Post-Covid-19 life: Have our lives really returned to normal?

Life after Covid-19 management duomedia's take

What have companies really learned from Covid-19?

This week marks the 2 years anniversary of the moment when, after living in lockdown for 6 weeks, the Belgians were finally allowed to go outside. Some of us were hoping we would “get back to normal”, and others hoped we would learn from this worldwide event.

In fact, some companies used the Covid period to evaluate how they were working and asked themselves: is the old way the most efficient? Will attending trade fairs still be the way to attract new leads? Is the hybrid work model here to stay? The duomedia team looks back at the past 2 years and shares their thoughts on what the future will look like.

 

The first adjustments

In March 2020, we went from “it’s just the flu” to a lockdown that initially lasted for 2 weeks, then another 2 weeks, and then yet another 2 weeks. This period required a fair amount of adjustment for people who were not used to working from home. For some, it meant working more than the required hours:

Working from home I had a tendency to forget to take breaks! There were often days when I’d realize that I hadn’t stood up from my desk for up to 5 hours, and sometimes I’d even forget about lunch!” Elina, our account manager.

In the beginning, I would work more because my laptop was always open and if I heard a mail come in after hours, it was really easy to say: Okay, let’s quickly do that.” Maarten, our digital marketer.

Luckily we received some good advice from colleagues who are used to working from home. For them, the lockdown came in with another type of challenge, they now had to share their space:

I have worked from home as a single parent to three children for many years and so I was lucky enough not to have to make any real changes. Fortunately, only one of my children was in education at the time and their exams were cancelled so there was no real pressure on them to revise, or for me to encourage them. I can only imagine how incredibly hard it was for parents to teach and work full time – especially when weeks turned into months.

Working from home with a full house was not as challenging as it has been in the past during school holidays and I enjoyed having a bit more company than usual.” Catherine, our UK PR manager

For the past 20 years, I have been working from home all by myself. So this part wasn’t a big change. During the pandemic though, I had to deal more often with sharing my Wi-Fi, printer, paper, and space with my husband and my two extremely food addicted teenage boys. The most frequently asked questions during the pandemic:

·        Why is the Wi-Fi so slow?

·        When is your next meeting?

·        Can you please speak a bit more quietly?

·        What is there to eat, I am completely starved. #notgoodformydiet

It took us some time to get to know each other’s working hours and space, but in the end it also showed that we can manage as a team: cooking and cleaning together, sharing more quality time during meals.” Monika, our content PR consultant

Life after Covid-19 management: dorien's picture

Dorien found a new way to arrange her work-life balance

New social priorities

This “living together” aspect also extends beyond the family circle. As Lutt, our PR client director, reminds us, initially the lockdown was a moment of collective effort to flatten the curve:

There was a lot of solidarity at first. It connected us in some way, it showed us that we should all stick together. This situation has shown us that we are all the same regardless of our religion, culture, or customs, whether we are poor or rich. The virus simply does not choose.”

But this collective effort took its toll because the human being is a social being. This is also what our team had trouble getting used to in the long run.

I am a social person but working from home is fantastic! […] What I missed the most was the after-work socializing.” Elina

I am a social person and I did miss the face-to-face contact with colleagues. We do have a daily update call to keep in contact & keep each other posted about our schedule.” Dorien, our PR account manager.

At duomedia, we decided to set up a call every day at noon where we go over what we are working on, what problems we are encountering, etc. This meeting is appreciated by everyone and is still in our calendar:

The daily duo team updates have been another important pillar in my daily work life, just to stay in the loop, to keep in touch, and be ahead of things. Exchanging experience, seeing & hearing how others are struggling and succeeding, helping each other, it all makes everything easier.” Monika

As Louis points out, the duo daily call would not have been possible without the digitalization that we enjoy today:

There had been a lot of buzz about digital transformation, but the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the trend at a rate that took everyone by surprise. It compelled businesses and professionals to adapt and get accustomed to digital communication. Suddenly it became natural even for senior directors to log in on a video call. I’m pretty sure that without Covid this shift would have taken several years to be put in place or might have even come only with the next generation of managers. In addition, we no longer need to spend time traveling to a location for just one meeting. Time spent in traffic to attend a 2-hour meeting that could have been done over a video call simply leaves you drained. Now this is a thing of the past, and I will not miss it. Energy can be better spent on something else.” Louis, our general manager

 

New balance

This new balance comes mainly from the fact that we no longer have to commute to the office 5 days a week. This saves us a couple of hours every day. This is especially true when it comes to going to a meeting: time spent in traffic can cause some irritation and it’s never a good way to start a meeting. This time saved has above all been put to good use in two ways: our loved ones and our physical and mental health.

More quality time with loved ones

Unsurprisingly, the time we don’t spend going to work is often reinvested with our family members: we have more time to talk to each other and do activities together.

Once schools re-opened and our daughter had again a “normal” rhythm, we had extra room to find a new balance. […] We worked from home 5 days a week and created a new work-life balance. We were able to bring our kid to school ourselves, spent more time together & took care of work when she was in bed.” Dorien

Days in lockdown and Covid have reshaped the way we go about daily life. For me, they were an opportunity to spend more time with my husband, which took some adjustments as he practices an instrument on a daily basis. It was a moment to try out new recipes, do more exercise and chip away at that pile of books sitting on the shelf. On the plus side, I also was able to visit family abroad for extended periods and work from there, which had never been possible before and was much appreciated.” Florence, our translation manager

An improved physical & mental health

This time saved is also mainly invested in our physical and mental health. We have more time to prepare meals and to go for a workout, as Monika and Maarten point out:

“[The pandemic had] positive results and changes: now sport is (even sometimes just a little walk) also part of my daily routine.” Monika

At home, once I am done with work, I can immediately start cooking, go for a walk or a run, or go to the supermarket. Now I have more time for my hobbies. In the end, you can say that Covid may have been good for my life-work balance” Maarten

Life after Covid-19 management: Monika spends more time outside

Our colleague Monika can now spend more time working out

 

Covid required a reorganization of our schedules, and also helped foster an important matter: trust from employers towards their employees.

I’m thankful that duomedia makes this setup possible and trusts its employees to work from home.” Dorien

But even if it’s something we see at duomedia, we all know someone who still had to go to the office 5 days a week, even during peak pandemic. And that raises the question, what is now the best approach?

 

The future of work

Here at duomedia, we believe that Covid had a positive impact on the organization or work, but of course improvements can still be made. Over the past years, we have seen an increasing number of studies trying out new working hours. And there are still open questions: What is the perfect balance between days in the office and days at home? Is it necessary to work during specific business hours? What improvements can we make? Maarten concludes: “I think coming to the office two or three days per week is the way to go. That way you can have meetings face to face with colleagues about important issues and you also have some time to chat with them. Next to that you have more time to relax and to do whatever you want immediately after work. And finally let’s face it, who didn’t enjoy working from home in their shorts? 😉

 

During Covid, we talked a lot about the new normal, and now there is a new normal for sure. But new challenges will arise, and probably also new improvements. What are your ideas for the future?

What would you like to see evolve in your company?

Louisiane graduated in September 2021. During her studies, she decided to focus on copywriting, digital communication and video editing.

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