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Covid Lockdown Cameo: Silvana Schenone

What did you find the hardest about lockdown?

The social isolation was hard, but during the first two weeks of lockdown I coped ok with it as it we were all on “crisis mode”. However, the weeks after that were a real struggle, as lockdown and all the restrictions associated with it became the new normal and was no clear end in sight. The crisis approach changed and became a new reality that has many challenges for all of us, both at a personal and business level. I also felt a big sense of distance with my family and friends overseas, more than in normal times. I still miss them and fear for their health and wellbeing as things in other countries are a lot worse than in NZ. Technology has been a marvellous enabler of social interaction during these times.

What issues did Covid-19 expose or exacerbate that we need to focus on in New Zealand?

Tolerance and diversity became hot topics during lockdown. I believe that we have made some progress in NZ with respect to gender diversity, but we realised that gender is just the tip of the iceberg. Diversity as to ways of living, thinking and how to motivate and encourage our teams became really critical. One size doesn’t fit all and NZ businesses are just starting to realise that. The availability of technology and the “invasion” of our private lives through technology was a big wake up call for me: it was positive in many respects, but also felt like we need to be clear about the boundaries, for our own health, family interactions and mental wellbeing.

What silver lining have you taken from the Covid-19 experience?

Flexibility and tolerance have been fantastic lessons for me out of Covid: we can be really productive and efficient without having to sit in the office or work standard hours. As I said before, I think technology was a great enabler to modernise our lives and working styles.

I have most of my family and many friends overseas. Using technology, and as a direct result of Covid, I reconnected with many friends I haven’t seen in ages! I caught up with groups of school friends from Chile, classmates from the USA, former colleagues spread all over the world and it felt amazing to be so close to them via Zoom or Teams meetings!

What should New Zealand be focussing on to recover and grow stronger in the future?

We will need to be extremely resilient for the next stage of our journey. Unfortunately I don’t think we can say that we have resolved the crisis. We are just entering another stage, and there will be huge challenges ahead. Covid has shown us that a globalised world can be very fragile too. I think we need to stop thinking of a crisis approach and just think of a new journey with its own (new) challenges and opportunities. Resilience will be key. As well as innovation, new ways of thinking, flexibility and tolerance (so that we don’t miss out on talent) and kindness to understand and support others that may be struggling too. The “third sector” focused on purpose and values-driven will play a substantial role going forward.

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