The immediate shift in work and social norms needs innovation

Being in a personal crisis is one thing, but being in a global one is a whole lot different. So much is totally out of your control. You can rant and rave at some of the decisions have been made, or likely to come on some current performances.

Often you are left wondering where the insights or collective thinking was trying to offset the events that were unprecedented and scary but have now put us into such a massive economic downturn.

The decision to throw a protective shield around our health systems made sense, but the human suffering unfolding is going to be very tough on those that made these decisions, as it is to nearly everyone else. Facing this economic collapse is mindblowing.

We all are coming to grips with what this means in our working lives. We are in for immediate shifts in our working environment as we emerge from “lockdown.”

Innovation is going to become central to overcoming huge global problems of keeping our distance, inventing, and implementing the solutions to keep our “social distance” and know we are safe or not..

That will come from the use of the physical space and technology warning us of possible threats. Invention and innovation thinking will come to the fore; technology will be far more used to protect us, to notify us or alert us.

We will become even more reliant on our smartphone. “don’t leave home without it” will become a growing mantra. The reliance on our smartphone is going to mean we all can be identified, tracked in some form or other. Do we lose our freedom or do we gain our freedom?

If social distancing is going to be with us for some time, to protect the majority of people to being exposed to the coronavirus, this “distancing” makes for more remote lives, reliant on technology to bridge the human contacts of the past.

Separation is going to be high on our need to understand all of what this means in phycological and personal ways. What will this mean to our daily routines, as we unlearn and then rapidly attempt to learn a new level of normal

In some ways, Asian societies are better placed than Western ones.

In some ways, Asian societies have some advantages. They have social distance as part of their lives already. I wrote a post some years back “The ‘pull’ of the dual forces within our cultural thinkingdescribing several differences; we need to further explore the social distancing one that I did not specifically mention in that post, here.

There is real importance in fully appreciating sometimes considerable differences between not only cultures but ways different groups go about their ‘collective’ business. We need to recognize differences and balance them. Now is the time to also learn from Asia in this ‘distancing need’

“Hail and greet” become potentially dangerous.

We need to learn social distancing rules that are for many in Asian societies second nature. We like to hug, embrace, kiss far more readily; we like to get closer to the person we are talking too, which is the opposite in Asia. That formality, if you want to label it that way, gives them a better ability to distance themselves. We in the West exhibit a more extrovert manner, how will that change if we are forced to keep our distance due to the unknown enemy of this virus.

Will we want to shake hands as liberally as we have done, or will we take the guide from our Chinese, South Asian or Japanese communities that politely bow, nod their heads, or put their hands over their heart. Social distancing goes way beyond standing 6 feet away.

I was reading today this article Our offices will never be the same after COVID-19. Here’s what they could look like, written for Fast company. It is about the work being undertaken by Cushman & Wakefield as they have been helping 10,000 organizations in China move nearly one million people back to work. Using learnings gathered in China, along with World Health Organization data and the advice of medical specialists, the firm developed a new concept inside its own Amsterdam headquarters dubbed the Six Feet Office.”

The core premise is to ensure that six feet, the recommended measurement for safe social distancing, stays between people at all times. This behavior is encouraged through properly spaced desks, but also visual signals, such as a circle embedded in the carpeting around each desk to ensure people don’t get too close.

Can you imagine what this means in holding conference room meetings, those informal meetings around the “water cooler” or preparing your snack in the one kitchen space when you are required to have six feet or nearly two meters between you and the other person? How will that practically work? That goes way beyond any established practices we see today, anywhere.

Will we be structuring our days differently? We need to be creative and imaginative.

The daily meeting, gathered in the bosses office, can’t happen; it must be done at a distance. Perhaps we introduce the tannoy from years back, the public address system, where the daily “instructions” got broadcasted across the shop or work floor. Now that is a throwback, or will it come through a desktop message, as you log on.

Will we be using “instant messaging” even more? Presently these have served a purpose, liberally called collaboration tools. Still, the world of “distant collaborating” we are rapidly entering is going to bring out a slue of new tools to make this a newly emerging practice and business opportunity for many.

How will we be changing our work habits; how will we distance ourselves on public transport, for instance? Clearly, when we find a vaccination for the Corona Virus much of these new restrictions can be relaxed, but will they change our nature of work in the interim and the old ‘normal’ never returns.

Has the future of work arrived in a very unexpected way? The adjustments are immediate and huge.

Where is innovation going to rapidly figure in delivering the changes we all need to think about in this world, waiting for a vaccine not just to be developed but to be administered, to EIGHT billion people. How will we handle that, that needs a very creative way to track, trace, inoculate, and build the scale required.

How long will we be in this world of required “social distancing?” What do we need to change to recognize it is with us for some months or even longer.

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