On My Radar | What life during The Great Staggering is going to look like

Level 4 lockdown restrictions, which kicked in on Friday, might seem like a reprieve after five weeks of isolation, but, for most of us, things haven’t really changed – and aren’t going to change for some time
Level 4 lockdown restrictions, which kicked in on Friday, might seem like a reprieve after five weeks of isolation, but, for most of us, things haven’t really changed – and aren’t going to change for some time

Level 4 lockdown restrictions, which kicked in on Friday, might seem like a reprieve after five weeks of isolation, but, for most of us, things haven’t really changed – and aren’t going to change for some time.

So while you dream of a return to normality, here’s a reality check on what life during The Great Staggering is going to look like.

(Spoiler alert, there is no going back to “normal”.)

Your work life

During level 4 of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, a third of the workforce of some companies will be able to return to work. If you work for a large corporate, be prepared to be met with a very different office environment.

Global commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield already has a clear vision of how to gradually get a workforce back into the office as the lockdown eases.

The company has already helped 10 000 organisations in China move nearly 1 million people back to work, so it has a tried and tested system that is based on World Health Organisation (WHO) data and medical advice.

No company will simply open its doors for the entire workforce to return on the same day, at the same time. The considerations go beyond the number of people in a building, but factor in the number of people having to commute to work. Easing the density of people on public transport during rush hour is a huge concern, so expect to be allocated shifts, instead of the traditional 9am to 5pm office hours model.

Ironically, office workers around the world have long been asking for flexibility from a rigid eight-hour workday, first introduced in the 19th century. Corporate companies are now forced to cede that long overdue freedom to their workforce.

When you first enter your post-lockdown office environment, there will be new spatial designs as well as new workplace physical distancing rules to adhere to.

Ideally, desks should be spaced further apart, but also marked with visual signals – for example, a circle drawn around each desk to remind people to keep their distance.

Employees might also be required to grab a sheet of paper that will act as a large “place mat” for their desks. At the end of each shift, the paper has to be discarded to help eliminate the spread of Covid-19 from desktop surfaces, especially if companies use a “hot desking” model. One of the more radical suggestions that the Cushman & Wakefield system endorses is that all employees are made to walk clockwise – and only clockwise – in lanes around the office. This one-way traffic is the same system that healthcare workers use in hospitals.

Your social life

As all mass gatherings will only be allowed when level 1 is announced, be prepared to kiss goodbye any thoughts of going back to the gym, a restaurant or bar, the movies, a business conference, a live concert and any live sports events. Even funerals, weddings or other social gatherings will still be limited in terms of numbers.

If you own a business that falls into any of these categories, take comfort in the fact that if you have been able to adapt to online trading, most of your customers will have done so too. The customers will be prepared to continue with their virtual lives, including shopping online.

Here are some of the sectors that have managed to shift their business models online, and should consider keeping an online offering after lockdown as a hybrid business model:

  • Exercise and wellness: Even before the pandemic, a company such as Peloton, an exercise equipment and media company in the US, had revolutionised spinning classes, with live-streamed, high-intensity cycling classes. Since the pandemic outbreak, yoga studios and aerobic classes migrated almost seamlessly to online models. And logging in for a virtual class with live instructions now seems quite normal.
  • Conferencing and eventing: Video platforms such as Zoom and Crowdcast have quickly filled the void for businesses, not only in terms of meetings but also for hosting conferences and seminars. It has not only proved convenient for delegates to log in from the comfort of their homes, but also for the hosts to attract a global audience.

The recent One World Together at Home global concert, a campaign rallying funds for the WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, was live-streamed across time zones for eight hours. This blazed a trail for global, real-time eventing.

Restaurants and bars

Food delivery services were increasing before the pandemic hit. Many restaurants have been forced to diversify during the lockdown, with either home deliveries, chefs offering online cooking classes or even becoming gourmet retailers.

Similarly, delivering alcohol (which comes into effect in level 3), along with a mixologist, brings the bar to your private party. It still won’t replace the physical social experience, but it will provide an interim solution.

Whether at work or at play, social etiquette will be forever altered. Shaking hands will be a quaint relic of a pre-pandemic era and wearing a mask – a social norm in Asia – will become a global requirement.

If a vaccine will only be commercially available next year, then the habits we adopt during The Great Staggering will be our new normal. Welcome.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends.For more trends, visit fluxtrends.com

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