Covid-19 will change a lot of lives over the next few months. Let’s make some of those changes good ones.
With apologies to our friends in Italy and China, the coronavirus pandemic has only just started to feel real to those of us in the US and northern Europe. People have gone from a mindset of ‘it’s just like flu’ while exchanging embarrassed elbow bumps to a deeper realisation that people are dying and others may find their businesses or livelihoods at risk.
Humans are social animals, so being told to self-isolate feels unnatural. And it is. Eerie images of deserted tourist spots or empty roads add to the sense of living in a dystopian sci-fi nightmare.
The advice and the rules are changing every day. All we can do is carry on working in ways that minimise risk to our people, clients and associates. Thanks to the internet and networking tools, that’s possible in a way that would have been unthinkable years ago. Mass attendance events and experiences are clearly on hold as countries retreat into lockdown, but we’re working with our clients to keep lines of communication open with their consumers. Hitting the right tone of voice is more important than ever.
We’re not epidemiologists. But we are optimists. We believe that some good can come even in a bad situation. People are keeping an eye out for neighbors, especially the old or ailing. The sudden cut in transport has seen a remarkable drop in air pollution in affected areas of the world. Perhaps once the pandemic is over, we’ll all work smarter and make fewer needless journeys. Fewer flights and lower ‘bricks and mortar’ overheads could be a future dividend for companies.
History can provide useful lessons. In 1973 Britain was in crisis. To conserve coal and reduce electricity usage, Prime Minister Heath limited the commercial use of electricity to three consecutive days each week. Much to everyone’s surprise, there was no drop in output. People worked to get their tasks done in the allotted time, cut the chat and gained four days of leisure as a bonus. Sadly, the lesson was lost when the crisis passed.
More recently, Microsoft Japan gave 2,300 workers every Friday off during the Work-Life Choice Challenge. Not only did productivity go up by 39.9 per cent, but absence also went down by more than a quarter (25.4 per cent) and use of electricity went down by nearly the same amount (23.1 per cent).
Seismic events cause social changes. The women who were needed in the wartime factories didn’t meekly go back to the home and hearth when peace arrived. So, let’s hope that in amongst all the worry, coronavirus delivers some unexpected, and positive, side effects.
Meanwhile, to all our associates, friends, clients and colleagues, take care of yourselves and your loved ones. And stay in touch!