I will leave the predictions of the scale and length of this current crisis to the scientists and the experts, but what I do know is that the COVID-19 global pandemic is set to change the way we live, learn and work into the future.
Here are some musings of what the 'New Normal' might be:
1. Natural Selection
Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution found that those organisms which adapt to their environment tend to survive and thrive better than those that do not. Those organizations that have enough liquidity and are swift enough to reduce expenses are more likely to survive. Tragically, there will be many that do not, and this will create opportunities on the other side.
Food for Thought: Weaker organizations that do not have enough cash, their balance sheet is too heavily burdened, and that do not make cost reductions quickly enough will inevitably fail. In the converse, those that do will survive and thrive and a consolidation of markets will occur.
2. Collaboration Technology
We have already seen evidence that the demand for collaborative technology has increased. As millions of children are now learning from home, college students taking their exams remotely, millions of workers, at home, learning how to stay efficient and effective during this forced time of remote working.
The longer that the pandemic forces people to stay at home, then these remote learning, working, living norms will begin to be proven. Over time, adoption of collaboration technology as an integral element of how we live, will rise like never before.
Food for Thought: Humans are by nature social creatures, that is part of our DNA, we need social interactions to survive and thrive as individuals, teams, as a society. Face to face collaboration can never be replaced completely but expect the frequency to be reduced, potentially significantly.
3. Missing the Commute?
Although for many, being locked down at home is challenging but how many people are really missing the commute? For many, reducing pointless hours each day, stuck in a car, on a bus, train or even a plane.
Food for Thought: Organizations, people, may well change their perspective and the new normal might well mean less commuting, or even in some cases an elimination of commuting at all. The time given back will increase happiness, effectiveness and efficiency.
4. Bricks & Mortar
The pressure on bricks & mortar business models has been well documented in recent years and especially in the world of retail but how will the new normal impact schools, libraries, restaurants, businesses, cinemas, even fitness centers?
Will the future be even more reliant upon staying at home and through technology ordering, working, consuming these products and services?
Food for Thought: Some buildings may go away completely but many will be repurposed. Shopping malls becoming life-style centers with housing that become stand alone communities. Schools may become drop-in centers, offices become co-working spaces, not five days a week but drop in once a week, twice a month.
5. Is Social Distancing Here to Stay?
As COVID-19 eventually passes, as it will at some point, then what is the next threat to humankind? Will social distancing become a part of our self-protectionist behavior, an expectation for our own safety and survival?
Food for Thought: The days of open public spaces may be numbered. The movie theater in the face of on demand TV at home. Restaurants already shifting their model to takeaway and delivery. Sports events from your sofa as opposed to mixing with tens of thousands often shoulder to shoulder.
6. Rise of the Robots
Will this be a catalyst for the rise of robots to be completing work that traditionally involves human interaction? Self-Driving vehicles, automated factories, and warehouses, robot servers at your local diner, robotic food, and grocery delivery?
Will human intense activities like call centers be replaced by AI? Do drones replace the millions of delivery vehicles? Do computers replace teachers?
Food for Thought: The technology exists today and improves hour by hour. Even before the pandemic, it was probably likely that this level of technology would become commonplace, but now, with Covid-19, then this could be the catalyst that boosts the rise of the robots.
7. The Workforce of The Future?
What will worker groups such as long haulers, UBER drivers, wait staff, call center folks, cruise ship workers, retail staff do in the new normal as demand for their services reduces? How will they secure meaningful work, pay the bills, support themselves and their families in the new normal?
Food for Thought: The workforce is inevitably set to change. A different way of work, alternative activities, different skill sets, and could signal an accelerated metamorphosis into a true gig economy. More home working, more local, more disparate, variety of work with multiple employers.
8. An Economic Evolution
If any of these things do happen, then the knock-on effects on the economy are not just temporary but here for the long-term and how does the world economy adapt? Service heavy economies will suffer, physical places where historically people would go for leisure would diminish, retail could potentially collapse in the form it is in today, home utility demand would rise and reliance on oil could reduce.
Food for Thought: Whatever the dynamic of the economic impact, we need to be prepared to be nimble, adapt, and overcome. Those that do will survive and thrive.
9. Health, Wellness & Wellbeing
Beyond the virus itself, keeping safe, staying well, taking precautions such as sanitization and social distancing, the new normal may well play a greater emphasis on the importance of health, wellness, and wellbeing.
Restrictions in the ability to enjoy the great outdoors, work out at your fitness center, play individual or team sports. But also, more remote, isolated, reduced human interaction may well affect the overall health of the population.
Food for Thought: There may become a greater reliance on the family unit, greater use of the collaborative technologies mentioned. Tools that enable, help and support what might be potentially a lonelier existence. Maintaining positivity, connectivity and being mindful of the health and well being of your family, friends, students, and workers will become ever more important.
10. Impact on the Planet
Fewer vehicles on the road, fewer planes in the sky, reduced levels of manufacturing, and the skies are clearing once more, waters are becoming clearer, the air is becoming cleaner, and wildlife coming back to the otherwise crowded and polluted areas.
Food for Thought: There often positives that can come out of adversity, and just maybe, this is one of them. There is no Plan B for the planet, the place we live, our children, our grandchildren and generations to come. Perhaps this will be the catalyst we need to save our planet from further irreparable harm.
I don’t know how deep the Coronavirus pandemic will cut, or for how long. Whatever the ‘New Normal’ does look like, what I do know for certain is that COVID-19 will be a catalyst for change.
Mother Nature can be so giving with the gift of life, but she can also be unforgiving too.
There are many examples, but one thing that I do know for sure is that the very day after what often is seen as a devastating jungle fire, is that the green shoots of life appear as nature moves from adversity into revitalization and birth of a new day, survival and our continuous cycle of evolution.
These are merely my observations and musings and whatever the future may hold, I remember an old saying from a wise man I once met,
“There is nothing so challenging that the human form cannot overcome.”