Why is it so difficult for us to change?

When consulting with clients on change management, I begin with the following: The only person who appreciates change is a baby with a dirty nappy. In general, people do not like change, maybe because of the uncertainty. We tend only to change when either forced or if our pain becomes big enough.

Covid-19 shook our world and forced us to make changes, some big and some smaller, but most of us had to make changes. One of the changes for most of us was to work from home during lock-down and during later stages to remain working from home, to limit the spread of the virus. Even those jobs not previously considered to qualify for working from home were forced to do so.

If not enough, the schools also invaded our homes. All this, in a time when more and more people are looking for improved work-life balance. Many people had to make space in the kitchen or even their garage for the laptop computer. Work-life balance flew out the first available window!

To further complicate an already frustrating situation, many of us had to share our only computer with our children for their schoolwork and Google classroom. The kitchen table became the hotspot for school and the office. On a lighter note, this gives new meaning to the “water cooler talk”!

It took some time to get used to everyone working and living in the same room.

What can be learnt from this? Are we in a better position? Do we have less work-life balance?

Let’s go back to life before the Coronavirus and lock-down to reflect.

A typical day in my life started waking early to get my children out of bed to be ready for school. It was a struggle to get them to the car in time to face rush-hour traffic. It felt like every driver was on a mission to get to their destination in the quickest time, and without considering other road users. The one driver is more agitated than the next; everybody is hooting and taking gaps that do not exist. After dropping my children, I have to get back in the queue to get to the next challenge of my day – finding a parking space at the Gautrain station. When you think it will get better, you need to fight for a place on the already full train. Don’t think you will get a seat; you will most probably have to stand for the full 20 minutes ride to Sandton station.

Arriving at the station, I have many times though that this is what a nest of ants looks like inside. Everyone was busy, getting into one of the queues, taking the stairs to get to the top. There the queues do not stop; you get in a new one leading in the direction of your workplace. When you eventually get to your office, you are dead tired, with a full day of meetings ahead of you. When the day is done, you need to face the same queues and traffic to get home.

When making a comparison with a typical day during level-1 lock-down, where things are almost back to normal, I was surprised.

Even with all the children back to school and most people back to work, morning peak hour traffic is not as hectic. We can leave 30 minutes later than pre-lockdown, no queues or drivers are pushing in and taking chances. We arrive well in time for school, even too early on some days.

Half an hour later, we are back at home, ready for another cup of coffee. Only after that do I need to switch on my computer, to start with the day’s Zoom meetings.

Why did I fear the change so much at the start of lock-down, or was it the uncertainty? Do I now have a better work-life balance?

Looking back, I have definitely scored. I have a lot more time without any of the frustrations from traffic and travelling. I even have enough time to fit in some quiet time for meditation before I start my day.

Does it mean that I work less? I believe I get to do even more than before; the meetings are not less. There might even be one or two more in a day. The big difference is the available productive time. I can now do some work between meetings, as there is no struggling to the next meeting venue. When done with my last appointment, I can switch off my computer, and I am immediately at home without any of the stress and frustrations due to the commute.

We should thus consider asking if we need a disaster to trigger a change in our lives, or can we take some time, be quiet and start to think of improvements. This way, we can probably even further improve on our already enhanced circumstances.

Let’s get thinking…

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