With life slowly resuming after lockdown, will society benefit from the hindsight of coronavirus?
With the month of May being lauded as the end of lockdown in Australia, people have begun to speculate about life after coronavirus. How will business be affected after the lockdown? And will our society really thrive following our economic recovery, or will it just be business as usual?
Business was arguably the most affected aspect of society during the lockdown. With numerous industries and independent businesses shut down during the quarantine, the road to recovery will be difficult. Economic recovery can only be achieved through innovative business models and strategies. Business leaders and owners must work together to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. Business will recover, slowly but surely. Jobs will recover, as all things do, and until then government programs like Jobseeker will provide a crutch to those effected.
KPMG, a multinational professional services network, predicted that recovery will occur in four stages: reaction, resilience, recovery, and new reality. Stage one saw the overall impact of the professional and personal, the second stage sees the return of some consumer demands as society begins to adapt to the virus, stage three sees a slight improvement to both the consumer and the industrial spheres where recovery pathways are introduced, until the final stage sees the reorganisation and adaptation of companies.
There will be an impact on the work culture too. With working-from-home becoming a necessity for the past months, coronavirus has shown that offices are not a prerequisite for a business. How will employees react to the return of commuting, business culture, dress codes, and the oppressive geography of the office space?
In an article for UCToday, VP of Product and Solutions Marketing for telecommunications company Vonage Brian Gilman addressed the transformation of the workplace that will occur after COVID-19. Gilman explained how coronavirus has forced companies to consider the value of the virtual workplace.
“It’s forced them to look at the future of work and look at the cloud, as well as realise it solves a ton of complex problems… There are also many organisations that had the technology but not the processes to quickly implement remote work on a large scale”
From here, the policy for many companies will be to design an effective virtual workplace and protocols to combat future instances and scenarios similar to coronavirus. This preparedness will become the standard for companies going forward.
That being said, the return of employees to their offices isn’t inherently negative. There are subconscious associations that the mind makes to certain spaces. The invasion of the office space into the home space has no doubt left workers feeling undisciplined and unmotivated to work when distractions such as television and Animal Crossing: New Horizons occupy the same space. There’s also a residual mental effect, where social isolation and the absence of the business culture has created the perfect storm of depression in employees. Going back to the office, and to a greater extent the routine of work and socialisation, is an important step in recovery.
But overall, the effects of coronavirus on society should impact the total revision of our social standards and structures. During lockdown, some of our most deplorable social behaviour was exacerbated. Domestic violence, particularly against women, increased substantially. An embarrassing number of Australians protested the extensivity of the lockdown for purely selfish reasons. Asian people were racially scapegoated as the blanketed originators of the virus and were discriminated against heavily.
Businesses appropriated this period of social disarray and ignored proper protocol, such as when the Ruby Princess docked at Circular Quay and allowed passengers to disembark, contract the disease, and then transport it to other cities across Australia. There has been a wild misappropriation of the stock market, such as unloading and profiteering, that has resulted in extending the wealth gap significantly.
So, despite the potential resilience of companies in recovering and adapting to a post-COVID-19 society, whether we actually thrive or simply to continue to survive in a way that resembled our existence before the virus comes down to pure chance. Will voters understand that the behaviour of the government, such as infringing on civil liberties, profiteering off the stock markets, and prioritising business and economic interests over the wellbeing of their voters, is unacceptable. Or will this entire experience be surmised as a great banding together of the nation, ignoring the true reasons for this virus’ exacerbation.
As author Donald Horne said, we live in the lucky country. Our wealth and power has been derived from nothing more than basic luck that has been guaranteed to continue under the watchful eyes of the capitalistic one percent. We don’t need luck to succeed on the world stage when we’re in the pockets of some of the wealthiest modern industrialists living today. And it’s unlikely, unless you belong to this elite group, that you will thrive after coronavirus concludes. Citizens will only continue to survive as they did beforehand, albeit with less civil liberties.
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