Hindsight In 2020 - New Ways to Do Business Powered by the Consistency of Change

Echidna looking at a chart

Early morning on Mar. 14, 2020, I boarded a flight at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport after four wonderful days in one of Canada’s most beautiful locations. I had also been in Ottawa and Toronto the days previous. When I arrived home late Saturday night, I went home.

In the 283 days since, I’ve been to the office four times for a combined total of four hours. 

I remember racing through Whitehorse, Vancouver, and Toronto, with a fear in the back of my mind that flights would be cancelled. My flight from Vancouver to Toronto was, essentially, a quarter full. The airports were almost pleasant to walk through -- unlike the normal hustle and bustle of agitated and road weary travel. I got home and went into isolation because, at the time, both Toronto and Vancouver were Covid hot-spots.

Three days later, the rest of Digital Echidna joined me in my work-from-home experience.

It’s been an interesting experience -- and largely positive for me. I’m also 100 per cent fully aware how lucky I am to have been able to continue to work -- and to be even busier than ever. But that came with effort, a willingness to adapt, and an embrace of new technologies and new approaches.  

You Can Work from Home!

Historically, there’s always been some reluctance to working from home -- both from the employer and employee standpoint. I’ve worked in companies where the mindset was that employees needed to be watched like children, else they’d run amok and productivity would plummet. I also currently have the pleasure of working at a place that treats employees like adults -- and benefits in return from the mutual respect that provides.

But I’ll admit that I’ve always been hesitant about working from home. I travel a fair bit and know I can be very productive outside the confines of an office, but being in the comforts of home always seemed a step too far. 

Fortunately, I’m self-motivated and enjoy what I do, which makes it easy. The commute is amazing (though I miss the enforced walk to and from work each day.) And I have enough social interaction to not be negatively impacted by isolation. It’s not for everyone. And I look forward to coming back into an office one day and seeing co-workers in person, not through a screen.

But, as a society, we have realized that work can be done -- and done effectively -- with staff working remotely. It also opens up a world of possibilities that benefit quality of life (flexible scheduling/childcare benefits), expand the pool of employee resources (you don’t have to move to a specific city if you can connect remotely), and it can reduce the cost of office environments. 

There are some negatives, though. I know a lot of people struggling downtown with the lack of employees coming to the core. I’ve been to Montreal and Toronto during the pandemic and their downtowns have been like ghost towns without the steady flow of commuter traffic. 

It’s a fine balance, but it’s nice to know we can be successful this way and it adds another tool to our corporate toolbox.

A New Way to Connect and Collaborate

Of course, that success is built upon technology and creativity. We were faced with a few projects that would have gone off the rails, if we couldn’t figure out how to remotely facilitate user sessions, focus groups, and collaborative meetings. Zoom was great, but it’s not really interactive in that manner.

Fortunately, we found Miro, embraced it wholeheartedly, and have enjoyed amazing benefits from adding it to our repertoire

But that’s not all. From Google Jamboard to Miro, from Hangouts to Slack, and from Microsoft Teams to Zoom to Skype, there are a variety of tools that you can use to interact and engage with your audiences. These technologies come with their own set of challenges, but they are mere tools. How you use them defines your success. And being willing to experiment, adapt, and learn is key to ongoing growth and success.

Enforced Reprioritization

Honestly, I don’t think I realized how burnt out I was getting until all the ancillary work and volunteering I was doing was taken away from me. Every night, I was either out covering a hockey game, reviewing a play, chairing a meeting, or doing some sort of volunteering. And if it wasn’t me, it was my wife with her extra-curricular activities.

Once that was all taken away from me, I appreciated the value of downtime. It’s a little overused, but that analogy of boiling a frog applied. I kept adding jobs, positions, and roles if I was asked, because I wanted to help. But how much is enough? How much was too much?

In theory, I’ve learned to prioritize. In practice? Not so much (I’ve recently taken on another role, but have yet to divest myself of some others.) A lack of spectator sports and theatre has allowed me to not be overwhelmed, but those days will come back -- and I love writing about both (see an assortment of previous blog posts wherein I talk about the advantages of writing multiple styles). 

In the New Year, I’m going to let some things go. There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing, sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with having an empty space on your calendar. It’s a lesson I’ve learned, even if I haven’t yet implemented it.

New Changes Ahead

The Year 2020 taught us a lot. There were positives and negatives -- and it would be irresponsible for me not to acknowledge the incredible human toil the pandemic has taken on many of our lives. It’s tested our resiliency, it’s tested our capacity for change, and it’s tested our willingness to adapt, learn, and grow. But it’s also shown us the value of community, it’s helped us understand what is truly important, and it’s helped us build a foundation upon which a brighter future can be built.

I don’t know what 2021 holds. More of the same, but lots of different, I guess. A vaccine is there, in the future, some day, but that may not be until the autumn. Echidna itself is changing, with a full absorption into Northern Commerce continuing. It’s business as usual, but in an unusual environment.

It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s rewarding. And the one thing I’ve learned through all my years (25 years in the web content world alone) is that the only thing constant is change. The job I had today, didn’t exist two years ago -- much less when I started. The roots may be the same -- a commitment to quality content and aligning with a user’s actual needs, built upon a foundation of clarity and honesty -- but the branches from that foundation have spread out into a series of new and wonderful directions.

I don’t think 2021 will be any different. There’s so much to learn and so many opportunities to grow, that I’m excited about what the future will hold. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that, as a whole, we’re ready, willing, and able to embrace that change.

Happy Holidays everyone! I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, and safe holiday season filled with friends, family, and loved ones.




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