Reflections on Working During a Pandemic

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Laura Kane, Head of Communications for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)

As I enter the 6th month of my quarantine, it seems like just yesterday that I started remote working.  Early on, I enjoyed the short commute and the perks of working from home. After May 15, 2020, working from my apartment seemed to get harder.  Somehow, I had in my mind this would end by the summer. By July, I realized not only would I be working remotely for a while, I was going to need to change many of the processes that I relied on in the past, because they were no longer working.

Nothing Replaces Human Interaction

I am the first to concede that having face time with your people and your boss is not as important as I once thought. It is possible to get a lot of work done without ever seeing other team members. However, you lose the humanity and connection that enables spontaneous brainstorming, serendipitously putting together pieces of information that lead to greater understanding of a business challenge, and most importantly the connection among team members.

Miscommunication happens. It seems to be happening with greater frequency when I rely too much on email. In order to work more effectively, both leaders and team members need to be more proactive and take greater responsibility for ensuring that the goals and expectations are clear to all of those involved. When in doubt, I pick up the phone to either ask questions or confirm mutual understanding.

The stress of team members missing deadlines is greater when I start to think of colleagues as email or a voice on the phone. While, video conferencing isn’t perfect, seeing kids photo bomb calls reminds me how grateful I am not to have to re-learn geometry. But, more importantly, that my team members need a little extra help and empathy because they are juggling a lot.

What Got You Here May No Longer Work

For those of you who have not read Marcus Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” I highly recommend it. I read it years ago when I was going through a management change at work. The book taught me that people often hold on to the behaviors that got them where they are, without realizing that those behaviors may no longer serve them in their new environment.

The pandemic has made me think about what skills and habits my team and I will need in the come year. The pandemic definitely changed the way I work and how I consume information. With limited access to people and experiences, I rely more on online resources and apps than ever before. I have come to realize that I can learn to do almost anything by watching a YouTube video. Yet, there are probably only 5-6 YouTube videos on my marketing communications plan. Prior to the quarantine, I had never heard of Zoom, Chime or many other platforms that have become a part of my new work routine.

While I have always believed that integrated communications is the future of our business. The coronavirus has accelerated the need for me to find ways to ensure that my organization’s messages are on the right platforms. Even, if it means that I need to up my coding and graphic skills.

Fail Fast, Learn Faster

In times like these there are no obvious answers. So, I have come to understand that learning takes much more humility, mental agility, and people skills that I would have thought in the beginning of this year.  But, since none of us have a crystal ball or can know with any certainty what will happen next it’s time to embrace the possibility of embracing failure and try new things. I’ve learned so much more in my life by failing than have through succeeding the first time. Ironically, I have grown to a place where I enjoy figuring out plan B, and C, more than getting things right the first time. I have come to appreciate the opportunity to try new things and understand that failing is only a problem if you don’t learn from it.

There is always an opportunity to get back up and try something different. I am not sure what the new normal has in store for us. In fact, given the rate that the new normal is accelerating, I am pretty sure that “new normal” will be the old normal by next month. But, through all these changes I have learned that curiosity is a trait worth cultivating, bravery is mandatory and the ability to adapt is essential.


About the Author: Laura Kane is an acclaimed strategist, trusted advisor and creative problem solver who helped organizations of all sizes find their voice and increase brand value by generating meaningful stories that were widely covered and shared. Laura is currently the head of communications for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and has previously worked with Disney ABC, National Geographic, Aflac, Intel, Marsh and PRSA.