How 2020 Wasn’t as Bad as it First May Appear

How 2020 Wasn’t as Bad as it First May Appear

by Patrick O’Neill

Friday March 13, 2020. I don’t think I will ever forget that date for as long as I’m on this big blue marble. That was the last working day before Canada “shut down” and we stopped “going out” to places such as school, gyms, theatres, office buildings, etc. I remember speaking to the teachers as I dropped my daughter off at school that morning knowing that March break was going to be extended by two weeks. Little did anyone know at the time that those two weeks would turn into several months! It was the longest March break ever!

While the COVID19 pandemic has begun and has since continued into a second wave in Canada our lives and work must make some adjustments to be able to also continue in a safe way. Luckily, we were able to quickly pivot and work remotely (for the most part) with the virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams. These technologies have been critical for social gatherings to continue and for Vertex (and many other companies) to function. Without these technologies work (and social life) would have been much more difficult to say the least. It was nice to continue to see colleagues and clients “face to face”, even if through a digital lens. And if you are in a similar situation to me, having small children join you for meeting and conference calls was the all part of the ‘new norm.’

In my experience the extended remote working has had both positive and negative influences to our physical and mental health. The ability to work from home has allowed for extra family time as there is no longer any commuting to and from work, however, it also means there is no time to disconnect from work during that typical commute. I, personally, was someone who enjoyed the short commute to/from work which allowed for this disconnected time. Working from home also meant that even something simple as working with your colleagues and using them as a sounding board became much more difficult and inefficient. Something that could take 5 to 10 min in the office now became a structured process to setup a virtual meeting, logon, discuss and continue on with your task after hearing the feedback. It may still seem like a simple and quick process but for those of us that have to do this multiple times in a day it adds up in a hurry! This way of working definitely has led to inefficiencies but we soldier on and continue to do everything we can and remain as efficient as possible given the situation. I will say that as time has gone on I (like most) have developed my own personal processes and apply some more structure around time management to help improve the efficiency of working from home and limit “Zoom fatigue.”

With the “extra time” and lack of places to and offer a distraction, the pandemic has also allowed for some personal and professional growth. Personally, I re-discovered my love/hate relationship with running, was able to finally tackle some smaller projects around the house (inside and out), and even took up a new hobby, something I could do with my children, colouring with pencil crayons! All have been very beneficial to my own mental health and allowed me to focus on something positive in 2020!

Along with these personal hobbies/distractions I was able to move my professional life forward as well. During the beginning of the pandemic I was scheduled to write my P.Eng. ethics examination, however, that was quickly delayed until further notice. Again, just like everything else in the world, remote functionality and testing would be required to facilitate the exams. The PEO pivoted fairly quickly to an online examination format. This was good news, however, the examination materials were slightly different than what I had originally been studying, so back to gathering materials and content to study more! Once examination day arrived and I setup my bedroom as my secure examination location it was a quick 3 hours of multiple choice questions and it was all over. Fast forward to December 23, 2020 and I received my notification (and digital stamp) to be a P.Eng.! It’s something that I’ve been putting off for years but I’m very happy that I did it and I can now look forward to writing those four letters at the end of my name for a long time!

I wrote this blog to say that yes, 2020 was unexpected and generally not a “fun” experience for most people, however, given the limitations imposed on most people, some positives can and were accomplished out of a unique situation! If you are anything like me, highlighting those positive moments in an otherwise “less than desirable situation” can really help with your mental and physical well being. As we all move through 2021 while still in the pandemic and waiting for our turn to be vaccinated, try not to dwell on the negatives and look for those positive experiences that may not have otherwise presented themselves in a “normal” year. It helped me and I hope it helps you too!