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Dean's Blog: What is your new normal?

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

On March 12, 2020, I walked out of my office, a bit early since we were told we were going into lockdown (for three to four weeks max they estimated). I haven't set foot in that office since. Actually, I got a new job here at Mason that started just over a year ago, which I have largely done remotely.

For most of us, our lives were upended by COVID-19. After the initial shock and concerns regarding health, safety, and daily livelihood were established and better understood, we collectively pivoted to a virtual work environment, finding ways to navigate this uncharted professional landscape. Then some of us ventured back to campus slowly for hybrid learning and working.

With changing CDC guidelines and vaccine availability, our society can start to think more about what a healthy and sustainable ‘New Normal’ might look like.

Let’s face it, the initial disruption was not easy. Yet, after a while, many of us found ways to leverage this new flexibility (no more commute around here is a big deal and saves tons of time). Yet Zoom fatigue was also quite real (has it kicked in for you too?).

All kidding aside, ideally, we each have the opportunity to move forward, taking the best from both pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic working environments to sustain productivity while maintaining a healthy wellness and balance. At George Mason University, and within our college, we recognize this is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation and have asked employees to talk with supervisors to each define one’s ‘what’s next.”

No longer in a holding pattern, what steps must we take to move forward? Have you shared your vaccination status yet? Those employees who take the few minutes (just use this step by step guide)to share their vaccination status by Sunday, August 1 are eligible to receive incentives through Mason’s weekly raffle including prizes like parking permits, professional development funding, gift cards, event tickets and more. I have already shared my vaccination status; it does really take a couple of minutes!  

Take time to determine what you need to successfully transition to your “New Normal.” Certainly, the first few weeks of August will bring a mix of emotions; a relief of actually physically seeing our co-workers, the stress of juggling our pets’ or children’s expectations now that we are not with them every minute of the day, or doubts of how your transition plan will go. All these feelings are to be expected.

During these past 16+ months, I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and daughters (probably more time in this last year than the past ten years combined), as well as with my dogs (who are going to have a hard time understanding my absence once we go back to the "New Normal"). But I miss the casual encounters, the hugs, the handshakes, the conversations about nothing and everything over a cup of coffee, the spontaneity of life.

I personally am looking forward to coming to campus to see our Mason Science community and have those face-to-face discussions as we get to know each other. Understanding this transition will bring its challenges along with benefits, we all must recognize we may need just as much time to settle into a new normal as we did to establish our COVID-mode work environment. Know that the Mason Science community will support you during this transition, just like we started this journey, we have your back every step of the way.