Since Covid-19 did a better job of disrupting traditional industries than Uber, Amazon and the MrD app combined, we’ve all used the term “new normal” many times. Sometimes it’s said with a distinct level of cringe, while others bear it like a talisman, evidence that, whatever it looks like, at least things will be “normal”. But, realistically, what is it going to look like?
There’s no arguing that the way we do business has been significantly shaken up by global lockdowns. We are most curious as to which of these changes will stick, and which will be a temporary effect.
Work from home
For those that have traditionally worked in offices, we believe the work from home models will vary based primarily on company size. For small businesses (like Tenaka!) it has made a great deal of sense to let their leases go and have all employees shift to a permanent work from home (WFH) situation. Larger corporates in South Africa are unlikely to fully embrace remote work, however, and many will most likely adopt a hybrid work situation.
Will it last?
We think this is a definite yes. The benefits of WFH for small businesses and their employees are many. They include cost savings, lowered stress, reduced environmental impact and many others. Remote work has been waiting in the curtains to take centre stage for a good decade already, and is likely to be a defining feature of the New Normal.
During lockdown, we saw a dramatic shift from in-store shopping to online shopping. While shopping online has been pretty commonplace in Europe and North America for the last ten years or so, it hasn’t quite had the opportunity to properly take off in South Africa until now. Large retailers quickly broadened their online shopping options, while small businesses and entrepreneurs offered to courier their products around the country. Even as jobs were being lost due to lockdown, micro-businesses were springing up, offering anything from home-made masks to, well, more illicit offerings.
Will online shopping grow?
Courier companies are unlikely to sneer at the possibilities that contactless shopping can bring. Besides avoiding the risk of infections, people love the convenience of being able to order their goods online, or even by WhatsApp. While this may still present some challenges, especially in less-urban areas, we sincerely hope this will be a big part of the New Normal.
Education and training
The severe gaps in the South African education system were starkly highlighted during lockdown. While private school children attended virtual classes and kept up with their studies, thousands upon thousands of children were left stranded with no way to keep learning. The same was true for young adults trying to achieve some kind of education or training for their careers. What sparks some hope, however, is that more platforms and possibilities are being developed to help ensure both school children and students can access their learning.
What’s the prognosis?
We sincerely hope that South African companies will step up to the plate and offer ways for people to reach their education goals. This can be something as simple as offering a data-free platform from which to access training, to something as complex as developing unique online courses. This is an opportunity we should take advantage of, to uplift our country’s people and economy.
The changing footprint
We can’t talk about the New Normal without wondering what impact these changes will have on our natural environment. Will a move away from traditional office spaces mean fewer traffic-related emissions? Will construction development slow down in commercial hubs? One thing is certain – a global pandemic is a scary thing, and it has made the majority of people sit up and pay a little more attention. We are starting to realise just how significant our impact is on the world, and what that really means.
Will we tread more lightly?
The environmental damage and climate change fight is far from over – it’s really just beginning. But, due to the unignorable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are fast becoming more aware of the real dangers this presents. The New Normal, if it is to resemble anything like what we consider normal, absolutely needs to include a growing care for the world in which we live.
What is normal, anyway?
Throughout human history, the most important things have always been our sense of community, our interpersonal relationships, and the way we interact with our world. While the details may shift, those are the constants, those are the things we consider normal. We may not know precisely what it will look like – we can conjecture as much as we like, but only time will reveal the truth of what New Normal looks like. However, humans’ ability to adapt and change is staggering, and however our work situations, shopping preferences, and ways we learn may change, we will be able to take on the challenge.
At Tenaka, we’re committed to helping companies and their employees adapt to the new normal. We’ve designed a data-free communications platform to stay in touch with your remote employees, and can help you design a great new employee value proposition.