Culture Shock to Pandemics – My experience of change

by Julia Zaikovaty

Upheaval in 2020

As we approach our third month in lockdown, countries, organisations and almost every single person, have all undergone enormous shocks to the system. And while we try to define what the new normal will be or how it will look, the process of response, recovery and resilience that we’re living through reminds me of the phases of culture shock.

Moving to the UK from Canada at the end of February this year, I was prepared for going through these stresses and phases of culture shock – the feelings of initial optimism, then distress, through adjustment to adaptation. Luckily, at this point I had two years of living and learning abroad to prepare me for what culture shock would look and feel like.

Yet, as the country went into lockdown, I found myself experiencing a whole different kind of culture shock. Suddenly, our modes of communication were relayed to the virtual world and our behaviours had to be adjusted accordingly. In many ways, this was an experience that most of us had little time to prepare for, nor understand what to expect.

Phases of Change

In the last several weeks, many of our comforts and habits have had to change. We have gone through several phases:

  • optimism – as we see the positive impacts of working from home and how decreased travel can begin to heal the natural world around us
  • distress – as we recognise new challenges such as the economic and to our wellbeing due to social distancing
  • adjustment – as we become familiar with new routines and behaviours
  • adaptation – where we being to normalise a new set of behaviours

These phases and associated stresses force us to challenge our behaviours and allow us to adjust and transition into new environments.

Applying what we’ve learned

From the current situation, we were sent into a whirlwind of changes and most of our routines and patterns of working have been challenged. In spite of the many hardships that have resulted, this pandemic has given us some new perspectives and ways of working to consider. For example, the shift some organisations may take to work from home indefinitely.

In the next few months, as things return to normal or a new normal, we will once again experience a time of transition and change. Although the last few months have been challenging, both to organisations and to individuals, it’s important that we take the time to reflect on the changes we’ve experienced and consider if and how to integrate those changes over the coming months.

If you’d like to speak to Julia about some of her ideas on phases of change, the shock of living in the UK or that time she found a bear in her bath,  or just plain anything, send us a note and she’ll get right back to you.