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Creating Space for the New Normal

COVID-19 has been a horrific ongoing nightmare for many many people, and it is not my intention in any way to make light of its truly awful impacts that have caused such vast suffering. But there are some take-aways from this global experience that may help us as we move forward into the new normal.

Cleaning Up, Clearing Out

As many of us have been forced to remain mostly in our homes and make sense out of our office spaces, we’ve learned we can’t just close the door and go off to work or school. Our cluttered desks, our jam-packed closets and piled-high garages just stare at us like an impatient parent with their outdated and unused arms crossed demanding we do something about this mess right now. It’s almost like COVID-19 is the mother of all nagging viruses that has dropletted her way into every part of our lives with one mother of a time-out.

So okay, we can’t really say, “Not now, mom. I don’t have time,” because we do have time. We’re not driving to work. We’re not going to conferences. Many of us are not even getting our hair cut – we’ll talk about that later. But, for now, consider this: self-help author Gretchen Rubin says, “For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. In the context of a happy life, a crowded coat closet or a messy desk shouldn’t much matter – but it does, more than it should.”

Rubin offers simple suggestions to keep our lives tidier and our brains clearer, and they take five minutes. These are tips like making your bed, getting rid of yesterday’s newspaper, tossing out broken things, being wary of freebies – like that “thank you” bag from Walmart for using curbside grocery delivery. Seriously, what are you ever going to do with that Mueller Sports Medicine Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape? I don’t know either, but it’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now.

It is an amazing feeling, like breathing oxygen at sea level, when you exist in a neat environment. Honestly, when I walk past my freshly made bed with too many pillows and stuffed polar bears all in place, I can actually hear myself take a deep cleansing breath – like in yoga!

And, instead of spending half a day frantically searching for one postage stamp to mail in your quarterly estimated tax payment that you swear was under the ink cartridges you shoved into your desk drawer just last week, or waiting three days for Amazon to bring you a stamp, you get to feel like a smug smarty pants when you put your finger right on the sheet of those “forever” heart stamps you bought but never used for Valentine’s Day!

True confession: I cleaned my office last week and found that under a tower of notebooks, sketch pads, napkins with scribbles, pens that don’t work, reports that need to be reviewed and People magazine crossword puzzles from 2016 was a stack of books that looked like the return counter at a public library, and also some postage stamps.

And yes, I can hear you and the voices in my head saying, “Yeah, so what? It’s not like anyone else is looking at my cluttered and dysfunctional office space.”

Ah, but they are now, because everyone it seems is in love with Zoom.

Zoom is the New First Impression

Just when we thought we might never need to step foot inside a barber shop or beauty salon again, clients and co-workers are scheduling teleconferences. We need to remember that these are business meetings. We need to prepare for them, dress for them and demonstrate that we are professionals. We are taking our jobs seriously and everything that’s on our camera needs to reflect that.

For example, if you wouldn’t wear a baseball cap to a board meeting, please don’t wear it on Zoom. If you don’t take your cat to work, it’s probably not appropriate to let it walk across your desk on a video call either and stop in front of your face for five seconds swishing its tail. I’m sure all toddlers are adorable, but they also can be very distracting when they want to climb in your lap and pull on your ears while you’re on camera. And how about that bag of chips someone decides to open while his mic is unmuted?

One of the most common teleconferencing faux pas is being unaware of what’s on camera, not just your cat and your kids, but what’s on the wall behind your head. Like television news journalists reporting from home, we are all capable of being caught on set live now. That means we have to think about camera angles, lighting, sound and what your electronic device can see.

Whether you are representing a company or your own brand, you and everything associated with you is making an impression, and now more than ever, all eyes can be in your home office. Don’t be that blob sitting in the dark with a 1970s Farrah Fawcett poster illuminated behind you. Clean up your desk, clear out the clutter and create your best space for the new normal. FBN

Creating Space for the New Normal

Bonnie Stevens is a public relations consultant. She can be reached at bonnie.stevens@gmail.com.

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