Many of us dream of things going back to the way they were before, but do we understand that whatever is there waiting for us on the other side of SARS–CoV–2 is not like it was before? A time when “The Great Pause” of a world perpetually on the move will be thing present only in memory and history books; or rather on Search Engines?
There will be a new order. Life was forced into a virtual space. Into confinement. I don’t know about you, but I have been investing for a little over a year, and while my portfolio has not yet descended into a loss, it has seen some decline and expect that I will need to keep vigilant on that front. I had plans. Big ones. They sit idle as the vehicle runs, threatening to suffocate me of carbon monoxide. (Well, obviously not literally.)
It’s been 5 years and 7 months since the law was passed in Jamaica to allow the Flexi-workweek arrangement (Employment (Flexible Work Arrangements) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2014, and far too few companies within both private and public sector making use of its advantages. We were still tethered strenuous, limited, work interfering hours to conduct government business .
In the last few weeks, we have seen companies (in Jamaica) that told us we must visit a branch to complete the simplest of tasks beg us to do same virtually. We’ve seen companies (albeit forced) provide employees with the means to wok virtually, and to communicate effectively without expending hours in traffic and precious resources to commute to sit behind a desk, when most of them have access to internet at home in a city where a 5 minute commute turns dreadfully into hours during rush hour.
The stubborn donkey was brought to water and effectively made to drink.
The Shift is Permanent
Many of us cling to the hope that things will go back to ‘normal’ soon. But will they? Or will our everyday lives take on a new shift of what will be perceived as the norm. I think, the shift has been made, and the clock will be not be reversed. Companies that stubbornly clung to archaic methods of operations, including paper record and documentation management systems, refused to develop a virtual presence by simply creating a website and/or listing on Google, refusal of senior management individuals to update (and in some cases develop from scratch) technology driven competencies have brought many business to their knees much sooner than necessary and many are left to follow.
How many companies were able to ‘enact’ remote working policies, versus how many had to develop them overnight? The patty shop has gone up in proverbial smoke. And the world isn’t waiting.
The trouble is, you think you have time.
Restaurants, clearly too used to the flow of patrons packed inside looking for a meal to-go while ignoring the pleas of the consumer for delivery have started making these same services more accessible. Businesses borne of need and necessity have delivery and personal shopping businesses popping up left and right.
When the Dust Settles
When the fat lady has sung and it’s all over, will we, the consumer readily revert to the box we knew our everyday lives to be? Will we quietly accept, corporate companies trying to tell us we must go ‘in branch’ to spend hours in order to make reports, receive statements, update accounts and the like? What of those companies that make it? Will they give up efficiency and low overheads to go back to outdated systems and bulky business models?
Personally, I think not. Once savings are represented as dollar signs on balance sheets, the road backwards will become a lot less favourable. The vast majority of local companies do not practice succession planning an even more frightening percentage do not plan or document business strategies. That translates to a number of participants of the labour force finding themselves out of jobs, and worse without future prospects.
How will work-life balance now be packaged? Will it sell? We are asked to work, raise and teach children, socialise and maintain our sanity in a single space.
The New Normal
I expect that I will not be able to celebrate my birthday outdoors in August. I expect that out family trip around the Heroes weekend time will not happen either, for more reason than one. This shift, that has forced the world to slow down and even left some countries on their knees, having done the seemingly impossible. Stopped the world without stopping time. When will we be comfortable enough to travel again? When will we be comfortable enough to sleep in a hotel bed without the anxiety of whether the cleaning staff was thorough enough clawing at to our throat? Will we scour the reviews and trust them, the same ones many are paid to provide?
Is the era of short term rentals and affordable travel as a source of income going to shift as many homeowners are left with months if not years of uncertainties regarding income and mortgages that are due? Will young professionals previously priced out of long term rental or home ownership in favour of short term rentals be given a fair chance in the housing market?
Will we be more sanitary? More careful in our interactions? Will it affect our humanity? Will it force the ‘head down’ narrative further?
It Will be Different
I think, we will be surprised. I know I am different. I will wonder about those companies with policies that make their lives easier but mine harder. I will wonder about the pharmacists, the supermarket staff, the farmers and all the other people it did not occur to me that are essential service providers before #Covid19.
I will think about the indiscipline and the selfishness of human nature. In the same breath, I will think about the selflessness and extraordinary compassion we can exhibit when we choose to. I will think about the hotel staffers who are asked to clean 10 rooms in one hour, what that means for them physically, what that means for the sanitation factor in these rooms, and what it means for them being unable to live comfortably after all that.
I will think a little harder about the salt in the air when I breathe in at the beach, the water lapping at my skin and the sand between my toes. I will think about the freedom to go about my day unencumbered. I will think about the freedom to indulge my kid in a beach day when she asks. To have my mother over for a weekend, to see my father when I want. I will think about what it means to miss my sisters and not be able lie across each other on a bed cackling at jokes no one but us might find funny, touching instead of just FaceTiming or standing 3-6 ft apart.
I will think about the people that for whom, home is not a refuge but a hell to be escaped. I will think about the people who have no home. I will think about the people whose family are not their safe place. And I’m all of it, I will be grateful.
What about you?