By Ellen Willadsen | Chief financial officer, Holmes Murphy

I think we can all admit our lives have changed quite a bit over the past months. On March 18, our Holmes Murphy offices, along with many other businesses, went primarily to a work-from-home strategy. Since then, like many, I haven’t seen a majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis. This includes not only work-related connections, but also my typical early-morning spots, gym friends and dining locations. I’m lucky — for the most part, my family and friends have fared well and are healthy.

March 18 was the day the coronavirus hit all 50 states. It was the day our lives and our relationships changed. Our daily routines were no longer "routine."

How has this affected our relationships? Personally, it’s been a mixed bag. I certainly miss many people and am saddened by the personal and professional struggles the virus has caused. On the other hand, it has also opened doors and made connections more meaningful and intentional.

Let’s start with celebrations. Forty Under 40, Women of Influence, and other awards went virtual. At first, we thought the recipients were missing out on their special day, but it was heartwarming to see so many people were there to support them virtually. Certain Winefest events became carry-out. Again different, but what a great opportunity to share the experience with friends who may not otherwise participate.

Weddings switched to smaller venues with social distancing and possibly an option to take part via online streamlining. What a perfect combination of an intimate gathering with the opportunity to share the celebration with anyone who cared to join in.

At work, we started a new venture that has allowed us to connect with insurance partners throughout the world. Roundtables were held to connect our clients and share experiences. Conferences went virtual, allowing us to see and participate in events we may not have otherwise been afforded the opportunity. Geography suddenly mattered much less.

Friends share in virtual half marathons, Trickster Euchre and other events they would not have considered pre-COVID. I don’t see my family members as often, but when I do, it’s uninterrupted one-on-one time. The same is true with friends. Smaller gatherings have led to deeper and more meaningful conversations. I look forward to gatherings much more than I did in the past. They are suddenly precious versus just another event on the calendar.

Times are certainly challenging and different. I do, however, feel people are finding new ways to support one another and come together in ways that were not previously imagined. Hopefully soon, the world will change again when a vaccine is available. I don’t think things will ever go back to how they were, but our connections will be the perfect combination of the old and the new.

Ellen Willadsen joined Holmes Murphy & Associates in 1995. As chief financial officer, she assists in all strategic and tactical matters as they relate to budget management, evaluation of potential acquisitions, cost benefit analysis, and Holmes Murphy’s overall vision of growth. Willadsen also serves on the Holmes Murphy Executive Committee and as a director on Holmes Murphy’s board. A graduate of the University of Iowa and a certified public accountant, Willadsen is an active participant in the United Way Women’s Leadership Connection, where she serves on the Investment Committee, and with the Iowa Society of CPAs, where she serves on the CPE Committee.