Author: Georgina Barrick
Pandemics – like any great shock to the global system – bring great change.
Already, we're feeling the effects of this 'black swan' event. Life is unpredictable, consequences (both human and economic) are devastating and everywhere we turn, the news is unprecedented.
Many of us are so confused and battered by our new reality that it's hard to imagine what 'normal' will look like on the other side. Like it or not, we will be dragged along into this new reality. We are not going back to 'normal', no matter how much we try to cling to it. As businesses, we need to start asking the sobering question: 'What are we going back to?'
Everything is changing and I'm of the view that we haven't even begun to comprehend the extent of these changes yet.
Yet, while the COVID-19 epidemic is undoubtedly one of the most globally overwhelming events we've faced in generations, it also presents a unique opportunity.
As we live through this crisis, we have the chance to reimagine our world, to reconsider what it is we truly value and create a new, improved 'normal'. One that acknowledges, as this disease has shown us, that our fates are linked and that our interdependence means that we all need a seat at the table. So, rather than just focusing on the fact that COVID is a catastrophe from which some may never recover, also look at the opportunity to engineer our rebirth and lead to a brighter future
Undoubtedly, this is history in the making.
No one knows what our post-COVID world will look like. But, we can all start to give some thought to what sort of collective reality we would like to create. I know that I would like our world to look more like this…
COVID has provided us with a common enemy, increasing our solidarity, even as it forces us apart.
This virus has reminded us that we are one people and that, if one of us is sick, we all are. I hope that this newfound spirit of unity moves us to find ways to take care of one another, for the betterment of all – whether it be in finding a way to provide sustainable healthcare for all, caring for our most vulnerable or strengthening our economy by creating stronger domestic supply chains.
The conversation around producing and buying local has already started and is likely to become more predominant in coming months and years. Our reliance on the global supply chain has impacted our economy – and a renewed focus on 'local is lekker' could help to stimulate it.
More real and truthful…
For too long, 'fake news' has dominated our discourse.
But, I'm encouraged to see the rise of the expert over the party loyalist, with people like Professor Salim Abdool Karim (a world-renowned infectious diseases expert) taking us through government's COVID response. It's also clear that decisions are being made based on evidence and facts and that co-operation (which builds trust and supports truth) is at an all-time high.
What is also interesting is that, with government making anyone who creates or spreads fake COVID news liable to prosecution, we've witnessing a shift towards a focus on verifying the source of information. We're all questioning more and accepting less at face value – unless the news is from a credible source. This can only be good for us all in the long run.
More focus on what really matters…
COVID has suddenly made the impossible, possible.
A few weeks ago, it seemed impossible that SAA's funding would be stopped, that the price of crude oil would be less than $0 a barrel, that we would ever consider approaching the World Bank or IMF for help (for fear of losing our 'sovereignty') and that celebrities who are famous for 'being famous' would suddenly become less relevant. Yet, all of these things happened recently, with little fanfare. On a personal level, isolation has forced us to stand still, to stop constantly seeking the next big thing and focus, instead, on what really matters. We're baking with our children, connecting over Zoom with friends and family and taking care of one another. I hope that this ushers in a new age of realism, where we begin to focus on the core values that really matter.
Outside of what I would like to see change in our 'new normal', I believe that we're already witnessing a revolution in how we work as a result of this pandemic.
Lockdown has forced the issue of remote work. For a while now, I've been watching this trend. It's always seemed like a good idea but has never really been widely adopted – until now.
It's clear that, despite the stress and anxiety that we feel about the impact of COVID, many of us are discovering new levels of productivity and efficiency as we work from home. We're enjoying the lack of commute, the clearer skies and the pace. With time, employers may start to see the benefits of not having to fund and manage extensive office space. I believe that remote work is here to stay and that we're going to find new ways to create connection online and to grow and build sustainable businesses.
In terms of which 'ism' emerges as the dominant economic system, post-COVID, no-one can yet tell. I know that there are many conversations taking place about the fact that none of our current 'isms' will be appropriate in their current form. For capitalism to re-emerge, it will have to evolve significantly. As a fundamental driver of consumerism, the narrative around redefining what success looks like in our new world is taking shape and, as ethical consumption takes hold, our world will no longer be about having more 'stuff', but rather, more about community, giving back, sharing and collaborating.
As we live through the 'Age of COVID' I, like our President, believe that we can look forward to a better future and – as he said on Tuesday night – I 'have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans who have proven, time and time again throughout our history, that they can rise to any challenge that is presented to our country'.
May we rise together…
Georgina Barrick, MD of TWE and Network Contracting Solutions, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 25 years of recruitment and executive search experience.