Adapting to this ‘new normal’

ICMP Chief Executive Paul Kirkham discusses how 'lockdown' is affecting all of us in different ways, and we’re all finding our own ways of adapting to this ‘new normal’


ICMP Chief Executive Paul Kirkham offers his take on the 6 stages of Covid-19 lockdown syndrome.

Hello everyone!

Three weeks into the lockdown – how time flies! It’s affecting all of us in different ways, and we’re all finding different ways of adapting to this ‘new normal’, and for many it is not easy. Friends, family, other loved ones, colleagues, pets, we are anxious not just for ourselves but for others also, worrying about the elderly and the vulnerable and wondering when and how this might all be over. Most definitely not easy.

Even more reason then to acknowledge and celebrate the response from our ICMP community, which has been outstanding. Whether adapting to new ways of working, finding innovative and high-quality ways to support our students in the achievement of their goals and managing extremely challenging personal and professional circumstances you’ve shown resilience, creativity, commitment and the highest of professional and personal standards. As a result, we’ve been able to successfully navigate our way through this period thus far. And not only have we been successful in dealing effectively with all that has been thrown at us, in parallel I suspect we’ve been learning new skills, gaining valuable experience both individually and collectively and developing a greater understanding of ourselves and our colleagues that will help transform and improve the way we live and work into the future.

So, while we have decided that we have no option but to continue with our current way of working for at least two more weeks, and we think it unlikely that any official lifting or easing of the lockdown conditions will occur before then, it may be time to consider moving to a different phase of this crisis. You may be familiar with the concept of the ‘seven stages of grief’ (some say 5 but let’s not split hairs!). If not, you can look them up online, but this concept of different stages got me thinking about our current situation and how we may rationalise and think about what we’re going through, what we’re feeling and thinking. So here are my 6 stages of Covid-19 lockdown syndrome:

Stage 1: Denial.
We’re not really going to have to do this are we? Surely it can’t be that bad! This is 2020 and these things don’t happen to us, only in the past when we weren’t quite so smart and didn’t have a national health service and science and stuff. We had a plan. Why can’t we just follow our plan? I liked our plan, it was safe and secure and predictable and I only had to worry the small stuff like which Netflix series to follow tonight. Nothing has to change!

Stage 2: Reluctant acceptance.
OK, it just might be quite bad, and we’re hearing things from serious people in government and others on Twitter and FB and Insta are saying we’re going to have to do this. Yes, really, we’re going to have to do this. Seriously. And now. Right now.

Stage 3: Transition.
We’re doing this! It’s new and different and slightly exciting, but not necessarily in a good way – here we go! We did it! Only took a few days and its all online and I’m working out of my closet and the kids are off school and I’ve rediscovered knitting and home baking and I can see people on Teams and Zoom and it’s all a bit mad, to be honest! But not really that difficult. Assuming you can get toilet roll. Who knew we needed so much? Those factories are all closing right now so better get some more! Shouldn’t have laughed at those preppers, they might have had a point there. And pasta. When did we all stop eating potatoes and bread and stew and stuff and start eating pasta? Looks like Brexit came too late to save the British soul.

Stage 4: Reflection. Help.
OK, so not really exciting, and actually a bit difficult, and it's making me a bit anxious and uncomfortable and I don’t really need more time with the kids and the home office thing is kind of cool but maybe not the same as hanging out and gossiping with colleagues. When do we get back to normal? The ‘new normal’? What on earth does that mean? I liked the old normal, it worked for me. What does the future hold? Is there a future? Is this some kind of dystopian film set made real? I’m OK with the queuing outside shops thing (after all, an orderly queue is something that we can all agree is comforting) but it feels kind of Soviet era c. 1950 and the face masks are a little disquieting – do I need one? Where do I get one?

Stage 5: The upward turn.
So, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. It might still be a train (not HS2 obviously how are we going to fund that now?) but I think it’s real light. The sun is shining. The birds are singing (and there are more of them at the moment, right? What does that tell us?) It will definitely come to an end. My mate’s got a theory about hospital capacity and herd immunity and social distancing and stuff, he’s checked all the graphs, so that’s all going to get sorted. Otherwise I’m emigrating….oh, right, can’t do that anymore. But I think there might be a finishing line after all, people are talking about a finish line so it must be there somewhere. Can they make their minds up? Can it be straight after Easter please? So the kids can go back to school already?

Stage 6: Rebuilding the future.
Yep, it’s going to be over. Back to normal. OK, that’s not right – normal isn’t what it used to be. I’m thinking differently about things. I appreciate what I have, my friends, my family (even the kids), my health, our NHS, in a different way. And toilet roll obviously. I realise that all the things we do can’t be taken for granted anymore. And that’s OK. My values have shifted a bit. And there might be a better way of doing things now we have learned more about ourselves, our companies, our communities and our lives. Looks like there’s a new plan. And I like a plan. Might be a bit difficult at the start, and we have quite a lot of clearing up to do after all that’s happened which might take a little while and might be a bit of a challenge, but the future is definitely a better place. This is where I want to be – wiser, smarter, more flexible and with a different appreciation of life. Great place to be. Bring it on!

You can decide for yourselves where we are in terms of these stages; maybe add some of your own and consider relative time frames. But whatever you’re thinking and feeling right now, I can assure you that rebuilding the future is very much where we aim to be sooner rather than later, and indeed in many ways we have started already.

Have a great Easter weekend, wherever you are and whoever you’re with, even with the restrictions and challenges we all face it’s a time to be positive and forward looking.

With all best wishes


by Paul Kirkham
April 9, 2020
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