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The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Bring Out Our Humanity

April 10, 2020

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are working from home -- and the boundaries between life and work are blurring.

Maybe your virtual coffee chat with your boss has been interrupted by his three-year-old daughter. Perhaps your colleague rescheduled your regular weekly meeting to watch his kids because his wife has a conference call at that time.

Whatever the situation may be, we no longer view our colleagues as, say, a marketing director or sales representative. We now see each other as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends as well.

Voicing Our Vulnerabilities

In a strange way, this pandemic has brought out the humanity in our work lives. That includes addressing emotions in a way that may be very different than we’re used to in a professional environment.

A new poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that more than one in three Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected their mental health. More than half say they fear for their financial well-being.

The pandemic has made us all feel anxious or stressed in one way or another. Because we all feel this way, we have an opportunity to share our anxieties, fears and collective grief with one another.

Together, we’re all grieving our previous “normal.” It’s no longer taboo to voice that we’re scared for a relative’s health or our job security. We can say that we miss being able to go on vacation or attend our children’s soccer games. We even long for tasks we once complained about, like our commute to the office or going to the gym.

Thanks to the coronavirus, vulnerability has gone mainstream.

Brené Brown, a renowned author, speaker and professor at the University of Houston, says sharing our fears and letting others see us at our most vulnerable is what gives us courage. In a recent interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Brown said, “Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the only path to courage. Give me a single example of courage that does not require uncertainty, risk or emotional exposure.”

Will Sharing Have a Lasting Impact?

At KI, we have long prioritized human-centered design. We strive to design products and spaces that respond directly to human needs, rather than having people adjust their needs to those of products and spaces.

Human-centered design will take on new meaning after this crisis ends. People will demand designs that foster connection, reduce stress and anxiety, support life-work balance and promote wellness even more than they already do. Designing for humanity and health will be at the core of future projects.

The humanity, vulnerability and courage we’ve developed during the pandemic will serve us well when we return to our workplaces. Teams will doubtless be better connected and prepared to support each other and their customers in the coming months.

The new bonds we’ve developed will help us face the next unknown challenge, together.

by Jonathan Matta  National Education Leader

Jonathan Matta is KI's National Education Leader, supporting organizations in their pursuit of solving complex challenges by applying the power of design. Matta previously served as the Vice President of Design at RXBAR, where he led a design team that applied a variety of design strategies, chiefly Design Thinking, to a multitude of organizational challenges. Jonathan holds an altMBA from Seth Godin's program, along with completed courses from Stanford University's "d.school" and IDEO-U. He received his undergraduate degree from DePaul University.

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