by Shayne Thomas
14 May 2020
Just How Adaptable to Change Are You?
4 essential ways that learning can help you to adapt to change better
If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance that, in your day-to-day work, you put on a brave face every day, portray enduring optimism, and lead with a “can do” attitude, in spite of the fact that the world feels like is getting turned upside down at least once per day.
But then once you’re off your Zoom call—or whatever your preferred video conferencing solution may be—do you stare at your screen, wondering when all this uncertainty will end?
The truth is, there’s a big difference between accepting change and actually adapting to it. While many of us have come to terms with the present-day reality of this health and economic crisis swirling around us, whether we like it or not, there are still a lot of people struggling to cope and legitimately worried about what the future holds.
Nothing that’s happening today is truly normal. And if you’re one of those people who really thrive on a routine—or simply getting yourself out of the house to get a breath of fresh air on a regular basis—the current situation is probably a huge challenge for you.
I admit, I typically work from home, cafes, or coworking spaces. And while this more solitary working life works for me, my choice of working environment has, too, become limited over the last few months. Why do I even mention this? Because even people like me, who have become pros at working from home, don’t necessarily find the current situation and its limitations any easier. It’s just a bit less of a change from the norm, so to speak.
That being said, whatever you’re feeling right now—from solitude to stress and everything else in between—just know that it’s perfectly normal. You are only human, after all.
Key attributes of adaptability
There are a lot of ways to define the characteristics that make a person more adaptable to change. According to the New World of Work, for example, there are four common attributes to look for in people:
- They see change as a new opportunity, not as a challenge to overcome—especially in the face of new technologies or expanded responsibilities;
- They are open to new experiences, new work environments, new roles, and new tasks;
- They consider a variety of viewpoints and suggestions for getting work done; and
- They can handle stress, respond positively to feedback, and learn from mistakes.
In other words, someone who is highly adaptable to change pretty much sounds like the ideal human being—and someone who would be an absolute pleasure to work with, right?
Unfortunately, when you look at these attributes—especially number four—through the lens of what the world is going through now, this measure of adaptability almost feels like a pipe dream. Not that it’s unattainable, per se, but given the current situation, everyone has been forced to adapt to a new normal and, more or less, accept it at face value.
This isn’t necessarily adaptability; you might as well call it survival. And this has wreaked a tremendous amount of stress on all people, regardless of their intrinsic ability to adapt.
However, in the true spirit of adaptability, even in times when we are all faced with rapid change and ever-evolving uncertainty, we must seize these opportunities to not only figure out how to cope but also how to thrive. This is even more important when it feels as though we’ve suddenly found ourselves in an “us versus the world” scenario.
Remember what I said earlier about being only human? That little fact is how you, as HR leaders and managers, can help your teams overcome today’s many challenges. You must invest in them, their welfare, and their happiness at the individual, human level. Fortunately, the best way to do this is through learning. (And there’s no better time than now to learn new things!)
“Learning” to adapt to change
Now let’s take a moment to revisit those four attributes mentioned above through the lens of learning and self-improvement to see how we all—even if it’s in our own, unique ways—can be adaptable in the face of new and unexpected personal and professional challenges.
If we take the time now to embrace change, accept uncertainty, and propel ourselves into the unknown with confidence, we, too, can come out of this challenging moment in human history stronger than ever before. Here a few tips to shift gears into an adaptability-driven mindset:
1. Focus on the positives
This may seem like a tall order. All we hear on the news today is doom and gloom. On top of that, millions of Americans have lost their jobs—and for those of us still working, we’re finding it harder than ever to juggle home, work, life, health, family, and more all at once. So, finding the positives in all of this, much less staying focused on it, might be tough. But they do exist. Even better, you can create those positive experiences yourself through learning.
Whatever your current situation may be, one thing is true about all humans: we like to move forward. Setting goals, learning new skills, and giving yourself a little control over your own destiny is how learning can turn all of the negativity swirling around us into something truly attainable. Here’s the secret: once we start making progress, you won’t want to stop. That’ll give you a dose of good vibes when you really need them most.
2. Keep an open mind
Admittedly, you probably rolled your eyes when you read that—and for good reason. The only thing we’ve all had to do for the past two months has been to constantly keep an open mind. That, too, gets exhausting really fast. But the reality of this situation is that there won’t be a return to “normal” anytime soon. Even if you get to go back to your office. Everything will be different for a while, and we all need to accept it at face value.
Fortunately, there’s a ray of light to everything: with change comes opportunity. You are likely now being exposed to new technologies that you never used to use in your day-to-day. You may be asked to take on new tasks or even add a new role to your job description, helping to fill in the gap of someone on your team that, unfortunately, had to be laid off. For all we know, you could be given a promotion or a really amazing opportunity to lead an entirely new effort. The big takeaway here is that change can open new doors that wouldn’t have otherwise been open under normal circumstances. If there’s ever been a time to just roll with it, it’s now!
3. Change up your routine
Your day-to-day life working from home isn’t going to look exactly the same as your day-to-day life at the office. It’s time to start thinking out-of-the-box and how to stay increasingly productive in your new working environment. Learning can help with this by teaching you new skills, especially those geared towards a digital-first environment, that can help you add structure to what may feel like a very unstructured existence.
Learning, in this sense, goes way beyond a simple course. This is the time to ask your manager and your colleagues for help. Lean on them to share what’s working for them (as well as what’s not), so you can all learn how to thrive in this new situation together. Not only will this help you adapt to ongoing change, but there’s a good chance it’ll make your team even stronger, too.
4. Take time for yourself
A common misconception about working from home (until now) has been that productivity will nose dive. The reality of working from home, however, is that people have fewer ways to “stop” and “disconnect,” meaning that the workday can easily become a non-stop stream of stress with no end in sight. If you find yourself working into wee hours of the night every night, only to take a break to eat, sleep, and restart all over again the next day, preferably with a shower thrown in somewhere in between, it’s time to practice a little self-care.
So, if you’re having a hard time managing stress or just don’t know when or how to “shut off,” hop on over to Cornerstone Cares where we’ve got free courses loaded up to help you get a trip on your own stress management or to become a pro at working from home. We believe so much in the power of learning to get through these challenging times that we’re paying it forward by giving you free ways to invest a little time in your own well-being.
As you can see, adapting to change isn’t something that just happens; it’s truly something that’s learned over time. And what better time than now, when everything around us is changing non-stop, than to learn some new skills that will not only help you thrive in the here-and-now but also excel once life gets back to (somewhat) normal. Just remember, even as you take this time to invest in yourself, adapting to any kind of massive change is hard. So, cut yourself some slack and take it all one day at a time. If you need our support, Cornerstone is here to help