Set the scene: You are five minutes late for your team meeting and they started without you. You join the meeting, only to look down in horror at the realization that you are still wearing your pajama pants and fuzzy slippers. Your mind is racing with thoughts like, “did anyone notice?”, “I have to get out of here!” and “What was I thinking?” But no one notices—because you are on a video conference.
“Unprecedented” was the buzzword of 2020; but by the time the ball drops on the first of the upcoming year, most of the “unprecedented times” will now have a new precedent set. Whereas shoes and shirts were once the precedent for entering a store safely, now it’s “shoes, shirt and masks required.” The “naked-in-public” dream has been replaced with the “I forgot my mask” dream. The precedent set for event invitations used to be “don’t exceed the maximum capacity,” now it’s “don’t exceed 20% maximum occupancy.” 2020 has been fraught with changes, but they’re not all bad.
Here are the top 10 “unprecedented times” from 2020 that now have set precedents in 2021:
- Zoom/Teams Meetings:
For many, their morning routine has changed from rushing out the door in the morning to rushing to the computer to log on for a meeting. Meetings for which you need to be properly dressed, at least from the waist up, and have a clear space or virtual background of the French Riviera behind you. Video conferencing has become the norm even for brainstorming meetings, where throwing this at the wall to see what sticks now has a virtual meaning.
- Virtual Events
If you’re camera shy, this may be one change you despise. You could be on a screen with hundreds of viewers, like a reality tv star, except you’re just sitting in front of your camera trying to engage with the other talking heads on your screen. You can still dress to impress though! Attending a virtual event means returning to imagination and creativity. So, dance in your living room and have a cocktail; the upside—no public bathrooms.
- Company Gatherings
We all miss having cake in the canteen once a month for our colleagues’ birthdays, and this would be a terrible precedent for 2021. Let’s normalize individually wrapped cupcakes, cookies or brownies and bring back the celebrations! We will all happily stand six feet apart in masks and belt Happy Birthday completely off tune—and yes, we will make it accessible online, but if you’re at home, you must provide your own dessert.
- Not Seeing Your Colleagues Every Day
Before this year, we may not have realized that we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with family and friends. We spend 40 or more hours a week with our colleagues in comparison to the few hours with our families in the morning and evening and in between chores and activities on the weekends. Not seeing the same people every day can be quite jarring once you’re set into a routine. While introverts rejoice, those who thrive in team environments and in social situations are trying to find ways to maintain connection.
- Daily Temperature Screenings
You probably haven’t had your temperature taken this often since you were born. Going to work, visiting your doctor, going to the gym or visiting a salon means you have had an infrared thermometer in your face more times than you can count.
- Masks for Self-Expression
We have seen just about every kind of mask imaginable as the spread of COVID-19 continues. Fashionable and fun masks have become a trend. Gone are the blue surgical masks we were all donning in March—now there are patterns, sequins, sports logos, movie characters—you name it, and I bet you can find it on a mask. This precedent is a way for people to still show off their personality, even if you cannot see their smile.
- The Infamous “Elbow Bump”
Reaching for someone’s hand or opening your arms to give a hug are becoming distant memories as the “elbow bump” has become the new physical salutation. The elbow, not the fist, because STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE. This new norm could save gallons of hand sanitizer.
- Sanitizing Everything
How many of you consider how many other people have touched the things that you are about to touch? Beyond door handles and elevator buttons, what about a bottle of shampoo at the store—how many people picked it up to read the label and decided to put it back? Should we be sanitizing our shampoo? No, that would be an extreme example which the CDC has advised is unnecessary, but it makes the point. With Clorox and Lysol being nearly impossible to find, we know there is cleaning going on all over the world. We won’t even get started on toilet paper. From conference tables to light switches, everything must be sanitized as often as possible.
- Personal Space
Personal space has gone from arm’s length to the height of the average male. We are all hyper aware if someone is within six feet of our person. This new precedent is especially obvious in public spaces. No more crowding the checkout counter, stay on your sticker.
- Dedicated Workspaces at Home
The unpredictability of the Novel Coronavirus has caused many to carve out a workspace in their homes for an indefinite amount of time. For some it has been a dream come true, for others a nightmare of distractions from family, pets and complicated living situations. This precedent is necessary and unlikely to change until the surge in cases finally comes to an end. With many working from home permanently and corporations trying to figure out how to manage their staff from multiple places, adaptability may be the buzz word for 2021.