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They Said It Would Be 2 Weeks


The Five Stages of Grief

As we enter this month, the social media “memories” take a decided turn into the surreal: the last time you had dinner with your extended family, the last concert, the last trip; all the things (LIFE as we knew it) pre-COVID popping up daily to remind us of what was. At first we were nostalgic and then we realized how sad we were and how far we have all come in the past year. Life has been chock full of change, much of it apparent in the workplace and how we go about doing our business. No more face to face meetings, no more paper files and no more bumping into a colleague to exchange information over a cup of coffee. Now, we have Zoom, shared folders accessible online and Slack/Teams.

As we look back some things we miss, and some things we are happy to let go. For other things, we may be too early in the stages of grief to see the benefit of change. Where are you on the 5 stages of grief when it comes to going digital in our workplace?


March 2020: planned on being out of the office for no more than 4 weeks. No change needed, right? We’ll be back at our desks by April. Denial is a good coping mechanism until it isn’t. What parts of going digital at the office has you still stuck firmly in this phase? Do you have a stack of paper that only grew over the past months because you didn’t change your paper business flow to digital? You are in denial.

Tip: stop creating paper as part of business workflows. Convert that form into a webform or pdf for easier electronic transfer and sharing of information. For the paper that is waiting for your return to the office, make sure you have a plan for what you will do with it (keep it in paper form or scan it into your new electronic process). Before scanning, make sure you have an approved scanning policy on file with our office.


We spent our spring 2020 in this stage. How much do we have to change in order to get us through this work from home thing? If we make a webform, will that be enough to keep our workflow going? Yes? Then that is what we will do, but only that, thank you very much. Then time passed and as we moved into other stages, we were able to clearly see how the webform not only helped ease into changes, but also freed up our time to work on other areas that had been neglected. The webform allowed us to focus on deeper and better work (spoiler: we’re clearly in the acceptance phase as we write this today).

Tip: this is a good place to be on the grief arc. Bargaining gives you the opportunity to make small changes in exchange for giving you the space to continue grieving. What changes did you make at the beginning of the pandemic that was “temporary” but now you are ready to completely adopt?  It’s time to permanently acknowledge the streamlined process.


Like Hulk, we’re always angry and it feeds us to push harder and longer to reach a goal. Positively channeling anger = action. We spent our entire summer and fall in this arc of the grief cycle. It wasn’t pretty but we got a lot done!

Tip: this is the catalyst to make big changes. Have a business process which your office “has always done this way”? Does it need an update to the year 2021? Now is the time to push for these changes.


Ugh. Are we done yet? Our December and January were horrible! We had no energy and were just sad. Looking back over the year at New Year’s Eve gave us no joy, only sadness. Thankfully, our Hulk-actions from the previous grief stage bore fruit and we spent our time eliminating paper and tweaking our new processes. Looking back, there wasn’t any sadness around digital changes at the office. The sadness was around missing people--and that’s okay too.

Tip: Depressed over being forced to change? Acknowledge the paper records and then prepare how to say goodbye. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to not enjoy the change process. It is okay to say goodbye. We can either come out of this thing into a pile of rubble or we can build a garden that you walk into at the end of it.


This was such a hard year. But, we made some really positive changes around our workflows. Those pain points that always made us grimace but figured we would fix later? They got fixed. We had time to do it and do it well. We were no longer pulled away by the day to day interruptions of working in the office. Instead, the deeper work became the priority. Harder? Yes. But when we get it right, it feels really good.

Tip: You have done the hard work of making your paper workflows digital. There is no looking back when you physically return to the office. There were many low points over the past year but along with the struggles, there were wins. These wins help us accept the past year and focus on continuing our best work going forward.


Onward and Upward

pumpkin with musical notes

Where do we go from here? As we squint at the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we invite you to take a moment to imagine an ideal future state. Returning back to the office after a long period of working remotely (whenever that will be), will create the opportunity for new habits and routines to be established. You’re starting with a clean slate, and what could feel more invigorating than setting your future self up for success.

Do you have old paper in your office you aren’t sure what to do with? Contact our ROT Squad. Don’t take that burden of old paper into your brand new future. While you’re at it, we can also teach you how to give your email account a good scrub before you really get back in the swing of things.

Did you have a process that was previously in paper, that you started doing electronically during the pandemic? Was the development rushed?  Time to tweak or improve it for the long term? If so, check out the resources on our Fetch the Future Hub. Consider elements like electronic folder structures, where to store it, and which software is most appropriate to use when.

Virtual interactions replaced in-person ones during this long period of social distancing. But that doesn’t mean you have to carry a pile of transitory messages and Zoom recordings of questionable value into the future. Review our best practices for Team Communication Platforms and Zoom and Conferencing Recordings to get it right.

Now take a deep breath and go reintroduce yourself to the work clothes section of your closet. They’ve missed you.


Click here to watch the video on this new University-wide initiative.


Barbara Benson

Cara Ball

Emily Lemieux

Michael Mooney

Lynn O'Shea