Rethink Normality

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— By Jing Reilly

As we start to see some form of normality returning to our lives, we can’t help but to wish for even more. Some of us just want to go back to the way it was; some of us are looking forward to establishing some “new norms” like the hybrid working model. However, what is hanging over all of our heads right now is uncertainty. No one could have predicted this; no one can predict what will happen going forward. Either way, it doesn’t stop people from trying to. Sometimes we do with a bit of overconfidence which is a distinctive human behaviour that gets us into a mess. I understand our desire of going back to normal but normal wasone problem in the first place. Rather than teaching us anything new, the pandemic teaches us to look in the mirror and decide if we can accept what is looking back at us.

So, what will the future hold?

What does the ‘new normal’ entail? Normality means the thing that connects yesterday with tomorrow, that implies a degree of continuity. However, who wants the continuity of a pandemic? If we keep talking about the new normal, aren’t we implying that there was an old normal? But the old normal was in such a state of flux and it can hardly be used as a standard to compare to.

My name is Jing Reilly, I use psychology and behavioural science to solve problems – NB: All problems are complex!! – and train people to use science to guide their decision making. I wrote this article to prepare our minds to embrace the uncertainty as we start to return to the workplace or workforce.

Three Gifts from COVID

1. Time of Accelerating Changes

Without undermining the devastating losses and damage caused by COVID, there were some useful learnings and positive changes too. We might have felt the world stood still for a long time but in fact, we are in a Time of Accelerating Changes. Despite the uncertainty, indecision, social and cultural upheaval, we have seen great progress that science, technology, and even people themselves have made during this pandemic.

We might be in between periods right now, but there are very exciting times ahead, as long as we keep our minds open.

What does the ‘new normal’ entail? Normality means the thing that connects yesterday with tomorrow, that implies a degree of continuity. However, who wants the continuity of a pandemic? If we keep talking about the new normal, aren’t we implying that there was an old

We might be in between periods right now, but there are very exciting times ahead, as long as we keep our minds open.

2. Physics

Einstein’s theory of relativity has been the foundation of modern physics, it explains how space and time are linked for objects that are moving at a consistent speed in a straight line.

A fascinating gift from COVID is that it has taken the ‘space’ element out of that equation. Pre-pandemic, for an event to take place i.e. if I asked you to meet me for a coffee on Monday, you would ask me ‘Where’? if I asked you to come to my house for dinner, you would ask me ‘When’. But today, the ‘where’ is no longer a defining factor for events to take place. It took just months after the world went into lockdown for us to transfer nearly all our activities, meetings and events online. This would not have happened, at least not so quickly and cheaply without the pandemic.

As we are preparing to go back to work, new terminologies such as WFA (Work from Anywhere), Hybrid and WFH (Work from Home) etc became almost accepted by the whole world overnight. What amazing progress we have made on this mindset change on the importance of Location.

We all know how hard it is to change someone’s mind, let alone the entire world, but COVID made it all possible.

pre post pandemic

3. A New Beginning

We are officially entering into a new beginning of post normal times. There are patterns and habits from life before COVID that both will not and cannot be a part of the post pandemic. Many industries will need to rethink their futures such as the ones depending on business travel or crowd gathering. It is not to say that there won’t be opportunities, but there should be alternatives.


It also marks a new beginning as we realise just how important it is to spend time with your family and friends and not to take intimacy for granted. Because one day, all of this can be taken away in a blink of an eye.


COVID has been a time for reflecting on our ways of living, our relationship with nature, our relationship with self, both physically and psychologically.


COVID reminds us that poverty, disease and climate change are global phenomena which do not respect man-made borders. To address these global challenges, we are entering a new era of international cooperation and solidarity.

You probably have and will continue to hear more new trending words like Degrowth, Unlearn, Humility, Rethink etc. It’s becoming more certain that a closed mindset is not suitable for the new beginning. Our past experience which we use to make judgements and decisions may prevent us from doing the right thing going forward. That is why ‘Rethink’, one of my favourite words, is an absolute key skill to have.

‘Rethink’ is about instilling humility and cultivating curiosity. It’s about having the will and skill to open our mind, change our views, therefore change our behaviours to drive more positive outcomes.

New Skills for You

Whether you are bringing people back to work, returning to work yourself or looking for work, there are plenty of decisions you will need to make. Even without the uncertainties, an average adult makes about 35,000 decisions each day.

“What should I do?”
“How can I find a job?”
“What will make everyone happy?”…

If there is an obvious answer that you are very comfortable with, maybe you feel it is the right one for you but most likely, it is not the best one. Why? Because you are not challenging your current way of thinking. As humans, we are all susceptible to biases. If unaware of such biases, it can lead to poor decision making, so awareness and managing these biases is a key skill to develop. There are many ways to challenge your thinking, many techniques to apply, many lessons learned from research about human minds and behaviours. Due to word count, I am going to wrap up this article with 3 tips.

1. Bringing People Back

If you are bringing people back to work, you have a huge responsibility for the company, staff and yourself. You ought to be confident in your ability
to make the right decisions but in the meantime, it is also very important to maintain your humility to question whether you have the right tools/information in the present. That’s the sweet spot of confidence. Sometimes, the best thing to do is telling people that everything is a work in progress.

2. Going Back

If you are going back to work, no doubt your memory and experience of the past year is still fresh. I may be influencing the decisions you are going to make. Try to be aware about whether your decision is based on facts or emotions. Good judgement depends on you having the skill and will to open your minds to the possibility that you might be wrong, to be humble of what you don’t know and to be curious of what others can offer (regardless of gender, colour, religion, background etc).

3. Looking for Work

Your previous career might have been a casualty of COVID. The negative impact it had on you is not to be ignored. However, this is a very exciting time for you as you begin a new journey. Anything is possible as long as you are NOT fixed on your old views while the world is changing rapidly in front of us. Having confidence is a complex feeling. Don’t listen to people who say “Just be Confident”. We can’t just “BE”. We have to learn, practice and fail, learn again, practice again and hopefully we will then succeed.


Since changes are inevitable, luckily, as people we can still decide whether “we want to be driven by the change?” or to “drive the change.”

The world both pre and post pandemic is full of contradictions but we have learned to appreciate complexity, accepting that complex problems require complex solutions. Nothing is so black and white, the best solutions may be in the 50 shades of greys.

I believe if we can all do a bit more ReThinking but not regretting, we will make better decisions for ourselves, our families and our employers.

Einstein said “We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That’s how we can make positive changes.

If you are curious about how to apply Psychology and Behavioural Science in your work or interested in Rethinking workshops, I’m very open to having an interesting conversation.


Author: Jing Reilly

LinkedIn: Jing Reilly


BBC ReThink Podcast
Think Again by Adam Grant
Neil Degrasse Tyson’s TV interviews.

For More Info on Returning to the Workforce 
Download our Free Ebook: Returning To The Workplace Here


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