The COVID-19 Pandemic - There’s a Story to Tell

Young woman wearing a mask, shopping for fruit at a supermarket

2019 was a relatively normal year. Who would have imagined how far from normal the next two years would be with the Coronavirus Pandemic. A global public health emergency suddenly affected every person and every business with some degree of chaos and for some it was tremendous chaos.

Two decades prior, those of us who faced “Y2K”, thought THAT was our once-in-a-lifetime global crisis –20000101, a simple date feared to befuddle computers. IT departments worked intensely; disaster recovery teams developed computerless redundancies for critical operations. Looking back, we weren’t dealing with anything close to the breadth of the COVID-19 calamity, but we sure were worried about missing some critical element. 

We look back and marvel about what it was like ‘back then’. The Y2K crisis taught us that the world is smaller than we realized. We also learned that we solve crises better when the problem-solving teams have members from lots of diverse perspectives (like this nurse leading a hospital Y2K Recovery Team!). Those lessons added value for those choosing to take them forward. So too, this Pandemic experience has had lessons that we might be wise to consider taking away. 

Capturing, NOW, this journey through an environmental safety crisis means the details will be more reliable and intact for the Pandemic-triggered workplace changes. Shortcomings were identified and overcome in most every industry. Leaders rose and failed along the way. Communication plans were revised to effectively manage safety throughout the Pandemic. Safety outcomes rose and failed… Acknowledging the failures as well as the successes reinforces the integrity of an effective safety culture and encourages collective process improvement. This work can improve our readiness for the next unimaginable event. 

Safety and emergency preparedness plans were revised (or written); Infection prevention rose to be the prominent consideration. Some of these safety changes should not be temporary - they are improvements. Even our language has changed. Indoor air quality, IAQ, face covering vs respirator, remote, and virtual are all familiar jargon now. Another improvement is that mental health is more openly and broadly discussed and addressed. After all, many workers were affected. 

Recording the unique impact of the Pandemic on a business’ safety history, can help us transition to our new normal and let go of distraction that COVID-19 has been. For many, ensuring that what we’ve been through won’t be forgotten, will help the process. The work of moving forward out of difficulty like this Pandemic is recognized as post-traumatic growth. 

Consider the unique workplace and community experiences that folks will wonder about down the road. Consider the stories that employees want, need & deserve to tell. Consider too, the story the business should tell. Creating the story in a ‘novel’ way! Create a time capsule, host a Pandemic storytelling session. Collect sketches, photos, and journal entries. Create history boards or webpages. Resolve to make lemonade out of our pandemic lemons by honoring highlights of what’s been accomplished.

Read further for discussions for students, businesses, and communities: 

Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory & Scale (

An Exercise to Help Your Team Overcome the Trauma of the Pandemic (

Documenting Your Life in Extraordinary Times- The NY Times

Document the coronavirus pandemic for future generations | Miller ( 

Documenting the pandemic: What Utah historians need from you to complete their collections |