The new normal (part one)
Coronavirus has impacted everyone’s lives over the last few months and I would imagine most people are well and truly bored of the subject. With lockdown slowly being lifted and we tentatively ease back into more flexible routines, I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide an irreverent summary of my thoughts.
It’s Only Words
This crisis has certainly expanded everyone’s vocabulary and brought new meaning to a number of words and phrases:
- The new normal – typically a management consultant’s mantra, this phrase has permeated into all manner of writing and conversation in relation to Covid-19 to provide a catch all on what our world will look like post pandemic. It infers that there will be some changes to the status quo. One change will be that it will make its way onto the boardroom bingo list.
- Driven by the data – never before have I witnessed such a consistent emphasis with the public on the use of data to inform decisions. The nation at large have had to get used to a wide range of graphs, charts, infographics and maps, albeit of varying quality. It is interesting to see how some regular charts have dropped off the agenda – particularly the one that ‘compare’ the death rate across different countries. What can also be seen is how merging different disparate datasets can help give a much clearer picture and that individual datasets must be understood in the context of what they include or don’t include (metadata). It is also worth mentioning how terms such as algorithm and modelling/models have stealthily sneaked into the lexicon of healthcare officials. It is a good time to be into data! If you interested its worth checking out this BBC4 programme. Watch Contagion The BBC Pandemic 2018
- Coronavirus and Covid-19 – I do wish we had never heard of these two phrases and I would imagine that AB InBev the company that owns Corona Extra lager would say the same for the former commonly used phrase.
- Lockdown – When will it end? What are the transition rules going to be? Do we stay at home or stay alert or both? I’ve seen some interesting innovations, such as a lockdown rave with strategically placed tape allowing for a socially distanced square to dance in, and restaurant concepts where everyone dines in an enclosed bubble. What will ongoing social distancing restrictions mean for consumer businesses, their space requirements and their business model?
- The R number – This is the (R)eproduction number which measures the average number of people that an infected person will pass the virus on to. More than 1 is bad, less than 1 and as near as possible to 0 is good. I’m not entirely sure how we can accurately track the R number without thorough testing and tracking but I am sure that the contact-tracing app that is trialling on the Isle of Wight is one step in the right direction if we can get widespread adoption.
- Social distancing – A series of interventions designed to minimise the spread of the disease. This can be everything from not going out at all, to ensuring you stay a minimum of 2 metres away from people from outside of your own household (in Australia it is 4 metres!), and only going out for essential trips such as shopping, visiting the doctors/pharmacy and exercise. Apparently Boris has been asking medical experts whether it is feasible to reduce this down to 1 metre. Based on my experiences I do perhaps think there should be public training on what 2 metres actually is, oh no, I’m starting to sound like a:
- Covidiot – This has become a common phrase to describe those that clearly break the rules on social distancing. I would argue that it should also be used to describe those who have nothing better to do than highlight how well they are doing with regards sticking the rules (are they rules or ‘guidelines’) and take great pleasure in highlighting situations where others aren’t being so strict.
- Video calls – A lot of people didn’t know what Zoom, MS Teams or Skype really were before Covid-19 struck. Whatever your preference it is a great bit of technology when used in the right way, but there have also been a number of video call fails – from connection problems forgetting to unmute when speaking, speaking when someone else is speaking, spewing profanities when thinking you are on mute, all the way through to walking around in your altogether in the background whilst being blissfully unaware that your partner is on a live work video call.
There is always one who takes their mastery of the technology to another level. Basic operators know how to join a call, switch video on and unmute the microphone. Intermediate level operators take it one step further by showing they can raise their hand, chat to the group (or privately to individuals), record the proceedings, and change their background picture to something vaguely amusing for a nanosecond. Advanced users take it one step further both in their attire (a professional looking headset may well be accompanied by a funny hat or wig) and their mastery of the technology. This includes choosing a background video (I haven’t seen a roller coaster video with a fan on to mimic the blowing of hair yet), to suggesting the use of Whiteboards for that all-important group brainstorming session. I recently learned that advanced Zoom users can ‘touch themselves up’, read into that what you like. I call these people Zoom goons and they can accelerate…
Zoom fatigue – When lockdown first happened it was an excuse for people to show off these skills for the sake of it, because for most it was a novel and new way of doing things. People are certainly showing signs of this novelty wearing off and Zoom fatigue is certainly kicking in. The problem is there is no escape, morning, noon and night, diaries are chock-a-block with Zoom meets (even double bookings), juggling work, catch ups with family, quizzes and virtual pubs with your mates. Unlike pre-lock down – the organisers know that you will be in, so there is little escape! It has been lovely to see various companies shouting about how they are continuing to do business and share their screen captures of team calls. Based on my experiences of trying to get an approved selfie with just my wife I do often wonder how many takes were required to get the perfect picture. Remember to build in an extra 15 minutes to each meeting if you plan to capture the moment.
Shielding – This is used to describe the process of helping those who are particularly clinically vulnerable, with a pre-existing condition such as cancer, severe respiratory conditions or immunodeficiency problems, where the advice is to stay at home at all times. These people got an additional letter from the NHS to say that they need to stay inside. Shielding used to mean something I would try and do (and fail) when playing on one of my son’s fighting games on the Xbox.
Herd immunity – This is best achieved by introduction of a vaccine but some theorists believe a managed introduction of the virus into the population so that between 70-90% gain immunity. This means that the virus can’t spread (containing the R rate) and it is really a form of ‘natural selection’, resulting in high death rates and significant capacity issues with the NHS service. We have already lost significant numbers of our ‘herd’ and this as a full-on approach would have made the losses to be in the hundreds of thousands.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – We are all leading authorities on challenges with supply of equipment that is necessary to protect healthcare workers from infection by the virus. Members of the public have been largely impacted by a lack of toilet paper and flour but PPE equipment has clearly not been in the right quantities in the right locations at the right time for our healthcare professionals. It is a geographic logistics challenge that doesn’t seem to have been solved in the last 2-3 months. I was speaking to a logistics professional who said that it is also a challenge to ensure the equipment is delivered to the correct location within a large hospital where there may be multiple PPE storage facilities and delivery points.
Bookcases – The de-facto background to a zoom call, particularly for those speaking on national news programmes. Surely there must be more interesting places to choose than in front of a bookcase as a backdrop to your 3 minutes of fame? I do recall Judy Murray mixing it up a bit and doing a Zoom call on BBC news in front of her fridge. It was a particularly nice fridge, I might add.
Finally, what do you think the ‘new normal’ will look like? What lessons will we learn and will we take forward new ways of working when we return to the workplace and normality!
We’ve survived the coronavirus pandemic so far and will all hopefully come out the other side a stronger nation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve learnt, what you will take forward and what you can’t wait to see the back of!