More commentary on Covid-19 – at the time of writing, Victoria is at Stage 3 restrictions, with Stage 4 possible very soon. Generally, people seem to adapting to if not actually coping with this daily reality (although people are still flouting their quarantine obligations). But there is still some confusion on how to interpret, observe and enforce the social distancing measures, and of course, huge economic uncertainty remains for many people who have seen their working hours evaporate, especially if they are in vulnerable industries, and/or they can’t work from home.
Meanwhile, the shutdown has prompted a fair number of less serious responses, from toilet paper memes, to “viral” GIFS, from parodies of “My Sharona” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, to unfortunate examples of the downside of company video conferences while working from home.
But beyond the hashtags, what might we expect once we get through the current pandemic? Here is a somewhat random list of possible outcomes:
- A renewed appreciation of personal space in public places – will we continue to observe such protocols where and whenever practical, as it becomes a community norm?
- Greater respect for introverts – possibly better able to handle self-isolation, they are comfortable with their own company and don’t feel the need to seek out crowds – social distancing does not represent an existential crisis, and they don’t rely on social situations for their personal validation.
- Passenger airlines and cruise companies are toast – the tourism and travel industries will be hard hit, and may struggle to rebuild in their current form.
- The online economy will get a boost – restaurants and providores are already retooling to offer D2C food and meal deliveries (even cutting out the likes of Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Menu Log). Some brick and mortar retail is adapting fast, but will face a reduced share of available discretionary spending.
- Naturally, digital services will thrive – from communication solutions to virtual classes, from remote working support services to telehealth. But bandwidth capacity and internet down/upload speeds remain a challenge in Australia.
- The end of physical cash – if retailers prefer contactless payments (less contamination), what use are those notes and coins in your wallet?
- A higher community standard for the individual duty of care we owe to each other – Covid-19 will certainly test the “duty of care” we owe to neighbours, colleagues, members of the public… if I knowingly infect someone, or act recklessly or negligently, can the victim sue me?
- Likewise, the corporate social license to operate will be tested and re-cast – in light of monopolistic practices, price gouging, market abuse and disregard for the “new normal”, companies will need to re-assess many of their standard policies.
- Increased use of facial recognition and other technology for surveillance purposes – if people cannot be trusted to observe their quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing obligations, the authorities will not shy away from further incursions into civil liberties that we currently take for granted.
- A hybrid of on-site and working from home employment structures – not everyone will want to continue working remotely, nor will everyone be in a rush to head back to the office (or the daily commute), which will likely cause headaches for employers….
More on these themes next week….
Next week: The “new, new normal”