Coming out the other side of a pandemic; what can we expect?

COVID-19, coronavirus, virus, pandemic

Article provided by Zoe Schulz, myGwork

For many of us, 2020 has unfolded like a bad dream.

We all thought this would be our year, not a year of a pandemic, isolation and pandemonium. At the time of writing this, there are 5.6 million cases of coronavirus worldwide with at least 350,000 deaths and many studies suggesting these numbers are grossly underestimated. The pandemic has halted our normalcy and dropped us in unknown waters, with our global economy coming to an abrupt halt. Almost every angle of business has been affected and while in some parts of the world the economy slowly starts to reopen, we are still left to guess what the long-term effects of this crisis may be.

Over the last nine weeks, almost 39 million Americans have lost their jobs, for comparison, 2.8 million Americans were made unemployed during the 2008 global recession, this has brought their current unemployment rate to the lowest it has been in recorded history. Schools, workplaces, shops and cafes have closed their doors across the world and the impact on businesses has been astronomical. Those that can, have adjusted and done anything possible to keep their business ticking along. In the UK, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed from 1.7 million to 20 million people over the past months, leaving those with shares in remote working technology smiling. Many have even suggested that those in the knowledge economy have been unknowingly preparing for a situation just as this for years. From work-from-home tech, to Netflix, Amazon and Deliveroo, the technology coming out of Silicon Valley for some time now has been making it easier and easier to avoid leaving the house. If anything, we now have undeniable proof that many more jobs than previously realised can be done from home. However, whether this will be everlasting is still up for debate. Mark Zuckerberg has said that he believes 50 per cent of Facebook staff will remain working from home permanently, but what about the rest of us?

From Paris to Milan, there is currently more sign of life in Europe than there has been for most of the year. Although far from free from the coronavirus crisis, many are speculating that parts of the world are over the worst. It’s with this in mind, that many countries are timidly cracking open their economy once more. However, we’ve never closed the modern economy before, let alone opened it back up amid a global pandemic, so there isn’t exactly a handbook on how to do so. What is for sure, is that what comes next is unlikely to wholly resemble life as we knew it. It has been suggested that social distancing may be in place until a vaccine comes along, and although this is being expedited in a way we’ve never seen before, it’s implausible that this will be available until mid-2021. This means that we need to find some level of normalcy in the meantime.

Germany’s answer for this is with detailed planning, as the country begins phasing out its lockdown. This is a country that has been leading the way in fighting the virus, with one of the lowest death rates in Europe. Their successful use of widespread testing, tracing, face masks and physical distance measures have meant their shops and businesses began opening as early as April and schools in May. It is thought that this approach will act as a roadmap for many other countries on how best to get back to normal, yet also reveals the stark difference countries with contrasting leaders face. For workplaces, opening their doors is likely to be a gradual and phased process. Recruitment may well stay as an online process and digital meetings the norm, so don’t go giving up on your zoom interview techniques just yet. On top of this, policies such as temperature checks, cleaning procedures and social distancing in the office may become not just standard, but our armour in warding off a second spike.

When it comes to travelling, it’s safe to say non-essential business trips won’t be on the near horizon. Those who are used to visiting other branches or offices, whether overseas or closer by, are also likely to bid farewell to these practices for the foreseeable future. As far as travelling for pleasure goes, many are hopeful that Summer 2020 is not a complete write-off, and with Italy opening their border from June, and Spain following suit in July, perhaps this is true. Yet, this may not be travel as we know it, with some predicting that if we all start jetting on vacation, a second lockdown will be imminent andDr Hans Kluge, director for the WHO warning that this is the “time for preparation, not celebration”. However, many countries rely on income from tourism and with their economy already in such bad shape, do not want to delay a much-needed respite for businesses if they can. In the UK, anyone arriving from overseas will be facing mandatory 14-day self-isolation from the beginning of June, meaning even if you can make it abroad, you’ll need to be able to stay home for 2 weeks on your return. This is likely to boost travel for Brits within UK borders, with local campsites likely to be the first to reopen. Whether European beaches are open to tourists or not, it is fair to say the luxury of border-hopping may not be granted too soon, and in comparison to other blights from the pandemic, it’s a privileged problem to have.

We are currently wading unknown territory, and with that comes a bit of guesswork on what the future may hold. Over the last decade, we’ve seen workplaces adopt more and more flexible policies and when it comes to working from home, these have proved more useful than you could have predicted. As for how our lives will unfold following lockdowns and distancing measures, it is probably with gratitude for the smaller things. It may be a little longer until we’re able to hold our loved ones again, but that long-awaited hug may never have meant more.

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