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COVID-19 / Guest posts / Remote work

A personal reboot, courtesy of COVID-19

Staffing and marketing pro Greg Plum on developing better habits and relationships in the new normal of the pandemic.

Time for a new start. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)
This is a guest post by Delaware-based staffing and marketing pro Greg Plum. It originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished here with permission.

Like most, I suffer from Zoom fatigue, a condition that didn’t even exist until a couple of months ago. After a full day jumping from virtual room to virtual room, flipping on the TV before turning in for the evening, I find myself watching Zoom (or Microsoft Teams) meetings on late night TV, including “Saturday Night Live!

When this whole experience is in our rearview mirror, I might even miss seeing countless awkward moments, courtesy of late-night talk show interviews hosted by Conan, Seth, Stephen and the Jimmies. These unpasteurized meetings make Hollywood royalty seem more approachable and more, well … real.

A favorite moment for me was Jimmy Fallon’s walking me (and his guest, Ethan Hawke) out to his restored VW bus for a virtual tour of a precious artifact of pre-COVID Americana. This modified form of voyeurism has revealed a certain unpolished, raw authenticity. Another image that sticks with me is watching Kelly Clarkson judging “The Voice” via video from her cabin in Montana, sans makeup crew to alter her appearance. She looked like she could have very well been a participant in one of the Zoom happy hours that now dot my calendar. This awkward reality results in a natural beauty that often escapes a makeup brush or mascara wand.

While a recent Inc. magazine article, written by Arnobio Morelix, titled “The Post-Pandemic Economy: The Great Reboot,” focused on an economic reboot, what about a personal reboot? One where our psychological cache is wiped out by the clicking of a massive, unseen, on/off button?

I am a ridiculous optimist, I know this. During the past 12 weeks (and counting), though, my optimism has been tested. I have also been called an extrovert on more than one occasion. With the lack of diverse human interaction outside of my computer screen, I am feeling the impact of COVID-19 and find myself daydreaming of an actual going-out-to-dinner date with my wife. Longing for the life we enjoyed before curbside pick-up and face masks were the norm.

It is my responsibility, as an optimist, to focus my COVID lens on the positive … my very own personal reboot.

During the past few months, I have seen things that I don’t recall ever seeing previously, though they were right in front of me, all the time. Assuming, of course, that the bird, about the size of an Easter marshmallow peep, living in the bird house in my front yard didn’t just now learn to sing so loudly, as to keep me from hearing myself think. And those flower beds that my wife and I planted over a decade ago haven’t been efficiently producing explosive blooms of purple overnight, as it seemed in the past. When viewed through a COVID lens, the grass really is greener and the sky infinitely bluer … if you take the time to notice.

Did you make any isolation resolutions? While the world hit pause, did you decide you were finally going to clean out those closets, or maybe even slap a coat of real paint over the contractor-grade white paint that your wardrobe has been exposed to since you moved in? Did you keep those resolutions, and will they be a part of your life after we escape quarantine like a prisoner stepping thru the gate of the chain-link fence after being freed from a crime he didn’t commit? (Thanks to more time on my hands, I just re-watched “The Shawshank Redemption,” in case you were puzzled by the analogy.)

I decided to engage in a personal reboot. I resolved to read more … OK, make that read at all. I rediscovered the timeless pearls of wisdom doled out by Stephen Covey in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”and Dale Carnegie’s advice originally published in 1936 in “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”I also decided to focus on celebrating the 21st anniversary of being married to a wonderful wife and mother. The result of roughly 10 hours of searching for the perfect pictures (among thousands) and designing a heartfelt presentation that would make her cry was a three-minute video compilation of us through the years. I discovered that, while she has improved like a fine wine, I more closely resemble a grape on the vine, withering past its ripeness peak. The creation of this video, thanks to an abundance of quarantine-induced raw emotion, had ME in tears, appreciating my wife (who, incidentally, is on the front lines as a labor and delivery nurse) more than I had probably since we were newlyweds.

And then there are the kids: Thanks to universities sentencing students to a spring semester from their bedrooms, I was, unexpectedly, able to spend hours of quality time with my college freshman watching “Live PD,” his new favorite show. For me, any time with my collegiate kid is quality time … regardless of what we are doing. While I would have preferred his getting to enjoy the same end to his first year of college at the University of Delaware that I did, this time was special. And my daughter surprised no one with her attacking her online, high-school, courses (and Zoom soccer practices!) with the same zeal that she does her activities IRL. Kids, especially the 2020 graduates, are a true example of resilience. This will serve them well in their personal and professional lives. Expect great things from them.

Now, cut off from my morning gym routine, I was at a crossroads. Do I take time off, since I was provided with a great hall pass to skip working out? Or, do I create a new routine that would serve as a surrogate to my former self-induced, pain-for-my-own-good regimen? After a couple weeks of allowing myself to stay up way past midnight (watching Zoom interviews on TV, of course) and sleep way past dawn, I regrouped and created a running challenge for myself. I set goals, reached them, and, in the process, began to think more clearly and focus on what is most important now, and from this point forward.

Happily, restrictions are beginning to lift, and people are cautiously emerging from their cells, err, homes. My personal challenge will be to remember the invaluable lessons derived from this great pause. Will this opportunity that we have all been given, to clear our personal cache and view the world around us through a different lens, impact our vision from this point forward? One can only hope.

Series: How to Work Remotely / Coronavirus

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