapped into the most efficient ways to deliver products or services to your customers, and you must expand your offerings to meet their ever-changing needs. The “new normal” may create “forever changes” for the businesses you serve, and as an employee, you might be more attuned to how your services could better meet those needs. Communicate your thoughts with your superiors and prepare to be a better service provider at the end of this journey. 

We have time to check in.

You’ve read the headlines – restaurant and entertainment industries are going through dire times. Businesses large and small are struggling to cut payroll. If you’re fortunate enough to maintain your operations, check in with your vendor partners. See if there are long-overdue projects you can plan for. Book a catered “welcome back to work” lunch for your employees using your favorite local restaurateur. Send a donation to a nonprofit providing essential support to Memphians in need. Support each other, even if all you can offer is a “hope you’re well, and I’m thinking of you.”

We have time for aspirational thinking.
I’m in the business of planning and thinking ahead. In a normal functioning, non-pandemic stricken world, I would be in the process of planning Halloween content. Things feel uncertain, and you may not be able to put dates to your ideas, but set big intentions for your business. What are your dreams and aspirations as a professional? What do you want to be in 10 years as a company? Spend time identifying where you want to go, and lay out a plan to get there. 

We have time to communicate. 

As you work through all of these things, communicate with your team, your followers, your family, your board, your friends and your stakeholders. Now is not the time for silence – it’s time for relevant information and action, but also continued connection. It can get personally and professionally lonely out there. Work with a partner (like a PR firm) to develop meaningful language to ensure your audiences that your business is here for the long haul, and that you’ve used this time to make the world a better place. We’ll get through this together, and that’s a message worth spreading.