We’re starting to hear talk from western governments about cautiously reopening the economy; a return to some form of normality.
But will CoVid-19 cause permanent change in our lives, our psyches, and in the way business is conducted around the world. Will we ever go back to the way we were?
There are obvious changes, like companies having purchased equipment that allows staff to work from home. Many businesses large and small are overcoming their reluctance to allow their staff to work, at least part of the time, without having to make the commute into the office.
This could have a ripple effect in other areas. If staff can work from anywhere, companies might consider downsizing their offices, and instead provide desks that anyone who comes in to work can plug into. Employees who escape brutal commutes might be more productive while enjoying more flexible hours. On the downside, commercial property owners would suffer lost rental income, and demand for commercial space would decline.
The importance of the NHS is now etched into our society and political landscape like never before.
People who are suddenly forced to work from homes that have young children are beginning to recognise the extraordinary value of our school teachers and caregivers. Men and women in the workforce, now trying to concentrate while children are running around the kitchen table, are discovering a new appreciation for the amount of effort put in daily by stay-at-home partners. But those same full-time workers may be forming new bonds with children that they formerly saw only in the morning and in the evening before bedtime.
Will education ever get back to the “normal” that we knew a few months ago? Schools are discovering kids can be educated remotely. Universities are discovering the same lessons as corporations: sitting in a lecture hall is not necessary when the same lesson can be delivered online. How long before the very best and most charismatic professors in every field, wherever they happen to be, will record their best lectures, accelerating the trend toward online learning without leaving auditory learners behind?
Another obvious change: people have become more comfortable using Zoom, GoToMeeting and Google Hangout for remote meetings. When we’re once again free to move outside our homes, will people be as motivated to get on a plane to make client visits, visit headquarters or otherwise physically travel to remote locations when they can save time and money by hopping on a teleconference? Companies might set new policies banning non-essential travel, and the post-CoVid definition might be strict.
The result? Potential savings of time and money for companies, declining revenues for airlines, rental car companies and hotels, and fewer opportunities to catch disease in crowded airports and even more crowded airplanes.
With shopping centres closed, people have moved en masse to online shopping. Will they go back to visiting stores they have to drive to, or avoid the frustrating search for parking? Instead of going to a restaurant, will they be more likely to opt for takeout and eat in the comfort of their homes? Online food shopping has become more popular during the lockdown; will the trend become a part of our lives going forward?
A catastrophe on the scale of the CoVid-19 pandemic can also change the psyche in interesting ways. Think of people who survived the Great Depression and the rationing during World War II. The most telling residue of those times is people living frugally for the rest of their days, right through a long period of abundance. At the very least, people will have an enhanced appreciation of things we once took for granted, like being able to move around freely without gloves and a mask, and knowing that toilet paper will be on the supermarket shelves when we need it.
Meanwhile, millions of people thought putting money away for a rainy day was just a nice to have. Now, through hard experience, they realise how important it is to have cash on hand for emergencies.
Finally, the human cost of this pandemic is likely to be greater than any single war we have experienced in modern times. As we mourn , we may also feel a renewed gratitude for our own lives and the people we love — and be less likely to take our (and their) unique, precious existence for granted in the future.
Everywhere, we see people stepping up with courage and responsibility. People are finding new ways to connect and support each other in adversity. Hopefully, with a new sense of community, we may find new energy toward making our corner of the world more fun, interesting and engaging.
How are you changing? Will you ever feel comfortable again in a crowded pub or sitting elbow to elbow with strangers at a sporting event? Will you be more likely to stock up on supplies in case there’s a new unexpected shortage just around the corner? Are you more frugal now than you were a couple of months ago? The virus isn’t over, but the changes may have just begun.