Year in Review

three years later, empathy finally receives the role it deserves

Last week, the WHO officially downgraded the COVID-19 pandemic to an ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. Three years and three months ago, the first reports of a flu-like virus started filtering through from the Austrian ski resort Ischgl. Over 6,000 people from 45 countries were reported to have contracted COVID-19 after holidaying in what became one of Europe’s first superspreader events. A few short weeks later, Belgium, and most of the world with it, went into a hard lockdown. Today, it almost feels like a bad dream, even though its impact can still be felt. Covid has changed the way we live, work and travel for good it seems.

'Being able to meet and travel freely again is still exciting to me. And I don’t think I’m alone in celebrating the exit of the QR code. '

Just back from the EuRA Relocation Conference in Dublin and not too long off the slopes of – you guessed it, Ischgl – I find myself reflecting on how the pandemic has affected us all. Practically and emotionally. Being able to meet and travel freely again is still exciting to me. And I don’t think I’m alone in celebrating mask mandates and the exit of the QR code.

When Deborah Seymus* visited Val Thorens in December 2019, she interviewed those who live life by the season. What was meant to be a series of interviews we could spread out over the year, was quickly rushed through in a single issue of ReLocate, as we scrambled to make sense of various support measures, travel bans, and more, whilst learning to survive the home office.

Thursday evenings were spent clapping for the frontline workers that struggled through their days without the PPEs needed to do so safely. Many of our members stepped up to do their bit and make the best of a bad situation. Coming home with a pack of toilet roll was the kind of victory that made our day, even if it did mean splitting the skin of our hands with all those alcohol gels required to leave the house. Numerous lockdowns and restrictions later, we are once again welcome to go about our day as we please. But things can always change again, and as Elke Van Hoof, CEO of Better Minds at Work puts it: “The Covid years have been a real-time experiment in mental resilience.”

Perhaps most importantly, we’ve (re)discovered the importance of empathy. At our 2022 AGM, ABRA keynote speaker Bart de Leeuw of The Oval Office spoke about the power of empathy in business. It matters hugely in the era of disconnection – think of digital vs human, individualism vs inclusion, privacy vs transparency, etc. – as expectations have changed. No longer do we work to survive or to guarantee a standard of living. Today, the human factor takes priority as the Empathy Value Index Employer Edition 2022 proves.

Empathy is about understanding, about being able to see things from someone else’s perspective. It’s about empowerment and connecting with each other on a human level. For us at ABRA, this means we cannot wait to welcome you to our upcoming AGM and Member Meeting on Thursday 25th May at International School Ghent. If you haven’t signed up yet, please be sure to do so, as keynote speaker and migration law specialist Sylvie Micholt dives into a societal issue that has been dominating the headlines for much too long.

We hope to see you there!

*As an aside, Deborah Seymus recently published her first book Vijftig Piemels Later, a daring and open-hearted autobiography that details her journey of self-discovery. If you enjoy a cheeky, fast-paced read, then please do support her writing by buying her book.

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