Pandemic learning; some good, some bad


Nov. 2. I just realized how close 2022 is, and I had to pause for several minutes and think how long it’s been since I first wore a mask in public. It was the last weekend in February 2020 as I went to my last appointment with a stylist. When I arrived, she and the others looked at me in my mask like I was the strange one. During my appointment I asked what the salon manager was instructing them to do for cleaning between clients—she seemed surprised and said, ‘Nothing.”

Oh, my, how things have changed. So, what have I learned in the last 20 months? A lot. Some things I’d like not to have learned. Some knowledge I’ve gained has become wisdom. Some self-sufficient skills I’ve learned will serve me a lifetime. And some things I’ve learned I can only use as humor—as I call it, that essential mineral we all need in our diet.

You can choose which of the following fits into the category of wisdom, knowledge, or humor.

Things I’d like not to have learned

• That so many people don’t care about the safety of others or for society’s collective need for safe practices in health or driving.

• Empathy can so callously just be a front for new assignments. I’ve learned to freeze when someone says, “You are so good at .., and I know you are super busy, but I need you to…”

Knowledge that will serve a lifetime

• Humor seldom works when talking through a mask. Just stick to short sentences, facts and simple, kind words.

• The best diffuser for my home office ceiling light was a new pair of underwear and rubber band—really!

• When turning Zoom off, realizing the microphone turns off slower than what the “leave meeting” button indicates. Watch what you say until all systems are fully off.

• IT is not a deity; they are a service provider, not God. Hold them accountable like everyone else; don’t let them continuously keep the goal post moving one project at a time. When IT tells me, “We’ve got a great idea that will save a lot of money!” I should gird my loins, increase my customer service staffing to handle angry customers, draft my apologies to everyone whose work processes will unexpectedly be disrupted for extended periods of time, and write a big check because IT project costs will be infinitely more than projected.

Self-sufficient skills I’ve gained

• YouTube videos have helped me repair a dehumidifier, allowed me to install two kitchen faucets, taught me to cut hair well, and instructed me how to get nesting mice (or a small rat) out of the cabin filters in our cars that had not been driven for months.

Extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts

But after 20 months, too many extraordinary jobs and tasks have become routine but don’t need to be.

Call this what it is.  As soon as we can, we need to smooth our lives back into some semblance of normal—different, but a new ordinary so we can view life as controllable vs. chaotic.

Physically and mentally most people cannot run on fumes of energy and snippets of sleep for this long.

It’s time to get rid of bad habits we’ve let creep in because of the emergency of a pandemic when the situation is reasonably under control. No more email 24 hours a day! It’s time to learn how to say, no to additional and unreasonable tasks, favors that are never repaid and activities that fail to help us move toward our personal goals, not just someone else’s.

Not all things have changed

Yes, we may still wear masks for a while. But there is always time to express sincere appreciation toward others. It’s OK to want an hour here or there for yourself to just rest peacefully.  It’s OK to say, “No thank you, not today.”

And it is a good time to take stock of what you’ve learned in the last 20 months and look forward to 2022 with a sense of knowing what kind of year you want it to be for yourself.

Cheryl Kane, MBA, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a strategic business consultant, sales trainer, & professional speaker specializing in problem solving and service quality. Email her at: [email protected]


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