by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Strategic Communications + Engagement
I was recently on the hunt for a piece of jewelry that had gone missing. Not entirely recalling where it was, I looked high and low and then decided to take a look in my carry-on luggage, which I had not opened since February 27, 2020. The jewelry was not there, but remnants of a past life were. I used to travel a lot. Not with glamour, but with a high degree of frequency. I had a whole set up – a dedicated toiletry bag, my survival kit (tea, vitamins, ear plugs), adapters, chargers, earphones, travel journal, cozy scarf and so many other treasures. These things were so critical to me during my travels. They brought me comfort on cold, late night flights or in between engagement sessions. The idea of leaving home without my cozy scarf was a nightmare of nightmares; leaving it on a plane, would send me into a panic. And now…it lay untouched, unloved for nearly a year and I survived.
This is how I feel about holding out for in-person engagement. Many clients were waiting until September 2020 when this whole “covid-thing” blew over. Some of them are still waiting. For many there was a need to wait for “normal” to return, to hold on to the familiar, comfortable, and the known. For others, there was a lack of capacity around how to engage online, and for others the work of staying afloat and keeping their staff safe was the only priority.
There are certainly things I miss about in-person engagement: the ease of connection, the opportunity to get to know people more deeply and the energy that is generated when groups of people come together with common purpose. But there are many things I don’t miss: the expense, the carbon emissions from all that travel, the continuous cold I always seemed to be battling, and the primacy that was given to those who showed up in-person, sometimes at the expense of those who participated online.
I am in a fortunate position that I can work from home. We have an incredible team of staff who have supported moving our business online. We are also very blessed to have clients who have trusted us to make that leap. I recognize that not everyone is so fortunate and my request recognizes my privilege.
My request is that we don’t hold on too tightly to what was because we might miss the opportunity to design better processes moving forward. We can be creative problem solvers. We can have good old-fashioned conference calls or town halls, we can do virtual focus groups, we can provide mail-back options for surveys. We can double-down on our commitment to engagement, even when it isn’t easy.
I have traded in my carry-on, likely not forever, but for now and I am good with it. I have lunches with my boys and I have a “new” favourite cozy scarf.
Stay well, stay cozy.