The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced us to make dramatic changes in every area of our lives in a very short time. Countries, Towns, Cities, Communities, Businesses, Families were brought to a standstill and shut down overnight, leaders declared National and International emergencies, people and institutions adapted to atypical economic and societal change.
The pandemic is treated as a social emergency and will continue on this path before it is contained and hopefully treated and eradicated. Infectious diseases, especially those like COVID-19, are societal reminders that our health and advancement in medical research and treatment are highly dependant on the viability of sterile plastics and disposable products to stop the spread and treat the infections.
The virus/pandemic serves as a reminder when we make policies and laws to ban products, we seriously need to consider the potential consequences and the unforeseen events and impacts that could occur without them. As a society, we may think we are invincible but we have a long way to go in understanding not only the human body but how it reacts to and recovers from various diseases and infections and must consider the materials and products we have available and ready to help in the fight and containment..
Much like 9/11, these types of events shatter how we see the world and what we believe to be normal and predictable. We did not learn from 9/11 or from prior disruptive events and this time we definitely were not ready for the pandemic outbreak. We failed at all levels from Health and Human Services, schools, business, communities, families, travel, etc. we were just not ready!
The impact and disruption to business also highlight the fact that we do not have ready and able resumption and recovery plans. There are very few plans that are tested and ready for recovery activities after a major shutdown and disruption. This goes way beyond IT and business shut down is one of the first ways our world changed, I can only hope the lessons learned will help put businesses on a path to a better future.
The pandemic and social disruptions have severely changed and impacted the operations and continuation of NGO and NP business models such as in-person seminars, charity dinners, business and leisure travel, and other in-person gatherings on ice. This disruption will continue to impact the income and quality of life for a large number of people in this sector, what we do not know at this time is how long the shutdowns will last and if the sector will be able to recover. We do know that the risks of crowd-based activities and travel restrictions are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Future growth will depend on the transition and integration of industrial technology with digital and mobile technologies for communication, collaboration, and transparency, as a result, we will see major changes in both provider and consumer behaviors and delivery models.
Consumer behaviors were already showing signs of the change prior to the shutdown. We are seeing the change continue and take various paths through the current stabilization phase that most economies are in right now. As we continue through and transition out of the pandemic effects, there is evidence that consumer spending is showing signs of recovery in some sectors while other sectors are experiencing retrenchment and layoffs, the sector where this is most evident is the food and beverage industry where over 50% of retail outlets and up to 60% of restaurants in some regions may not reopen. This is a clear indication that we will not be returning to “normal” pre-pandemic conditions.
Businesses will continually adapt to consumer demands and manage behaviors through simple and technological solutions, the integration of industrial and digital technologies to improve supply chain effectiveness, mitigate product disruptions, and to improve touchless options, reducing the potential for physical transmission in workplaces will continue. There is also a concern and serious consideration for the emerging Social costs, since the start of the pandemic, domestic abuse cases increased significantly, and suicide rates are anticipated to rise significantly, the loss of employee health insurance is increasing the health inequities in regions without government-funded systems.
The shutdown and isolation impact is felt across all economies and the prolonged lockdown of businesses will lead to high losses and high unemployment. Closing businesses has led to a global ripple effect impacting supply chains and product distribution framework. The impact also highlights that delays in enacting appropriate policies, and processes led to higher operational costs or causalities, higher health costs that could have been avoided with pre-planning and risks mitigation actionable plans.
Lives can be saved while also stabilizing business; it’s not an either/or decision. Integrating both human and economic factors into predictive models can both minimize the spread of the virus, reduce the economic impact, and provide a foundation for recovery and resumption should another shutdown occur.
Social Disruption and pandemic impact is forcing us to learn valuable lessons in resilience and human adaptability. We are learning how quickly we can respond when faced with uncertainty, a black swan event, and a common enemy. Digging deeper into these lessons and reflecting on our new respect for unknown events that forces change, we should consider what triggers us to adjust to such profoundly challenging and unfamiliar territory., Let’s imagine how we might harness these lessons to reduce the risk of catastrophes, black swan events, future pandemics, and other potential threats in the future.
Moving forward, consumers are now pushing back and no longer accepting mediocre service s, demanding attention to health and safety practices, and going as far as holding the organization accountable for their actions. They are also pushing everyone within organizations to act as one and break down the department (not my job) silos, this is also forcing human resources departments to take a more important role to support these transitions. The transitions include staff working remotely to coordinate and act as one while facing the increased risk of knowledge dispersion, IT service provisioning, employee isolation.
On the personal side, we are experiencing higher levels of isolation, alcohol dependency, increase levels of smoking, physical aches, and pains through poor ergonomic posture, depression, and mental stresses. Employers have to accept that they too have to protect their workers in order to survive, grow, and stay relevant to the changing playing field and to changing consumer demands.
Overall, the pandemic has positive outcomes, it allowed us to review and “reset” our needs, wants and expectations, it has also afforded us the time to reflect on what is really important and enable us to look at our personal environment with a critical eye of efficiency and a few critical realizations:
Ø We do not need to make as many short trips, we are able to effectively use energy and travel only when necessary, walking biking or running are doable and healthy options for short errands
Ø The mobile phone is not a necessary tool 24/7, we do have the ability and drive to get outside and do things we have ignored for years, e.g. gardening, hiking, exploring nature…When it comes to waste and garbage, people not products are the problem, as evidenced by masks and PPE thrown all over cities
Ø We can modify our actions and behaviors to meet changing conditions at the drop of a hat, yes, we are capable of change and our typical reasons for resistant change is selfish.
Ø Conscious consumerism is realistic, and we can do what is necessary to mitigate and minimize waste
Ø government is capable of doing what is necessary to mitigate the spread of infection and not overwhelm our medical system.
Ø Government can regulate and legislate and implement policies to immediately enforce desired changes in near real-time, it also highlights the inefficiencies in government administration, where it took years to make a significant change, and it could, in reality, be done more effectively in shorter durations.
Ø We do not have to continue to build more schools, we can utilize the building more effectively with a combination of two shifts a day, putting twice the number of kids thru the same facility and online distance learning where relevant.
Ø The rise of culture jamming in the form of political and social activism which, fake adverts and news stories, pastiches of company logos and product labels, computer hacking, etc. and also highlights the ability of the media, governments, and large corporations to control and distort the information that they give to the public in order to promote consumerism, , behavioral change and support for specific agendas.
Ø Sport although a major contributor to economic and social development, we can do without it at the professional level, and the opportunity to reset professional sport to make it more affordable to the masses is a relevant concern and opportunity.
Ø Family time is returning, we are focusing less on material objects and more on family – when last did you hear someone in your household say, move over on the sofa so I can sit and watch a move with you?
Ø Maintaining this strong connection with family members through the pandemic is also forcing us to reflect on spending and how excessive it was. This is something we will not return to once the pandemic is over.
Ø We’re going back to the basics of life, the building blocks that would have always been there…but that we lost sight of. You cannot get that [support] by going to a store and buying it, but I can get it from spending time with my family and…being there for each other.
Ø The ongoing pandemic helped reinforce the importance of family and friends, it has also led us to re-evaluate the attention we give to professional sports, we have learned that we do not miss watching pro sports [anymore], the lives of my dear ones are much more valuable than watching an already-millionaire chase around a football, baseball, soccer ball or hockey puck.
Ø The biggest thing I’ve learned from having my life altered is that money is only important for what you need and not for what you want and it’s not as important as feeling healthy, safe and secure, and being surrounded by your family and friends.
Ø THE IMPORTANCE OF SLOWING DOWN and not having to commute every day has given us an extra two hours in her day. The reality of a fast-paced lifestyle as a kind of false security blanket used to cover up fears.
Ø Not only is it important to do what we can to stay healthy and at ease, but also to make sure we’re doing things that make us happy.
The pandemic and ongoing social disruptions are reminding us of the value of life and the importance of showing appreciation for those around you. We are feeling the pain and agony of not having access to those close to us and with loved ones who pass away during the lockdown. The physical distancing measures put in place as a result of the virus still impact plans for a funeral service and getting closure. The experience of losing a loved one, coupled with the absence of intimacy with loved ones, reminds us to be more grateful for those around us. We cannot be held prisoners in our homes, we could do things differently and find new means to connect.
With the closure of international and provincial borders closed to domestic flights, people cannot attend weddings, family reunions, anniversaries, birthday, etc. Those who are able to travel within jurisdictions must abide by social distancing rules and stand two meters apart in the sun, rain, or if acceptable indoors and unable to hug or hold one another.
A duty of care action plan will be paramount in supporting companies to mitigate challenges in locating and communicating with traveling employees as business recovery efforts resume and the pandemic effects continue. With the emergence of numerous self-serve serve apps and websites, it becomes increasingly difficult for managers and team leads to access accurate, timely traveler location and activity data. In this era of pandemics and social disruptions, when an employee is in transit and faces a crisis, it’s important for organizations to have visibility and access to instantly to locate and support employees.
We have cause for optimism, but how and when we get out of this crisis is of great concern. We need to focus not only on an antiviral and health solution but a recovery that is focused on economic recovery and growth, adaptability to social disruptions, geo-political risks, inequality, mental health, the lack of societal cohesion and inclusion. If we do not do this, then the gaps in inequality – especially with family, financial, and healthcare- are likely to remain and increase.
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Dave Gajadhar is an Advisor, Speaker, Educator, and an Advocate for Human prosperity and resource optimization at Resultant Group, business modernization, waste mitigation. Supply chain integration and transition advisors.
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