Doctor talking with a senior patient

A doctor talking with a senior patient. Telemedicine has become a vital link during the virus lockdown.

I love change.

But I know the world does not embrace change the way I do, so it’s been amazing to see how, when under the gun, people pivot within days to change how they deliver their work.

Unless you work in grocery or a hospital, or drive trucks, you are probably teleworking or have dramatically changed how you deliver your product.

Has it been fun? No. But it’s been necessary, and we’ve seen people step up and—dare I say—surprise themselves at how they’ve been able to pivot quickly. While the delivery of their product or service may not be the same quality or meet the same set of expectations as before COVID-19, it’s been pretty darn good. And that’s been fun to watch, even if it hasn’t been fun to execute.

Look at K–12 and higher education. Both are educating students online now. Yes, parents have picked up much of the K–12 responsibilities, but the teachers are helping them by creating expectations and sharing lesson plans.

Folks in the arts are offering everything from online museum tours to streaming plays. Most higher education professors had only days to rethink the last half of their semester classes and take the classes online. Assignments were modified and some were replaced with different assignments, but the professors stepped up. Most of the students have adapted well to this new reality. I think it’s helped to know that, while no one signed up for this, everyone is living it.

Restaurants are vulnerable when people are told to socially distance themselves. While layoffs and furloughs of staff have been common, most of the restaurants in my community are still open. I may not be able to dine in these days, but I can pick up a meal or have it delivered. Menus have been simplified and that’s OK. In January, the carryout and delivery options probably were not part of the restaurant’s portfolio, but tough times call for creative solutions, and restaurant owners have pivoted.

The same can be said for many small businesses. Some may have had little online presence before COVID-19. The pandemic this has caused many to rethink their online presence. If there was a website before, it’s probably been improved. If there was no website, there probably is now, and organizations are also using social media to drive customers to their sites. Online ordering and delivery options will save many small businesses.

I grew up going to church. There’s a rhyme young children are taught that essentially says the church is not the building, but the people. Churches today have figured out this is true. Worship services are being streamed live and outreach programs in the church continue, albeit virtually.

Medical and dental professionals are continuing to see people with emergencies face to face while using appropriate protective gear, but many doctor’s offices are now seeing their patients virtually as well. I read recently that one doctor is doing drive-thru testing in her practice’s parking lot. We wouldn’t have seen that in January, either.

So while times are tough, and they really are, my takeaway is that people are resilient and adaptable. If you had asked them six months ago how they would manage if something like this happened, I expect they would have acted as if they would crumble when the sky fell. But they’re not, and that’s to be celebrated.

Additionally, when this is all over and life settles back into a new normal—and it will—I hope we realize that doing things differently is not to be feared. We are stronger for being able to learn, under pressure, how creative and courageous we are. Let’s not lose that. Our ability to change has surprised us—let’s not revert when the pandemic ends.

Lynne Richardson is the dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington.

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