The process of self-improvement – whether it’s our skills, our working routines, our health, or any other aspect of our everyday lives – typically comes from a combination of seeing and doing. Normally, I’m a ‘doer’ but this past year, more than any other in my lifetime, has been a period where my normal routine has been pulled apart and I’ve found a great opportunity to take stock and observe. Despite my busy lifestyle, the experience has given me time to reflect on, and even challenge, many of the beliefs and assumptions I held pre-COVID-19.
Seeing how my own behaviours have changed and how my colleagues have reacted to the unusual circumstances, I find myself asking what will things be like when we get through all this, and how can we take what we’ve learned to help us live and work better?
A New Perspective
The first thing I’ve learned is that being busy isn’t the same as being productive. I recently looked back on my 2019 diary and could barely believe it – I hardly stopped for a moment. My working life seemed, on reflection, to be a continuous loop of boardroom meetings, event appearances, and mad dashes to the airport to catch the next flight. Yet, since the initial lockdown, I got just as much done – possibly even more – with a diary showing a more productive use of my time. Being more discerning and economical with my time, I could prioritise my work better. I could also spend time doing non-work things that improve my health and wellbeing, such as exercising.
The second thing I learned is that no matter how daunting a departure from the status quo may feel, if we approach change with an open mind then we’ll likely find we are adaptable to new circumstances and can make the most of new situations. Take our annual Automation Fair, which took place in November, as an example. This has been a major calendar event for Rockwell Automation for many years. In 2020, we made it an At Home event, that could be accessed live or on-demand. In the lead up, it felt like not being able to attend in person and interact with peers would be a big loss. In reality, however, we found new ways of congregating around the event program. Virtual hangouts and forums provided plenty of network opportunities, and having the sessions recorded meant it wasn’t a choice between the speaker content and the networking – we could do both, and at our own leisure.
Adaptability will be key for what lies ahead. How we work, collaborate, and learn may look very different to previous times. In our work, we’ve seen a rapid acceleration in how remote-enabling technologies, such as AR and digital twins, and online learning platforms have been applied to turn the once-physical into the virtual. Encouragingly, we’ve seen many of our OEM partners put these technologies to great use for pressing needs, such as machine training and repairs, the ease and quality of which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
We need to be flexible about how we approach this year and resist the urge to cling to the ‘old ways’. If we are open to changing our perceptions based on experience, then we are able to grow – our beliefs are only valid until they are disproven. I, like many, once thought that to be efficient in sales and customer relations, you had to be out in the field all the time. COVID-19 happened, we adapted, and the sky didn’t fall – we’re still selling and we’re still serving our customers. Even I have been surprised at just how successful the process of adapting has been.
Of course, being a people-person, I miss meeting our customers, prospects and partners in the flesh, and look forward to getting that part of my life back – but I’ll manage it differently as a result of these recent experiences and seek to find a healthy balance, both for my working productivity and for my own personal development and wellbeing. I encourage my colleagues do the same.
You can learn more about the ways digital technology has helped the world adapt to these challenges – as well as how our people are adapting – through our Management Perspectives thought-leadership program.