No country was sufficiently prepared with the onslaught of the pandemic that is COVID-19. Months after it was first detected, countries and governments are still reeling in the midst of the devastation it created. However, as COVID-19 brings additional challenges every single day, the resolve of the world to stay on top of the situation and move forward also grows.
As the situation slowly improves and strict measures to flatten the curve provide hope for recovery, countries like the United States, France, and Spain implement plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions. But, what I find significant in the aftermath is that the pandemic has also served as a catalyst – a wake-up call – to vital and must-needed changes that pave the path to a sustainable world, post COVID-19, for all.
New Work Schemes
The imposed restrictions in response to COVID-19 put the global economy on the brink of collapse. However, the hard and negative impacts on many companies also forced them to take a hard look at the way they do business and come up with new and creative ways of working. A three-day work week and work-from-home schemes were among the strategies that were quickly adopted. These not only support government initiatives to curb the spread of the virus through social distancing, but also allows companies to continue with their operations.
With this new norm of remote working, employees and businesses alike are able to reduce their daily costs but also help lessen their carbon footprint. Employees can enjoy zero commutes that largely contributes to the reduction of air pollution. They can also take advantage of customised working arrangements where they can be surrounded by the greens in the backyard of their homes if they choose. Even better is that employees now have a better grasp of work-life without the restrictions and toxicity of the 9 to 5 working schedule.
There is also a growing trend of people practicing healthier lifestyles during the lockdown period. Instead of dining in at their favorite restaurants or getting takeaway food, more people are flexing their culinary and baking skills. To maintain physical health, many are also turning to fitness activities that obey quarantine measures: running, yoga and basic indoor exercises such as squats, situps and pushups.
On the business side, working remotely helps conserve energy and other operational costs. With many industries shut due to lockdown measures, there is little need to run lights, air-conditioning, and maintain facilities round the clock. A paper-free environment and the use of software such as Docusign for e-signatures are being promoted especially for non-sensitive documents, reducing almost 70% of office waste and the billion dollars spent by companies in managing paper annually. This is a wake-up call for many businesses on the sustainability practices they can adopt post-COVID-19. Taking advantage of the benefits in remote working now may help them to save costs for workspaces and find business efficiencies over the longer-term.
Telecommunication and Digital Events
Telecommunication has become a lifesaver for many people amidst the lockdowns, transportation suspensions, and movement restrictions territories and countries around the world. Usually regarded as a means of social interaction with friends and loved ones, nowadays, telecommunications plays a greater role in bringing some level of normalcy in the global economy.
Business engagements that were put on a standstill in the face of COVID-19 are now getting back on track. Conferences, seminars, workshops, and training have been recalibrated and are now being done virtually with the help of Zoom, Google Hangouts, and similar video conferencing tools. Even summits are shifting to online events allowing businesses to foster ties with vendors, suppliers and customers, ensuring maximum business exposure during this time of crisis. Even better, costs are much lower since attendees can forego travel and related expenses.
Less cost, less effort, less carbon dioxide emissions. Definitely a win-win for everyone.
Remote Learning Arrangements
More and more are adopting effective strategies for business continuity. Educational institutions are no different as they have started to redefine their modes of instruction. While in the Philippines, some schools are looking into the possibilities of reducing student-teacher ratios and alternating school days in the coming academic year, there are also countries that are shifting to online classes as they capitalise on the digital tools available, such as Google Classroom. For Monash University in Australia, the targeted savings by moving 80% of the students’ exams online is around USD $4.7 million.
Restricted mobility has also resulted in innovative changes, especially in developing countries. More and more students are gravitating towards available online libraries (with thousands of books now available online for free due to COVID-19) and digital media to support their learning process. More than that, ‘school’ since COVID-19 has acquired a new meaning. It is no longer about academic achievement but about the social, mental, and emotional development of students in the face of the pandemic. It’s as though everyone involved has a silent agreement of treading cautiously and giving all stakeholders – parents, students, teachers – the time to adjust with the new normal.
Digital Payment/Contactless Payment and Online Shopping
The effect of COVID-19 cannot be denied and since it is highly contagious and spreads easily, one thing that has become standard is to lessen human contact as much as possible. Paper bills and offline payments have become outdated and have been replaced with digital payments and contactless payments. Online shopping and delivery have also become attractive especially among the immunocompromised who prefer to purchase groceries, medicines, and other food items online to avoid the risk of catching the virus when leaving home. And since there is a significant increase in demands for food and in-home and delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub, the pandemic has also provided employment opportunities across food and transportation supply chains.
Renewed Efforts for Environmental Preservation
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has brought to the fore the issue of environmental degradation and climate change. As the effects of the pandemic continues to ravage the world, it has also forced the realisation that short-term measures to combat COVID-19 is having a positive impact on the environment and indirectly addressing the climate change emergency. Because of this, many countries want to take advantage of the traction to create sustainable solutions.
Milan, for instance, is already planning for bicycle routes post-pandemic to replace a large portion of previously car-clogged streets. The move is aimed to lessen air pollution and to promote a healthier lifestyle.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has forced a new way of life for many individuals and businesses around the world. While governments and communities have yet to perfect the measures for adaptation, it pays to consider that this may be the new normal post-COVID-19. There are still many considerations that need to be addressed especially in terms of accessibility, availability, and affordability of these new measures. However, these ‘new norms’ can perhaps provide the roadmap to battling the world’s long-term challenge – climate change.
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Cover image by Anna Shvets.