From the CEO Lockdown Learnings

Jul 7, 2020

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

You would be silly to think that working from home over the past three months has slowed productivity to a snail’s pace – from my experience it certainly isn’t the case. Adjusting to staying within your home environment 24/7 was something we all had thrust on us at short notice. Whether on your own or in a house full of whānau, we had to find ways to cope within our confined space. There were many things I noticed during lockdown – from the empty sound of silence at night due to no planes across the usual flight path, to no early morning traffic noise in the distance on the motorway. I also started to notice the beautiful birdsong outside my window, and after checking out all the sounds on Mrs Google, I’m sure I heard the korimako (bellbird).

Like many others I sat day after day on my laptop engaging with the outside world. I loved the routine of rolling out of bed, getting into my relaxed “COVID costume” paired with the all-important sheepskin slippers ready to start a day of business, beaming into many other households around the country. Weeks and months later I’ve become so accustomed to this new way of working. With work so easily accessible, productivity is up and so is the whānau interaction. Surely these new routines must be a good balance, bringing the best mixture of happiness and productivity without having to leave home.

I’ve learned about job loss and redundancy through my own whānau experience. The impact, after many years in one company, when a job suddenly no longer exists and you want to blame someone, is substantial. But in this current environment we must remember you are not a special case, as many others are also in the same position. Picking yourself up and moving on becomes hard and whānau support, sometimes in the form of just listening, becomes the right medicine.

Across the world people continue to succumb to COVID and I am grateful to be at home in our country as part of the “five million team” almost eliminating this deadly virus. As I start to step out of my cosy bubble, it is still with a high degree of caution. I’ve learned about social distancing, hand sanitiser, what I touch, where I eat and wiping everything over and over as I am fully responsible for what I bring back into my home. I’ve learned not to be complacent.

Another learning that is taking us all by storm is the Black Lives Matter movement. It has resonated worldwide like a domino effect, pushing inequality out of the cracks and into our conversations. Like many others I have recalled past experiences where a good dose of racist banter (both subtle and blatant) has been thrown my way. I learned to stand up for myself and to be resilient and on occasion to forgive, but I also learnt never to forget. I’m a lot older now, (hopefully wiser) and confronting this head-on comes with a learning lens or maybe it’s just really my Tuahiwi nature!