How will the world be in the next half of the year, five or 10 years from now? This is the single most important question that humanity is currently grappling with as governments across the globe try to navigate the Covid-19 crisis.
One clear thing is that Covid-19 has disrupted and continues to disrupt our lives and livelihoods in very unanticipated ways, testing the resilience of our social, economic and political structures. Furthermore, it has disrupted economies and exposed the competence (or lack thereof) of governments in investing in strong structures.
What most of us have probably not yet realised — or will soon realise — is that things won’t go back to normal after a few weeks or even a few months. Some things never will. Covid-19 has been touted as the most serious episode since the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. While previous plagues did not end superpower rivalry or usher in a new era of global cooperation, the latest one will see nations go slow on hyper globalisation as citizens look to governments to protect them or reduce future vulnerabilities.
Covid-19 is undermining the basic tenets of the global workplace. The pandemic has forced companies to reconfigure their operations to keep employees safe and respond to changes in the wider value chain, yet still, maintain manufacturing performance. Such policies include the implementation of physical distancing and remote-working policies in pursuit of identifying key performance indicators.
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Remote working appears to have become the magic that has defined the rather “traditional” view of the workplace. At the same time, for workplaces that require the physical presence of staff, hygiene and distancing have been put at the heart of the future workplace planning. Office upgrades and modifications of workspaces and employee schedules will see to it that we keep an eye on reducing disease transmission amongst staff.
Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few months. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever. Previously, workstations and manufacturing production lines were about privacy and acoustics. Now they represent a physical separation between colleagues. Looks like we are going back to the old office set up and manufacturing workplace where having that physical barrier will make employees feel safer and more comfortable. Ultimately, there will be a major shift in the manner in which businesses will operate the global village of living with Covid-19. The on-line business, AI, Quantum Leap and Cloud data management will take a major gear shift as many organisations look to doing business more economically and efficiently with the same service delivery and customer satisfaction. This, I believe, is the silver lining in the current crisis.
The major shift that has fundamentally characterised this situation is how humanity has been redefined. Never has the bond of brotherhood and solidarity been tested as during the Covid-19 period. The clarion call Apart. Not Alone, has reverberated across the world with nations pulling all their stops to walk this audacious journey as one. What we have witnessed is the power of the human spirit; doctors, nurses, political leaders, and ordinary citizens demonstrating resilience, effectiveness, and leadership.
The magnitude of the situation has also thrust into the spotlight priorities by governments across the world. Sectors and institutions such as inadequate healthcare systems, education and social protection that were previously taken for granted have now found a critical space within the governments’ policy interventions.
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While it is true that Covid-19 has triggered a humanitarian and socio-economic crisis that is already devastating societies and reversing vital gains made in human development, the take-home is that it is only through solidarity and cooperation among nations that the fight against the pandemic will be won. With a shared experience, living with the crisis will signal the beginning of humanity working together again.
World leaders now understand and are more cognizant of where their priorities should be. They now have an opportunity to mend the wrongs they made or perish forever. As the helpless citizens watch this pandemic unfold, leaders have an opportunity to rebuild the trust in institutions mandated to take care of their welfare with a sense of renewed hope for a better rising of the dawn.
We are not privy to what this new future looks like, but one can imagine a world in which travelling will require that all passengers possess a Covid-19 certificate indicating negative status.
The need to wear masks and temperature checks when entering restaurants, public buildings and hand sanitisation is the new normal that all of us should be ready to pay, for the basic freedom of association. The quantum leap and use of robotics and AI, which will see us begin to live together with robots doing daily tasks, may be the new normal.
-The writer is the Group Chief Financial Officer at Jubilee Holdings
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