Well, what a start we’ve had to 2020! If I’d been told a year ago that the globe would effectively shut up shop in March of this year, I’d never have believed it.
Covid-19 is the first global pandemic in our lifetimes, and there’s no doubt it’s led to a massive crisis with high losses in terms of health, economies and social costs. It has put our human-made systems, that we were so proud of, under a microscope and shown them to be sorely lacking.
From shortages of essential equipment leaving health workers feeling exposed, through to the collapse of financial markets, the halting of production lines and stalling of travel, we have never witnessed anything like it before.
Such a crisis is bound to affect social dynamics
In the midst of the problems, there have been some shining positives. One of the key themes that has emerged is about communities. It’s almost as if that forgotten “Big Society” policy of ten years ago has been successfully implemented in a matter of weeks. From over a million volunteers signing up to support the NHS, through to local schemes where neighbours are looking after neighbours, there has been a unifying effect that has brought out the best in us.
As well as the effect on our local neighbourhoods, you could argue that the public sphere has been somewhat reconfigured. Whilst political differences remain, millions are tuning in daily to watch our leaders and their advisors. Whether you’re a fan of the current administration or not, it can be argued that the daily briefings engender a sense of a shared reality – we are all in this together. It’s no wonder that parallels are being drawn with the wartime era as people are united in adversity.
Of course, it’s not all positive
With the prospect of a deep recession looming, there will be many people more desperately worried about their jobs than they have been for years. And we must all undertake social distancing, probably for a long time yet, with the limits that brings about on many of the simple pleasures in life, such as a meal with friends, a family BBQ or a weekend away.
Whilst we might all be in this together, it’s a lot easier to self-isolate in a large house with a pleasant garden than in a small inner-city flat. There will be a price that society has to pay in physical and mental health, the scale of which is yet unknown.
What about communications?
As well as impacting social dynamics, Covid-19 has changed the way we communicate dramatically to almost 100% online. It could be that the way we communicate changes forever, as we realise the potential of the technologies available to us. Whilst many business tasks can be effectively completed online, what’s missing is the social aspect, the chats on the way to the lift, the social exchanges over coffee breaks.
The different way we are communicating has demanded a new set of skills from managers. The ability to lead a team when you can’t meet with them does not come naturally to all. It demands a high level of trust, a lifting of normal parameters. Working at home may be great for some, but others will be really missing the social interactions that our workplaces bring. Many staff will not enjoy the home working experience, and managers will need to identify those who need additional motivation.
As far as corporate communications are concerned, there’s been a definite move towards a more human approach, offering help and support rather than a hard sell. I’d like to think that elements of this approach will remain as it’s something I’ve always advocated in my own business.
So what of the future
I like to think of the current situation as an opportunity to take stock. In the global sense, it will hopefully give us the chance to review our relationships with work, with nature, with money and with one another.
I hope we emerge with stronger bonds to our children, a new-found respect for workers previously dismissed as ‘unskilled’, and a political appetite to examine the impact on the planet of industry and transport. I believe it will be a springboard for enormous innovation. And one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has shown is how quickly decisions can be taken when really needed. Let’s hope that continues.
Human beings are endlessly resilient. It’s this quality that will help us emerge, changed but not bowed.
What impact is Covid-19 having on you? Are you relishing the more relaxed way of living or desperately missing your normal life? Let us know by commenting below.