We live in a time, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, unseen by most of us in our lifetimes. Very few of us remember World War 2, some of us remember the Vietnam War, more remember 911 and we can remember various forms of financial crashes like the GFC but I believe 2020 will be one of those generation defining times when our lives were changed permanently.
Like every other event in our history, the pain will eventually ease or go away altogether, but that does not necessarily mean we will go back to “normal”. None of us knows how long it will take but we will go to a “new” normal. Our behaviour will be modified by new expectations and conformations to a society with different beliefs and values.
Humankind has a marvellous ability to learn through adversity. We will have learned things, many things which we had never thought about before. When was the phrase “social distancing” first used? It is now part of our everyday language.
The key for business is to prepare for the new normal. Now is the time to be thinking about what the new normal might look like for each of us. How can we best adapt to new social interactions, travel and entertainment and other daily practices which we took for granted until they were denied us during this pandemic.
Hospitality, particularly hard hit at the moment, will need to bounce back quickly. The pent-up demand for entertainment and a desire by people to reconnect with friends and business connections will see a requirement for services and workers like we have never seen before as customers surge onto the streets once again. There will be a huge need for staff training and trainers to help people fill these positions.
Travel and transport will look different. There may be less demand for commuter transport as businesses have learned to operate with more of their staff working remotely. Decentralization, that buzz word from the late 70s and 80s, has new relevance. Maybe cities will not need to grow so frenetically as people discover the value of being able to spread out and live in a small community out of town.
I believe the greatest lesson we will learn from this is the importance of hygiene. We will remain forever more conscious of the need to wash our hands and be aware of what we touch, especially in public places. Doorknobs, lift buttons, handrails, our mobile phones, eating utensils and may more objects will be viewed with greater caution. The panic buying of hand sanitizer will slow but it will become a staple in most households and workplaces.
The great opportunity, perhaps the greatest opportunity, will be in the form of innovations to keep our world hygienically clean and safe. Products which can be proven to keep our world free of germs will have immense value. After all, the major lesson to come out of all this is that we all want to feel safe.
So, let’s prepare now for the new normal. Don’t wait to see what the new normal might look like and think about how you might fit in then.