Pandemic-Inspired Thought Bubbles

by Susan Nemetz, May 2021

As we emerge, slowly, into a new phase of the pandemic, there are many “thought bubbles” popping up — viewpoints, concerns, and ideas that we share with others or keep to ourselves as we try to manage the present and anticipate the future.

Here is just a sample of what I have heard…

“People need a break after this last year and will need to take vacations or time off to rejuvenate.”

“We want to do this offsite, since many of us have never met in person, and we have much to accomplish this year.”

“What is really going to happen when we return to the office? Are people going to still expect 24/7 response time?”

“I really don’t know if you are tall or short since I have only seen you on Zoom!”

“We have so much to do, and everything is taking longer.”

“I am worried about such a disrupted year for my child who is really struggling.”

“I have family in India, how can I possibly focus?”

“I have seen some family members way too much and others not at all. I feel out of sorts.”

“My sibling was just diagnosed with cancer. We are devastated that after such a horrific pandemic year, we now need to deal with this.”

“The thought of wasting hours commuting again is dreadful.”

“I am surprised at how less anxious I am now that I am vaccinated.”

Clearly, the transitions we are facing are real. Taken together, they will impact the degree of urgency and amount of focus we can expect of our teams as we strive to meet our ambitious and lofty goals.

I feel it too. I am a “relationship person,” and yet we have hired people in both The NemetzGroup and Corval that I have never met in person! I have given much thought as to how to reconcile this disconnect (and dozens of others) in the months ahead.

As a biopharma industry, we pride ourselves on our incredible productivity; innovative, patient-centered cultures; and our ability to flex at a moment’s notice. Among the big issues that need managing, I am pondering these:

  • Large, multi-dimensional transitions
  • A cultural evolution from pre-pandemic, to remote working, to whatever is coming next
  • Support and patience required of leaders who must help other humans survive, thrive, and get to the “other side” (again, whatever that means)
  • Acceptance of a new, fragmented normal, where business is not “as usual”

As in many unsettled times, the most important first step is to shine a light on what is happening and how people are experiencing the situation. We then need to put words to it and have conversations to understand what is possible while showing compassion to the thought bubbles we know are there.

Like so many of you, I have found the past 15 months sobering and devastating – and, at times, inspiring. I am grateful for so many aspects of my work and home life while also worrying about this next phase: professionally, societal, and globally.

The oft-stated advice – control what you can control – prompted me to share some thought bubbles and shine a light on these points. I know that those around me are feeling it too, and I hope that saying it out loud (okay, in print) will provide the opportunity for all of us to pause and share our thoughts with each other.

Each of us, alone and collectively, is going through a transition. It is unclear what the final impact will be, but it’s important that we give each other permission to be patient and unsettled as we get through it together.

As we move into the summer season, this is a good time to do this reflection AND enjoy a little well-deserved sunshine in our lives.


Posted in All Categories, Organizational Development and Culture, Other