Today, April 21, 2020, we have almost completed the fifth week of lockdown. At the beginning of this contingency, the confinement was voluntary, however currently our health authorities are strongly and repeatedly requesting us to stay at home in order to halt the spread of COVID-19, whose disease is still too unknown to all of us.
During these week, I have had to adapt to this new scenario and adopt new ways of working, like remote working or telecommuting, as many other colleagues have done.
In some audioconferences, videoconferences and telepresence I have attended in the last period, there was always someone saying “when we will return to normality” we will do that thing or celebrate or keep doing what we used to do before this contingency. At this regard, the only thing that comes to my mind is that the “normality” we all knew, which was our day to day life and we all are missing now, no longer exists; it has just gone away, forever…
Even if a safe and effective enough vaccine against Covid-19 is eventually developed, this will likely happen by the end of 2021.
In this scenario, we will end this quarantine and face a world which is no longer the same as the one we “left” before this contingency began.
- What will happen in 6 months, if someone goes to office coughing or with high temperature?
- What will we do when we get flu, cough or temperature? Will we keep our daily routine as if nothing happens?
- What will happen when one of us will be asked to attend a meeting abroad or in another city? Will we go without any fear or concern?
- Are we going to queue at the bank or supermarket as close to each other as we used to do before this contingency?
- Will we attend concerts without any concern?
- Will we still have lunch with friends or coworkers and share the same dessert?
What will happen upon the return to normality? That normality no longer exists, and from now on, we must build our new normality day by day, by introducing rules that are still unwritten or maybe do not even exist yet 1.
Our “new normality” will have several dimensions since there are several aspects that we are facing as individuals or companies.
From a personal point of view, during this time we have had the opportunity to value family time, to miss those who are far away and even had a pretext to reconnect with people, acquire new skills, exercise, etc.
From a labor perspective, this contingency allowed many of us, inspired by the numerous messages and tips on remote working and the achievement of maximum productivity, realizing the importance of self-discipline and results-oriented work models.
For many of us, this contingency has brought out the best in human thinking and behavior. Many people are living this period with a deep feeling of gratitude for being alive and healthy. Many are learning from all this, and many are acting empathetically by supporting those who are living more complex situations, through economic actions, advice, donations, etc.
On the other hand, it is a fact that this situation has also showed the worst in our selves. We have heard of numerous episodes of people hoarding essential items, or acquiring huge amounts of supplies so depriving the others of the possibility to have them, people enriching through overpricing medical supplies, people intentionally spreading fake news or even politicizing and taking advantage of the problems connected to this contingency, in order to achieve personal interests, etc.
There are also people who still do not take seriously the threat of COVID-19: many still do not respect confinement, healthy distance and none of the recommendations to avoid the spread of the virus. There are many young people still walking in public areas or people even sneezing without taking any precaution and even making fun of the rest of us who, with good reason, are annoyed and scared by such a behavior.
We must demonstrate our social conscience and think that, in order to build this new normality, we must analyze what we did wrong, what we did well and what we could have done better.
Private sector will also change significantly. Many companies are going to cut executive travels and there is no doubt that audio and video conference, or telepresence will largely replace face-to-face communication, since they will be considered as totally equivalent. Video conferencing and webinars are going to become the norm rather than the exception, as it was before this contingency, when large conferences brought together large concentration of people.
Educational institutions have made intensive use of videoconferences to allow professors teaching their classes regularly. Digitalization of education has strongly accelerated due to this contingency and will be definitely a “must” in the future for any institution that wants to meet people’s new expectations. I would say that, for any educational institution, in addition to having high-level and prestigious study programs, it will be extremely important to have the means and infrastructure to deliver said content through several electronic ways. There’s no doubt that in the post-Covid19 era students are going to consider this factor in their process of choosing the university.
Teleworking has become mandatory and may now convert into the norm for many companies and for those jobs that do not require personal interaction. This model could also help companies to reduce office expenses. A Gartner’s survey has revealed that 74% of the companies surveyed plan to move at least 5% of their workforce (who previously worked at office) to a teleworking model2.
For companies and governments, it will be critical to control or know when someone is infected. The use of drones and robotics in our daily lives could be a standard in areas such as security surveillance and detection procedures. For this purpose, devices that will detect, intrusively or not, if someone has high temperature3 are in process of development. Likewise, tech companies are laying the foundations for the implementation of smart devices and electronic tablets that will allow generating health maps which will help in the fight against any virus4.
In some countries, it is highly probable that the way healthcare services are provided will change, and some segments of population will opt for electronic medical consultation, whenever possible. The public health system should also be more aware of the social and physical environment, as determinants of health in the event of future outbreaks of communicable diseases5.
While we are still fighting with this pandemic, we can also seize the opportunity to prepare for the changes that are looming in our lives, once these difficult times are over. The pain originated by this pandemic is real, but it will eventually pass and we will wake up in a new era. Hopefully we learn and make tomorrow better than yesterday.
- Growth in the Low Touch Economy: How to navigate de world after Covid-19. https://www.boardofinnovation.com
- Lavelle, Justin (2020). Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently. Justin Lavelle. Arlington Virginia Abril 2020. URL: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03-gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remote-work-permanently2
- Apple and Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology (2020). URL: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2020/04/apple-and-google-partner-on-covid-19-contact-tracing-technology/
- Tofel, Kevin (2020). How smart devices can create a national “health map” for tackling epidemics. URL: https://staceyoniot.com/how-smart-devices-can-create-a-traffic-map-for-health-crises-like-covid-19-coronavirus/
- Telesalud: Cuando la tecnología se une al cuidado de la salud URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878