Opinion: COVID-19’s cumulative effect hits long weekend hard

The start of a new year?

I cannot recall a Labour Day weekend like this Labour Day weekend.

The typical circumference of summer, proscribed by resting and recharging, was no more in 2020. We have been burdened in these months by a new access tax to normalcy.

This weekend has felt, for so much of life, for a half-century now through school and into career, the truer start of the new year.

What with the snap intensity of business, the density of activity, the attention on goals to accomplish, the inflection point oozing optimism and impulse with a pinch of apprehension – the calendar might as well place it as January 1.

Year by year there has been something rejuvenating in acknowledging the slackened summer was done, that business was back, and that we were upon crucial weeks to catalyze our refreshed psyche to attack expectations.

Of course, we are still upon these crucial weeks, only we are not attacking expectations as much as mitigating and manoeuvring them. The rhythm of a spring strategy and autumn’s tactics feels ancient and inadequate to our tasks. The harvest period of prime economic performance – half the business in a quarter’s time, in our usual year – is hampered by the drought preceding it.

The local business leaders I meet and talk to, if they will be honest about it, are expecting much more difficulty ahead than what they have so far encountered. In general, with some exceptions, their tenacity comes and goes a few times in the day. They talk about their energy levels as vulnerable and more frail each week that passes. They fret about their families and colleagues in entirely new ways because they know the weariness and wariness are mentally corrosive. They are used to problem-solving, not problem-festering.

What is worrisome is to hear them talk not only about the long-term uncertainty of the road ahead so much as the spate of short-term detours, how it feels like every day is carjacked and how enervating it is to hold the wheel. Good ideas are driven into the ditch when attention is diverted.

They are accustomed to using the months of summer as a source, not a sapping, of strength. They are admittedly struggling to get a handle on their businesses without credibly understanding how, when or if stability will present itself.

They work more and achieve less, often in homes built precisely to escape that work. The novelty of remote employment and leadership has worn thin, as has the patience in this instant-gratification era for science to answer the pandemic.

So, for that matter, is it common to hear a growing disquiet about the signals senior governments are sending, particularly to smaller and medium-sized businesses without the deeper fitness to withstand the marathon.

There is an obvious backdrop of anxiety about the next wave of infection anticipated later in the fall, how that will again disrupt and set back their improvised operations, and whether there is the resolve and resources in governments to see the battle more precisely, properly and through. And, unsurprisingly for business leaders, there is also a tinge of resentment about how the pursuit of public health has had more weight than the pursuit of economic health. That being said, no one is unafraid of a surge in cases because everyone knows that will surely shut what modestly operates.

They’d like, as I would, in 2021 and beyond to get our Labour Day weekends back – to get the last drop of juice into the batteries, to celebrate and reflect on what work achieves, to watch sports in their correct seasons and movies in their correct locations and to again venture into autumn with assuredness, with business as usual and not as unusual. •

Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.

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