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TRANSFORMATION| 18.03.2021

We are adaptable: COVID-19 makes interpersonal relationships more flexible

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It is difficult to gage the impact of COVID-19 on an individual and interpersonal level, between work teams and colleagues. In the coming years, studies in these and other fields are likely to proliferate. The focus of MAPFRE is on people, so the company intends to offer some insights into how we’ve stayed connected: with flexibility and adaptability; avoiding loneliness and isolation as best as possible; and by choosing security in times of uncertainty. 

According to psychologist Javier Urra, people’s personal preferences are still the same. We remain the same in essential aspects: family values, relationships with friends and our beliefs. In short, what we understand as preferential, while deprived of free social contact, we changed our habits: we use a channel to maintain affection thanks to technology, we hardly travel due to health measures and stay at home longer, with more friction between those in our household.

Individuals with priorities intact

Specific behaviors may change, but not life values or approaches, as highlighted by the updated opinion poll of 4,000 people between the ages of 18 and 75 by Mar de Fondo. “After a pandemic, a relevant issue may emerge for the human race, but it’s not essential at the individual level. […] We’ll fall back to our old behaviors and approaches when this is all over,” warns Urra, co-author of the study.

As a social observer, he sees well-adapted people, in general, without a social breakdown. Technology, science and food distribution are working. The vast majority of people are altruistic and generous, suffering forges character and the focus remains on valuing the essentials: supporting loved ones, giving recognition to doctors, nurses and supermarket workers, thanking those who helped the most… Children and adolescents have grown up watching their parents working hard, afraid of losing their grandparents or their jobs, he explains.

“Society is adapting, because we are adaptable.” The damage is concentrated in groups such as the medical and healthcare sector, patients who have been in intensive care (ICU), elderly people who are alone or in residences, and people with previous pathologies or addictions. But the damage hasn’t spread to society as a whole. “Human beings are more resilient than we think, even though we suffer throughout life and history. We shy away from death in the West, and now the discussion is turning to the prospect of new strains, the economic outlook, the arrival of the vaccine and possible treatments for the disease,” he adds.

“This [virus] is a common enemy to all, and society has faith in science’s response: finding the vaccine(s), and making them effective and free,” he sums up, harboring doubts as to whether, at another time, the world would have been paralyzed as happened with the current COVID-19 crisis. “Society very quickly chose security over freedom.”

More creative and proactive teams  

For organizations, the consensus is that “the initial phase of the crisis has passed and we are in another phase emotionally[i].”

In working relationships, efforts by our teams have been recognized. Teams are more flexible and connected thanks to new work tools and with communication that is, in general, more transparent; they are more collaborative and, according to the leaders, are showing higher levels of creativity, innovation and proactivity.

The most neglected aspects that are important due to their impact on people include promoting empathy and the opportunity to address “sense and purpose.”

Going forward, according to the aforementioned analysis, individual attention should focus on encouraging more contact, giving and receiving feedback and more reasoning about why things are done.

Middle managers and managers will need to retain their teams’ commitment, and help to manage stress through meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, the vision of what the future of organizations will look like, rethinking plans, aligning them with strategy and protecting tomorrow remain the responsibility of senior management.

Winning the future will depend on how they can “strengthen their affinity[ii] with all stakeholders, in addition to employees, consumers, clients, providers and shareholders, among others.”

 

[i] Lessons learned from COVID-19, answers that leaders and companies can provide, developed by BTS.

[ii] Llorente & Cuenca article on how to manage a company’s strategic relationships to manage the recovery.