Cheryl Pan (2012 Graduate ,M.S.Sc in Corporate Communication )
Account Director, BlueCurrent Hong Kong
The ‘new normal’ has become such a cliché as we emerge from the pandemic – virtual meetings, virtual events, virtual everything – all of these have become part of our lives.
Like many other communications professionals, since the COVID-19 outbreak, I have been working with my team to counsel brands and organizations on navigating these unprecedented times. The experience has made me reflect on working in communications professionally and personally.
Story is where humanity is
My job is closely related to social media. The turbulence in the past few months overwhelmed me with all kinds of online information every day. I need to filter and make sense of the information to sensibly evaluate the sentiments across different markets in order to advise team members and our clients. I have seen uncertainty, worry and fear, but I have also seen courage, support and love. I keep thinking about my important role as a communications professional – telling stories that make humanity shine and passing on the positive vibes we need now more than ever.
I have been involved in a couple of projects where we helped our clients shape the narrative of communicating with internal and external stakeholders, seeing how different perspectives came together to demonstrate relevance and compassion. The level of collaboration and authenticity from personal and business stories from around the world have been truly touching. I am glad to see these feel-good stories keep emerging as we journey through this together. They make us more connected even though there is social distancing.
Being a communications professional often makes me subconsciously look on the bright side and I have come to realize this continues to help me keep my head up.
Work is where laptop is
With so many disruptions in so many forms, this has also been a time to reimagine the way we work. Early morning calls or working on a deck in a taxi is nothing new to me, but the #WFH (work-from-home) era has taken me to another level. I am a people person. I used to think working from home would drive me mad but then it became a forced reality for a prolonged period. I had to adapt myself to it and started exploring new ways of engagement, and of course, learning some new tech skills. At first switching on the camera at home made my heart miss a beat but it has since become a natural reaction as I got used to it. I have also got better dealing with poor line quality, so many different work collaboration apps and multiple dial-in numbers.
I feel privileged to have been working in an international communications agency with a global network where everyone is supportive and collaborative. The dynamic nature of agency life has been maintained with brainstorming sessions on video calls with funny backgrounds, blowing out virtual candles at birthday parties and rushing for deadlines with home-made noodles (or beer!).
Will we see more digitization of the workplace that gives us more flexibility, autonomy and empowerment? Or will we have any actual physical workplace at all? I look forward to the developments in this regard.
Life is where passion is
I love traveling. With the lockdown, my husband and I had to cancel our big wedding anniversary plans of chillaxing on some remote hidden islands in Europe. We ended up spending the day exploring Cheung Chau and had a great time. Cutting down all the usual business travel, I have had more time for reading and I am finishing my ninth book this year – what an amazing way to travel beyond time and space! As a yoga and ballet enthusiast, stay-at-home workouts were something I did not anticipate, but after all this time, I have overcome some challenging backbend poses and I am perfecting my ballet leg lifts.
There is collective fun too! The virus does not stop our team spirit of ‘work hard, play hard’. In a time when there is social distancing, we let our creativity run wild to stay connected. After a busy day at work, my colleagues and I gather virtually on the island branded with our company name in the popular Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons and continue our social life without masks (but with cute animals). The game has been considered a new social media platform. We are also exploring opportunities to do something unconventional in the game for our clients!
Indeed, things may never be the same, but fear not – there is always the possibility of turning challenge into positive change, and that keeps us moving forward.