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If this is normal, why do I still feel so stressed?

“See now the power of truth; the same experiment which at first glance seemed to show one thing, when more carefully examined, assures us of the contrary.” Galileo Galilei, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences Pertaining to Mechanics and Local Motions

As we make our way through the first quarter of 2021, the initial crisis of the pandemic may be over, but our transformation as individual people and as a collective society is not.

Some of us might still like to pretend that things will “go back to normal” (aka like it used to be) but more and more we begin to realise that in many ways it will not.

After all, how can it?

For the first time in history the entire world is having a common experience and co-operating in solving it for the collective benefit of mankind. To assume that this would not permanently alter life for everyone is just naive.

This, my friends, is what the historians will someday refer to as “the dawning of a new era”. An era in which we will face challenges like never before and face ethical questions regarding the sharing of resources, advances to technology and personal freedom. But it is also an era that will ultimately greatly enrich the lives of those who come after us.

Those who have attempted to broach this subject in the past have painted dark, foreboding images of scarcity of resources, climate crisis and a “big brotheresque” erosion of privacy, but this is predominantly because they followed the path of society as they knew it to be at that time to its logical conclusion.

What these early seers did not sufficiently account for was the impact of the invention of alternative means of communication and self-expression such as the internet. Nor did they further anticipate the startling effect of the introduction of virtual communication technologies such as web streaming and video conferencing.

Where these early seers saw a contraction of the global life experience, I see it expanding exponentially – but, as is always the case, this rapid growth will not be without its challenges because there is no escaping the fact that when you run before you learn to tie your shoes you inevitably trip on your shoelaces.

The Covid lockdown, for example, which challenged all of us to learn to communicate virtually on very short notice enabled us, on the one hand, to continue to keep the economy running, conduct business, seek medical attention, and maintain contact with loved ones but it also showed us the stark limitations of this technology.

Yes, people can collaborate and conduct business in real time online – but according to emotional intelligence expert Harvey Deutschendorf, they are not really connecting or building relationships on a deeper level because it is much more difficult to pick up on subtle nuances of conversation and body language cues experienced with “in-person” meetings. This has been leaving many workers feeling isolated and stressed.

The biggest lesson learned by the impromptu experiment is that to work at maximum potential, humans still need to form connections with each other to create bonds through positive social interactions and to build trust with each other (two things that are hard to accomplish when people who don’t know each other only connect virtually).

Of course the kneejerk solution to this is to return all remote workers to the workplace so that they can collaborate “face-to-face”, but the larger opportunity here is to explore ways to encourage workers to socialise and form work friendships virtually so that new hires can work from anywhere and find a way to make friends and fit in.

Robin Trimingham is the chief operating officer of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a virtual presenter, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/olderhoodgroup1/ or robin@olderhood.com

Some of us might still like to pretend that things will “go back to normal” but more and more we begin to realise that in many ways it will not

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Published March 09, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2021 at 8:28 am)

If this is normal, why do I still feel so stressed?

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