Now What?

As America reopens, several questions loom: How has COVID-19 changed us? Has it changed our culture and our companies? Will these changes be permanent? Are those changes for the better?

Psychologists and social scientists have had a lot of time to reflect on how the pandemic has affected us as a society. For example, some say the conflict between a desire for personal liberty and protecting others has sharpened the polarization that already existed. Others worry that our isolation may have caused us to retreat within. Or, has it allowed us to see more clearly the value of human connection?

Our collective pandemic trauma can’t help but influence our world view and present leaders with a paradox or two to ponder. For example, will flexible workplaces be seen as a concession to employees — something we adopt only grudgingly — or will it actually increase productivity?

Here at Werth, we would never have expected that relying on Zoom and Microsoft Teams would give us more hours in the day to connect with clients and to collaborate. We underestimated how focused we would become in driving the same level of quality work — or better — from our bedrooms and our kitchens.

Some experts feel that the upheaval caused by the pandemic will destroy whatever sense of company loyalty that might have previously existed. But perhaps loyalty depends on how we kept our teams together through this time. Companies that found ways to keep everyone employed and engaged may actually come out of it with stronger bonds.

Business classic Built to Last has something important to say about leadership. Author Jim Collins talks about the tyranny of the or” and the “genius of the and.” What Collins says is simply this: Just when we think we have to choose between two extremes, we may find we can have it both ways. And that having it both ways can lead to even greater success.

It may be a while before we really know how we will be changed. Werth will begin its transition back to our offices in early September. As we do, we know that associates with child care needs will have a different set of concerns than those whose kids are grown, and those who are working from their bedrooms will welcome a return to the office.

We will strive to balance respect for each individual with the greater good of the group and the needs of our clients. We are confident we can do this because of invaluable lessons we have learned through one of the toughest times in our history. We have learned that we are adaptable and how to be more flexible. We have learned that we are resilient and how to overcome our challenges. We have gained confidence in ourselves and each other.

So no, we are not going back to exactly the way things were before. But more and more, we’re convinced that’s a good thing.