Over the last two weeks I have been involved in discussions about how best to advance two organizations to a return to their pre-pandemic modes of operation. Specifically, I have been an active participant in the transition planing at SLS and at Sulam.
After three and a half months of remote, virtual operations our law firm needs to transition back to full time operations at our offices in order to increase our productivity and efficiency and to gain back the full benefits of cohesive team work. Simply put, we are stronger and better when we are all together. Fortunately, our offices are located in historical townhouses which has made it much easier to prepare our space to be Covid-19 safe. The process of bringing all of our personnel back to full time office work, however, has proved to be a more challenging task.
Deciding whether Sulam, a special education program, should attempt to begin the new school year with in-school instruction or utilize a virtual platform as it did when schools were ordered closed in March, has also been a difficult exercise. Issues of health and safety of students, teachers and staff, practicality of maintaining CDC guidelines in a school setting, impact on families and parents, and the uncertainty of what the future will bring in terms of infection rates are just a few of the complicating factors that make Sulam’s educational decisions so very difficult.
The transitions of both the law firm and school have presented conflicting interests. On the one hand – in the case of SLS – the need to maximize operational efficiency and profitability and – in the case of Sulam – the need to deliver an effective, excellent educational program – conflict to some extent with issues of health, safety, child care, transportation, and fear of infection. In going through this process I found that some concerns raised by individuals resonated with me and others did not. The process, however, did clearly demonstrate that the pandemic does not afford many easy answers. Covid-19 has created a world of contradictions. What is good for one’s health is bad for the economy. What is necessary for sustaining a business and keeping people employed may conflict with an employee’s personal or family needs. Personal health fears, concerns, and stress impact everyone and further complicate decision making.
These recent experiences further informed my thinking and approach in another way. Beyond the pandemic basics – social distancing, personal hygiene, masks – there are few givens or absolutes; there are few clear answers, very few right and wrong choices and decisions. There is, however, a constant level of personal concern and stress which impacts us all. Decision making during this pandemic requires one to “step back”, to listen better and harder, to encourage rather than demand, to balance the need to return to the pre-pandemic “normal” with the search for a workable “new normal” for the duration of the pandemic. It is a work in process.