What’s the new normal?
Now that we know there is a possibility to move to Alert Level 3 and then 2, we are waiting with baited breath for the government to tell us when and how.
How do we return to a new normal?
Slowly taking the next steps
Back to normality – just like it was before: preschools, schools, shops are opening and we all go back to work as it was before? That can’t be, we would undo what the government and health experts have been trying to achieve, another load of infections and pressure on the health systems is only deferred by a couple of months and we would pay a high price for the freedom to go back to normal, bankruptcies, debts, recession, deaths.
I think everyone is pretty clear about the fact that a return to normality can only be achieved safely and sustainably if taken step by step and slowly.
It is essential that people who recovered from Coronavirus are able to move around freely. At the same time we need to make sure that the people at highest risk are protected and isolated. Just like Asia we need to test a lot more to get a clear picture of who has been infected and has developed resistance.
Until a vaccine is available for everyone we need to continue with social distancing, hygiene and protection. Then we can step by step return to a new normal which might look like this:
- Shops and Restaurants can open again but need to continue following the distancing rules, fewer customers and a controlled crowd in small places. Restaurants might only let 10 customers at the time into their space and maybe only have two people at the time sit at the same table with a safe distance of 2 m to other diners. This will be reflected in the cost of a meal and drink as the restaurant will need to survive with less customers but same cost of running the business.
- Schools can open but class sizes might be only half of the usual class size with kids sitting further apart from each other and maybe schools might have two shift classes, some kids in the morning, some in the afternoon. This will mean we need even more teachers, for longer hours during the day. This will also mean that parents of these children being schooled in shifts need to change their work hours / commuting hours.
- The movies, theaters, Universities could also operate if they seated only every third seat so people can keep their distance. This may also mean the end of movies and theaters for a while in favour of Netflix or other online channels. It might also mean that Universities will completely move to distance learning with e-learning capacity of 100%.
This may not be ideal to survive for businesses and turnover will be drastically down due to the restriction in customer numbers but these are exactly the questions we need to ask ourselves now..while preparing for Level 3 and 2.
Why not put a plan in place now to manage this new normal, step by step?
In addition to protecting people in future from the virus it is also important to now think about how to prepare for ‚after lockdown‘.
Covid-19 is going to change the world of working
The ‘back to normality at work’ does not mean we all carry on like before the lockdown. That would be naive. Our world of working has forever changed. This sounds scary but does not have to be.
We have a unique opportunity to see this as a positive challenge. All the employers who have resisted to let their staff work from home, welcome to the new world! Working from home is going to be the norm for most businesses unless they are manufacturing or providing a customer facing service.
More home office, less traffic, less pollution, less cost of running a business or getting to and from work. More time to work undisturbed, over longer periods of time, happier and more relaxed.
Companies who are managing the current situation well with staff working from home will continue doing so and likely save money by not leasing premises, car parks and funding fuel expenses.
Employees don’t need to spend time in rush hour traffic or crowded buses, can reduce family expenses to one car only, save cost of fuel and expensive take away lunches. They gain in life quality, are happier while less stressed. They can spend the time gained by not commuting on learning and development or well being and more family time.
Video conferencing saves time and cost, is more focused with better prepared attendees.
Video conferencing is a well accepted method of communication in this country and we have all adapted well during the lockdown to this being the only tool of communication with the outside world. At work, for our private meetups, for crowd network gatherings, it just seems to work and has the advantage that more attendees from different parts of the city / country / world can join in without trouble. The recent Canterbury Tech monthly meeting was conducted via Zoom and had more people than ever attending including people from outside Christchurch and outside NZ. Ofcourse the social side of networking was lacking and everyone had to bring their own drinks and nibbles to the Zoom call, but it worked!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was recently in quarantine and led the country from home, during one of the most critical times. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also managed the country from his quarantine in a UK Hospital while recovering from Covid19.
Ofcourse, some negotiations and deals are better done face to face and in person but video conferencing will bring us also closer to saving the planet.
Less office space, less cost of leasing, more back to nature
By letting their staff work from home, employers not only save cost of leasing office space and car parking, they also enable their work force to chose a living outside the city. This could mean the return to stronger rural communities. Families can afford larger homes in the country side with more outdoor space for kids, more opportunity to have their hobby on their doorstep (cycling, tramping, fishing, horse riding) and rather than driving out of the city at the weekend to get away from the hussle and bussle, they will drive into the city at the weekend to enjoy the busy city life for a brief moment.
Career path in a virtual team.
The new way of working collaboratively in virtual teams also provides a challenge for any leader to step up and succeed in not only bringing people together to achieve a goal but also to motivate and mentor them despite not being in their face on a day to day basis.
Aspiring leaders need to also find their place in such a virtual environment and manage to progress on their career ladder without them or their actions being constantly visable to their managers.
How to get out of the paralysis to action?
We know we are in the midst of a global and never before experienced crisis, we will still be paralysed for months to come, likely through most of 2021 and beyond.
The pandemic will change our world of socialising, communicating, working, living, shopping, learning. There will be no more hand-shaking, hugging, kissing outside your own bubble.
Many industries and organisations will not survive, others need to re-invent themselves. Many people will be losing their jobs and may not be able to go back to the same industry, career path, salary. It is scary but not impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel and come out smelling roses. There is a challenge ahead for all of us but we can also grow as a nation and as a people.
Even if our welfare and individual wealth or existence is threatened, we can’t stay paralysed and each of us needs to have a PlanB for who we are after this crisis. We have to act, prepare, be open minded to change. Step by Step, Starting now.