A silver lining is defined as a consoling or hopeful prospect by Meriam-Webster. It is unsurprising that people are looking for silver linings with the COVID-19 pandemic where there are so many stories of heartbreak and tragedy. Lost jobs, deaths, bankruptcies, depression – to name but a few. But the human spirit has a depth of resilience and determination that often only appears at times of crisis. So, what might some of the silver linings be?
Stay-at-home orders, shelter-in-place, and lockdowns are not words/phrases that were expected to be commonplace for the year ahead when 2020 dawned. Working from home has added stresses to some, but there are also many who have been laid off and who now have no job. After a period of grief and maybe anger, people face a new reality. Some people jump straight up and start looking, while others take time to adjust. Of course, the job market is not the healthiest during a pandemic and circumstances test the job seeker like never before.
Being laid off can have a silver lining, although I would not bring this up too soon when speaking to someone who has just lost their job. I was laid off in my early thirties and was absolutely devastated. But tapping into a network, being open minded, focused, and tenacious, led me into a new career. Times like this can be incredibly uplifting as people have to dedicate time to consider and build their brand, learn how to market themselves, and seek out new opportunities.
As well as the many who have lost their jobs, there are also many who have been furloughed by their employers. And even those who have kept their jobs, are often faced with new realities and challenging ways of working. Times like these cause a lot of people to reflect. Is this the career I really want anymore? Should I take a risk and do something different? Should I re-balance my life? Should we move to a different part of the country? Should we start a family later than planned? I could go on. Importantly though, reflection and deep consideration of priorities often happens during a crisis.
Reflection is not something that happens too often when everything is running as normal and work/life is at full pace. So, expect many people to make life-altering decisions during this pandemic. This is not a bad thing, as people get more in touch with their values and sense of purpose.
For many employers, the pandemic has been devastating. Laying off employees, losing revenue, and even closure. Millions of unemployed people and perhaps millions more furloughed from their jobs. The reality of economic, social, family, and personal crisis could not be starker. Yet even in the midst of this, there is a silver lining for talent.
Employers have to make tough decisions to stay in business. This means deciding which of their talented employees are essential to keep them in business and can best help them emerge from the crisis. Sometimes this is a numbers game, but it is also a time to assess the talent bench. Strangely, it is also a time for employers to be aware that some great talent is now in the job market or furloughed and considering other options. Similar to speculating on equities in a bear market, some employers are thinking about attracting others to join them as the economy emerges from the doldrums.
Most people have had to innovate in the pandemic fall-out. Whether it is just working out a new daily routine, making masks or learning how to operate Zoom calls. There are of course some who choose to escape or simply bury their heads in the sand. They will be left behind, or they may simply be content in their own corner of the planet. Businesses are having to operate differently, customers shop differently, families communicate differently, and habits are changing rapidly.
Stress and crises are great catalysts for change. A walk back through history teaches us that lesson. Now is the time for entrepreneurs, innovators, and dreamers to step forward like never before. We can adapt, we can demonstrate agility, and we can hasten invention at this time.
The daily commute, business travel, and nowhere to go. All of these have invaded our lives. For many parents, children have also filled their daily lives like never before. The dynamics of how we have used time and how we need to adjust, has meant a recalibration of daily routines. For some, this has meant less time to spend on their own, for some it has meant more time with the family, and for others it has meant way less social interaction. Regardless of which camp people fall into, the use of time has changed.
Maybe the crisis will cause us to value time more. To realize that there are more important things than striving to earn more money, or that we need to invest in relationships more, or simply that we have had a few things out of balance. A silver lining to the pandemic may be that people value time in a new way.