Fashioning a new normal

Debbie Jacob -
Debbie Jacob -

IN MANY ways, pandemic lockdowns have been an introvert’s dream. The fear of contracting covid19 aside, introverts, who make up about 25 per cent of any given population, enjoyed zoom business meetings as opposed to boardroom meetings and working from home rather than working in office cubicles that always felt like sardine cans. Introverts neither crave nor enjoy the company of masses amount of people.

So the question now is what do we do with that quarter of the population who doesn’t want to be thrown back into crowded offices and the forced socialising that workplaces require?

This is not to say that introverts never want human contact, but they see the benefits in being alone and thinking in quiet spaces. As it turns out, extroverts enjoyed some of the introvert’s world as well during the pandemic

A recent internet article by Alexander Nazaryan, entitled “The Coming Culture War Over Returning to the Office,” said that in a post-pandemic world, 75 per cent of people surveyed in a recent USA Today newspaper poll “wanted to work from home either some or all of the time.”

People are fed up of nothing but zoom life, but they’re just as fed up with traffic jams and regimented office life. My fear is that in our attempt to return to “normal” we are all going to forget that there is no such thing as normal any longer. There will be a new normal, and it should incorporate the lessons we have learned from the pandemic. That includes rethinking and reshaping workspaces.

Before covid19 invaded our lives, introverts were forced to work for the most part in jobs designed for extroverts. Few if any companies provided flexible working hours or work-from-home options. We only have to look at our pre-pandemic traffic jams to realise that.

International companies like Google that offer such considerations are considered progressive. They nurture creativity because they take into consideration the personalities of their workers.

Introverts thrive when they have time to themselves for thinking. Their creativity soars. This goes for children as well. Teachers have told me that during 16 months of online learning, some children who struggled in school did better than expected working online. Others who did well in school, fell apart with online learning.

Introverts didn’t miss the noise and the poor class behaviour from their peers in school. How do we incorporate introverted children back in the noise and excitement of a classroom? How do we create optimal learning conditions for all children?

A post-pandemic world will require creative problem-solving skills and trust. Four-day work weeks and allowing staff the perk of working from home part of the time will decrease traffic and increase productivity because parents and children will be less tired from those long commutes to work and school. People will become more productive because they won’t want to lose that perk of working from home.

Children need a break from commuter traffic so that they can have more time to prepare for classes. We don’t want to go back to the days where they are in traffic and school all day and lessons all evening so that they can collapse in their beds every school night. What about a day off a week for students to participate in community service? That’s a real-life learning experience. Schedules that offer more freedom provide the opportunity to develop better time-management skills.

We need a post-pandemic world built on trust. Employers don’t trust that employees are working if they’re not in their sight. Teachers feel the same way about students. But regimenting work and school lives is not the answer for happiness or productivity.

We also need to understand that schools can’t be the only place for education. We need more community-based support for students, especially in at-risk areas. Community centres and police youth centres can provide homework centres that could operate during the day to help level the playing field for struggling students who have been stuffed into classes with too many students. They can offer more indivdualised attention and reduce class sizes with pull-out sessions one day a week for each standard or form.

We need to be creative about fashioning our new normal. We need to eliminate stress from our lives, the workplace and school, and we need to reinvent our working and learning space.

By now, we all should have learned that the pandemic has been about our mental health as much as our physical health. We need to run with the lessons we have learned.


"Fashioning a new normal"

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