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ICE Community blog

From surviving to thriving

14 October 2020

In the latest in our 'Coping with lockdown' blogs, ICE Council member Yan Zhou says mental health and wellbeing must be prioritised in the Covid-19 crisis.

From surviving to thriving
ICE Council member Yan Zhou

The last six months have been an experience which none of us could have expected. The Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on all areas of wellbeing – physical, mental, social and financial. All these difficulties could lead to an additional psychological burden on individuals, resulting in anxiety and even trauma.

I first heard about the term "from surviving to thriving" from Donald Morrison, the Senior Vice President at Jacobs, (where I work as Divisional Director), in one of his weekly video messages to staff. I found the message was very powerful and had some thoughts and reflections on what it means for me personally, for Jacobs, and for the civil engineering profession. Instead of making a leap from "surviving" to "thriving", I think there could be two more important intermediate steps in between - Surviving, Reviving, Striving, Thriving.


When the Covid pandemic came, we all got panicked, confused and saddened. We felt useless, helpless, loveless, lifeless. The situation was completely out of control. All we could do was just passively accept what had happened and do what we were told to do, in order to survive.


The crisis won't last forever! When the dust settles, the R value drops below 1 and toilet rolls are back in stock, you know the storm will have passed and it will be time to start life in the new normal. But how? It is a testing question and it is indeed a test for everyone's resilience levels.

As civil engineers we are fortunate to be in an industry which will play a key role in reviving the economy. History proves that infrastructure will give strong stimulation to speed up the recovery. So, the hope is there. Thanks to our visionary leaders at Jacobs and within the industry, we have invested heavily in IT and digital solutions. So, we are equipped with the right tools and equipment to work remotely, have a site visit virtually, or have a staff town hall meeting globally. We have got the resilience to revive and prepare for the upcoming opportunities.

Yan Zhou with President's Future Leader Joseph Marner at ICE's awards ceremony in 2019
Yan Zhou with President's Future Leader Joseph Marner at ICE's awards ceremony in 2019


Our ways of working or even ways of living will change forever after this pandemic. Some industries may not survive. Some less resilient businesses in our industry may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some brilliant people may no longer have a job.

We have already tried so hard to survive and begin to revive. If we don't seize the opportunities and work even harder, I'm afraid the 'revive' might be short and the 'thrive' would be too far to reach.

To materialise the opportunities, it requires us to be adaptive and innovative. We need to work even harder to find the solution for our clients to deliver the infrastructure in a more cost effective and environmentally friendly way. We need to make more efforts to integrate sustainability, carbon neutral, and zero waste in the design and build. We need to strive to use the latest technology to improve the safety, efficiency and reliability of what we do. As a bare minimum, we need to do more to better prepare ourselves to survive the next crisis.


There is no easy way to success, whether it’s an individual, a company, or an industry. We are in a fast-changing world and everything is moving forward at an exponential rate. We must adapt accordingly to keep up with the pace. I believe if we can keep calm, we will live through this crisis.

If we could build up resilience and adaptability, it will create an incubator for us to emerge from the difficulties. If we work hard and make extra effort to seize the opportunities, we will become our better selves. And after surviving, reviving, and striving, I believe thriving is waiting.

As an ICE member you can access online resources for wellbeing at the ICE Benevolent Fund.

Read up on Yan Zhou's journey to becoming an ICE Fellow here.

  • Yan Zhou CEng FICE MHKIE, Divisional Director, Jacobs at Jacobs