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Lockdown reflections Karen Griffin

Managing a 1-in-a-100-year stress event

Many of us would agree that we are now COVID-19 experts

By Karin Griffin, Operations Risk at Standard Bank  

Extracts from reflections produced by Operational risk in our Captain’s log. 

We have learned the importance of hygiene (not that we did not know this before the coronavirus hit us – the difference now is that we are more conscious and have made it second nature). Ask us about PPE (personal protective equipment) and we will give you a lowdown, from the types of masks available (surgical, N-95 respirators), to gloves (whether they are safe or not). “Do not touch your face” – who can possibly forget those moments. Those words have been inscribed in us.  

Most of us would probably know our temperature before the lady at the grocery shop with a scanner shows us our reading, and we probably even know which scanners are ineffective. We can recite the guidance from our internal COVID-19 policy. We now even know who the president of the World Health Organisation is and how frequently the organisation updates its COVID-19 guidance notes. We also know the importance of masks and social distancing, deep cleaning, pandemic versus epidemic, and self-quarantine versus isolation. 

Lockdown has given us an opportunity to reflect and be in tune. It has forcefully pushed us out of our comfortable spaces, and it is when this happens that we learn that we can be more, we can do more and that we can navigate complexity. We have found a silver lining from the situation; others would call it a serendipitous situation.  

Now men can multi-task 

We are learning to collaborate better, faster and with meaningful outcomes. The situation has helped accelerate some of the work we had deprioritised. Before lockdown, men used to joke about how they can’t multitask. We’ve had to quickly adapt to the new in order to survive. We have adjusted to working remotely whilst still providing the same level of exceptional work quality. The pandemic has allowed us to do deep reflections about ourselves, others, work, wellness and meaningful things in life. 

Lockdown has proven that we can be more: Some of us have become chefs, teachers, interior designers, painters, garden masters, handymen, computer wizards and counselors. We can even use our home appliances without any help. What are we are talking about here? Yes, the washing machine, hoovers, lawn mowers, the drilling machine and things like that. 

Pros and cons 

Suddenly, we want to thank and appreciate Condeco for organising meeting rooms at the office. When you are in lockdown with four children and a spouse, there is no Condeco evidence outside of your lounge room to prove that you booked the room first. Kids also require the same room for virtual classes… Surely you are not that parent who will be fighting with a child for a spot? 

A lockdown-induced reality less talked about is anxiety – anxiety of feeling trapped, about limited freedom, and not knowing how the situation is going to end. Most of us go through a rollercoaster of emotions. The one day we are super thankful to have a job and good health, and then the next day the thought of not being free to visit loved ones weighs us down. Our routine is no longer there. Gyms, entertainment areas, places of worship and schools were closed. 

On the brighter side, who needs office clothes, make-up, expensive perfume/cologne? Not most. Track suits on and we’re ready to tackle the workday head on. When last did we go to a filling station? We are not even paying attention to fuel price changes. No stress from aggressive taxi drivers. The costs associated with commuting to work are no longer there. 

Before lockdown, we had become like robots. We focused more on tomorrow/what is still to come, and missed the opportunity to be in the moment, to be present, now. Lockdown has helped us pause, reflect and be in the moment. Taking time to read a book. Connecting actively with friends, family and colleagues. Conscious about actions and surroundings. 

Lockdown has unveiled the reality of an unequal society…. Most of us in one way or the other have been sharing with the less fortunate. Communities, families, friends and colleagues are more in touch with their softer sides. We have learned more about our surroundings. 

In as much as working from home comes with great benefits, we also can’t turn a blind eye to new bad habits we are developing… Yes, the close relationship we have developed with the fridge and goodies cabinet. Most find it hard adhering to a good diet. We have gotten into a lazy mode (less or no exercising), whereas in the office we could walk to the pause area/canteen/meeting rooms. Now, most of us sit the whole day in one space. It is important to make a conscious reminder to look after our wellness, to exercise and eat healthy.  

Adapting 

Months have passed since lockdown started, and we have found a flow and adjusted to new work-from-home strategies. We have adjusted to social regulations. We have adjusted to virtual meetings. We now understand that the house is an office, classroom and a home theatre, and we have gotten the flow right. We are adjusting to the work and home time balance, even though it is not easy finding a good balance. Thinking about an every-day drive to the office is starting to feel strange. 

Fast decisions and actions taken by the bank’s leadership during lockdown have left employees beaming with pride. Endless measures have been put in place by the bank’s leadership to safeguard the wellness of staff. This includes allowing more than 75% of the workforce to work from home by providing the necessary tools. Ensuring premises are safe for staff who cannot work from home, and the continuous empowerment of staff by providing COVID-19 training and awareness resources. Temporary measures were also put in place to provide staff with transport and meals at the office. The bank has also proactively given back to society. 

Evening dates with the President 

Who does not look forward to these dates? We can’t be late anymore; our president has tried to be on time? Our president, since the start of COVID-19, has spoiled us to several evening dates aimed at addressing concerns and providing updates. We would gather around listening to him deliver his latest announcement. Be it the easing of restrictions, allowing the nation to purchase fermented grapes, or showing us how to properly wear masks. The dates have been nothing short of entertainment, given the fact that at the time, most entertainment places were closed. 

Our greatest reflection: The best things in life are free. Out of the lessons and the pain as a result of COVID-19, the one thing that has been clear is that it is the free things that we value most as humans. 

  • Human interaction is important – hugs are free 

  • Love 

  • Family and friends 

  • Humour 

  • Time for self 

  • Time with others 

  • Rest 

  • Inner peace 

  • And the list goes on