As we shut our doors and live our lives 24/7 inside our homes, we think of what we will do once this global pandemic is over.
We are gripped by the reality of our mortality. I wanted to un-hear this line from a good friend but I couldn’t: “When this is over, we will all have known someone who died from this pandemic.”
COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees. The death toll is rising, economies all over the world are plummeting, and as we stand from behind our windows, we hear silence and we see stillness outside… disguising the fear we can no longer help but feel.
A couple of months ago, we were the dominant species basking in the glory of our 21st century lives. We were still going out and about, chit-chatting with friends, making travel plans, and doing anything we needed and wanted to do with our days.
In the past few weeks, we turned a corner. We began hearing news that almost sounded like fiction.
The number of infected and dead people from East to West steadily keeps climbing. Schools and businesses have ceased normal operations. Governments are issuing restrictions on venturing outside our homes. The skies have cleared of passenger planes as borders close and travel is banned. Some people are stuck in countries that are locked down without a near end in sight. Families living away from each other endure the uncertainty. When will they see each other again?
We are in the midst of war. And like the wars before this, our lives are all about to change.
This thing that is invisible to the eye can kill us and can make us unwitting killers. We struggle to accept our lost invincibility. This pandemic says it loud and clear: we are or someone we love is vulnerable.
Children who struggle to understand the complex necessity of social distancing will be made to understand that staying home can keep other people alive. How will this shape their future perspectives on social interaction?
This virus crosses borders and knows no race, skin color, economic status, gender, and nationality. But will our reaction overcome the racism and xenophobia which have time and again caused wars and unimaginable loss?
As economic turmoil creates inevitable job losses, starvation, and chaos, we will see and feel the impact of political leadership. The internet gives us access to information, true and seemingly true, about other countries. Consequently, we will compare and contrast our government responses and we will think that some actions are better than others. But will we finally realize that the world is one community facing this together? Or will there be deeper divisions and competition when this is over?
How many doctors and nurses will we lose to this war? How many grandparents will breathe their last because our systems and priorities let them down?
Which businesses will take years to recover…or will simply be unable to recover? Is print journalism writing its own eulogy or will the printing press roar back to life? Which industries are on the brink of extinction?
Idleness is an opportunity for creation and reflection. This crisis may inspire entrepreneurs to pursue business models where consumers’ changing needs are served during quarantine. Will protective gear soon be part of our daily wear? Will people make more products and services urgently available online? Can doorknobs and commonly touched surfaces be reimagined so touching and infections are minimized? Can we have eyewear that reveals germs and viruses? Can bidets become commonplace so toilet paper is not hoarded and more trees are killed? Nothing is ridiculous at this point. The insight precluding a sales pitch is clear: this is not the only pandemic that will threaten humanity. The next one may be faster, deadlier, and harder to stop.
When this is over and the poorest among us perish or lose their makeshift homes, families, and jobs, will we who are coming out of Netflix binging admit that we need to do more for them and actually do it?
BAU or Business As Usual demands a new meaning. Will businesses acknowledge the efficiencies of flexible working spaces and allowing employees to work from home? Leaders will rethink their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and it is hoped that our collective vulnerability will add a humane tone to all companies’ BCPs. We don’t have immunity from all the future novel viruses and mutated viruses that will one day wreak havoc to humankind again.
Virtual learning is currently a struggle for many families who found themselves having to make the best of this crisis. Countless students and parents are perhaps appreciating further the importance of social interaction and group settings for enriched learning. However, like Work From Home as an emerging reality, Virtual Learning will expand its potential and reshape the vision of schools. Will more students capitalize on available platforms? Can poorer students attain higher goals if access to good education all over the world is made freely available?
Healthcare will be afforded a higher level of respect, especially once the survivors live to tell the tale. But will governments finally heed the call to empower our medical workers with the funding and support they need to fight for us? Will insurance and pharmaceutical companies help or hinder the social need for better and wider healthcare? How will science and business come together to fill the gaps we are seeing from this pandemic?
Are families connecting with each other while we isolate ourselves from the rest? Are we finding ourselves going back to basics—to the simpler life of doing things together? Or are social media and internet changing how we bond, learn, function in more ways than we care to say?
I dream of beautiful things after this: a walk on the beach, a sunset hike up a mountain, a moment standing quietly in a group just listening to so much laughter around me, a hug for my parents and family far away from me, coffee dates with friends I miss, and more face-to-face conversations with students.
One day, we can step out of our homes and be together. When that happens, we will realize that many things are no longer like they used to be. We will have survived a war.