Did I keep a sanitiser in my handbag? Have I taken a mask? Did I wash my hands in the last hour? These questions have replaced the contemporary questions one used to ask to oneself, like ‘Have I carried my wallet or my car keys or tiffin to the office?’ As a major part of the world has now opened up the ‘lockdowns’, these questions go through the mind of every sensible human being nowadays.
With no definite cure or vaccine around so far, the number of infectious cases is rising worldwide, affecting more than 7 million people and claiming thousands of precious lives. With rapidly changing behavioural dynamics of the deadly virus, the spread of the disease and changing treatment plans, no definite time frame has been established as to when the ‘normal’ shall be obtained. Or, as they call it now, the ‘new normal’?
After being in lockdown mode for almost 3-4 months now, most countries worldwide are lifting the closures, to restart the economies, to pump some fresh air into the system. Even if the cases are rising and surpassing their own records each passing day, change is inevitable now.
The way we work
Intermittent lockdowns and its intermittent lifting may become the most crucial new normal. Carrying proof of immunity or wearing sensitive gadgets linked to our smartphones that can detect our proximity to infected cases may become essential.
Public places will have heavy temperature scanners before they let the individuals in. Extensive screening at airports has already become the norm. Large gatherings, weddings, events shall be for a long time restricted to very few people, the people who actually matter to us, honestly.
Travel and tourism shall remain a big ‘no’ to contain the spread of the disease further. Places of worship shall be partly or fully closed for months to come, hinting at the need to look within for peace and awareness, rather than outside.
Organisations and businesses at large will have to look at significant WFH policies and opportunities for its employees as a permanent measure in the immediate future. Together, they will have to incorporate flexibility as one of the most important features, to allow employees to take up personal & professional commitments at the same time, especially for the women workforce. New ways to connect and collaborate have already flooded the market and very soon cheaper methods of operation shall be available. Webinars are already a new craze!
Rise of e-commerce shall be the new norm, too. With many online shopping portals surfacing up, people may become permanently used to purchasing their essentials through online mode only. Visiting malls shall merely become for recreational purposes. The field of medicine shall see a drastic change, too, with rise in tele-medicine and people opting not to go to the hospitals, except for emergencies.
Online education, reinventing education methodologies and teaching pedagogy shall require extensive brainstorming, keeping in view constructive learning from a distance, and at the same time, grooming better individuals for the future society.
The way we think and relate to one another
With anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and at the same time, a feeling of being overwhelmed looming over the minds, the human race is maximally affected; lockdown, or no lockdown. For instance, getting comfortable with fellow humans shall be difficult, initially. The pace of life shall remain slower for some more time.
Everyone wants to go back to normal. But we all have to realise it, sooner or later, that the normal will not be there for many more weeks, maybe, months to come. And more importantly, some things never will.
Psychologists say that during prolonged, radical times of change, people eventually change; for instance, during earlier pandemics and wars.
The greatest shift may be seen in how we behave with our immediate close ones, like our neighbours and close friends. Since man is basically a social animal, we may be turning ourselves into smaller communities and our survival instincts shall re-emerge.
Humans, as a species are, at large, the best at adapting. Whatever comes our way, we adapt. We are all going to live with this somehow. And we shall be surprised that we did it. It shall never be the normal as we knew it. We must learn to live in the moment. Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that recognises the dignity and worth of all of God’s children. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.’
Let’s rise and shine again!
By Dr Priti Swarup
(The writer is an HRM expert, currently pursuing PhD in Organisation Change Management)