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Hitting Pause

Sometimes in the race to what’s next we have to let the rest of the world catch up.

Have you ever had this experience? You are fast-forwarding through a video to get to the “good part” when you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of something — something interesting, confusing, provoking — and you hit pause. Then, you more carefully go back and scan that part of the video in real time to understand what you missed.

For me, this is a metaphor for how we are returning to work in the not-quite-post-pandemic era.  Our understandable urge to surge ahead to the “good part” of our respective jobs and industries has been thwarted by labor shortages, supply-chain disruptions, cancelled airline flights, and other unforeseen challenges. We just want to get back to normal, right? 

Normal. As if that’s a thing. I think it’s more about discovering the next normal. And the one after that.

I am beyond happy to be attending actual, in-person live events. It is a gift to meet with colleagues and clients and do the important and rewarding work of connecting people in meaningful ways. But as we are planning for each trade show, annual event, conference, etc., there may be times when we simply have to press pause and make sure the rest of the team is still with us. Like, are there trucks available to make that delivery? Or, is that supplier back up and running at speed? Can we get those materials on time and in the quantity we need? Are the laptops still on back order? These are questions we haven’t had to ask in a long time; now we do. And the critical element in all of these questions remains, are the right people available to drive the trucks, build the parts, keep the airport and planes running, clean and service the venue, answer the phones, and handle all of the myriad tasks that we take for granted. There’s a meme about not running faster than your angels can fly — I think maybe it applies to our mortal “angels” too.

I’ve always maintained that people are our killer app and the pandemic made that abundantly clear. I am both proud and grateful that Freeman was able to retain or furlough a representative portion of our people so that we could quickly initiate the ramp-up process. But the support team our work requires is vast and labor intensive. We will all need a double dose of empathy and an extra portion of grace in this next phase of ramp and recovery.

As Labor Day approaches, we would do well to show appreciation to all of the people who habitually make our lives run smoothly. In every industry. In every walk of life. They have a choice to serve us to the best of their ability or to do just enough to keep their job. Their attitude, to say nothing of their talents and skills, can make our own work easier or more challenging. This includes the people returning to work after long furloughs or layoffs. It includes the understaffed and overworked. And it includes those essential workers who still haven’t caught their breath from the crush of demand the pandemic has caused. 

I am as guilty as the next person of rushing to whatever is next — to that “good thing” I can’t wait to get on with. But Labor Day is a good reminder to pause and say thank you to those who enable us to do what we do. I am always grateful. I need to remember to show it more.

Thank you to everyone who helps our business and our industry thrive. Happy Labor Day.