In the last few weeks, we have witnessed events that will shape our behavior for many years to come. The novel coronavirus outbreak, the lockdown in many cities around the world, the death toll, the massive hysteria and the economic crisis is unprecedented. All this brings a new set of experiences and emotions, (differently from other recent illnesses), that will shape the way we think and act, and for sure increase the cost to society.
Before 9-11 we were not required to go through a long line of security checks in airports. Since then however, our mindsets have changed. We now go through security checks, experience many times the delays they cause, and see it as a normal part of life. Fear is a very strong motivator, and since the terrorist attacks generated high levels of fear amongst all of us, we were willing to adapt to things we never thought we would. I am not trying to debate the security checks at airports. What I am asking is, how is the fear caused by the COVID-19, (founded or unfounded), going to affect our daily lives?
Fear affects our thoughts and our thoughts affect our belief system. Think for a minute. How would you feel if you get on an airplane and you start noticing that the person next to you is experiencing symptoms like runny nose, coughing and sneezing? Maybe, and just maybe, the person just suffers from allergies. Regardless of the root cause, you are now experiencing something that you did not feel before the outbreak.
Airlines are now considering separating the sick person from other passengers by a distance of 6 feet and designating one crew member to serve that person.
This addresses one concern, but it raises others. For example, how will they separate someone from other passengers by 6 feet in a commercial plane? Are they planning to leave a certain number of open seats in the back of the plane so they can move passengers showing symptoms? What will happen if someone claims that they are not sick but suffer from allergies? Can a passenger sue an airline for asking him or her to move because of a flight attendant’s observation? And, how are the airlines planning to designate one flight attendant for the sick person? Are they planning to have extra flight attendants in every flight? These actions will increase the cost for the airline, a cost that will be passed to the customers at some point. And yes, we will probably accept it just as we did with the security lines at the airport almost 20 years ago.
The scenario mentioned above is just an example of how the pandemic will change our behavior and increase our business cost, and in consequence the cost to society. Companies are, and will be, challenged to cope with these new behaviors and concerns. For example, distancing employees may require additional office space, or technology investments allowing more employees to work from home and using more technology to collaborate remotely. All of us will require time to adapt to the new way of working and productivity will be impacted by the learning curve. Organizations must figure out how to adapt quickly, or at least faster than their competition, if they want to stay in business.
How is your company affected by the latest events?