From the Business Perspective Newsletter
If 2020 had a theme
When we were kids we used to whine, “Are we there yet?”
Now we catch ourselves saying, “When this is over”, or “When things get back to normal” or “We’ll do that next year”. And “Wait, I have to get my mask.”
The problem is I’m afraid what we nostalgically remember as “normal” may be elusive. Changing our calendar to January 1 is not magically going to make our environment feel like the freedom we experienced in January of 2020. Perhaps the reality is that our “new normal” is going to be a continuous state of adjusting to… a new normal.
One of my favorite mindless pleasures used to be the ABC sitcom “The Middle” featuring the Hecks, an Indiana working class family and their exaggerated struggles of home and work life balancing three children with very different, quirky personalities. Even now if I see a rerun, I’ll pause to watch because something about this show never fails to make me laugh. The middle daughter Sue reminds me of my every day in junior high – every awkward, stringy haired day of it when it seemed that all the other girls had the Farah Fawcett hair/life I didn’t. Yet Sue smiles every day, drawing energy from her syrupy inspirational posters – plastered in her locker and all over her room. There have been many days since March when we could have used Sue Heck’s favorite “Hang in There!” poster featuring a wide-eyed kitten dangling by its paw from a tree limb, twin emotions of desperation and hope on its cute little face.
Life isn’t a poster. What we’re experiencing now is serious. Covid-19 has serious, sometimes deadly impacts on its victims. It’s also wreaked havoc on our economy, with soaring unemployment, devastating losses of revenue throughout many sectors and closing businesses, leaving gaping real estate holes across the country.
Throughout these months we’ve heard a broad spectrum of emotions and experiences from our members. Some are optimistic, with creativity paying off and business picking up and others experiencing opportunity. Others are still struggling as business models and safety protocols collide, keeping business from operating optimally. Owners and managers are worried about their staff who are furloughed. As numbers have spiked through July, plans have changed, making it clear that flexibility must be one of our key skillsets in the months ahead. In our survey in early July we heard loud and clear that if requiring masks would keep business open, then that’s what we needed to do.
From many, we’ve heard you’re still working from home, some until at least the end of the year. There’s great flexibility in that – no masks required, easier dress code, and quick fridge access, but the tradeoff is less informal communication and collaboration with colleagues and the tendency, at least when I was home, to sit for hours on end at the computer. For working parents with kiddos at home, soon they’ll add educator back to their multi-tasking list, adding more stress to their daily lives.
And from most everyone, there’s fatigue. You have an overload of Zoom calls, webinars and emails to return and data to decipher. And yet, these are part of our new normal. We all need resources to make decisions as we determine the future of our businesses. Resilience – survival - isn’t just grit. It’s the intersection of resourcefulness, determination, knowledge and spunk. Your Chamber is masked up, ready for whatever the coming months bring. Our commitment to you is that we’ll continue to be your resource, your connection and your voice as we work through this together. #WhyWeOPChamber
Tracey Osborne Oltjen, CCE, IOM
President & CEO