New way or old way? The verdict is in: After the pandemic, the old way is way better! I’ll even go so far as to predict that there is no way to go back to the new way.
A number of companies have already announced that part of their work forces will continue to work remotely once the pandemic is over. Sure, this option will resonate with people who have to spend four hours a day commuting from home without a real need to be in the office. But it doesn’t make sense for executive assistants (who, in the old days, used to be called secretaries) and managers. Some sales execs might still be able to do good work from their suburban homes (with the risk of seeing their salaries reduced, according to Fortune Magazine), but it’s harder to imagine that a marketing manager who, for example, has to interact with several executives a day to prepare for a TV trade show, would be able to work remotely.
Let’s face it. All this talk about never being able to go back to the “old” ways will probably turn out to be, well, just talk. In my view, people are dying to go back to the “old” ways as soon as health and sanitary conditions allow for it.
Contrary to the opinion of Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, I believe that once the pandemic is behind us, we will want very little to do with the “new” ways associated with the coronavirus. In my view, there will be widespread rejection of procedures that were necessary under COVID.
In the future, the “social distancing” that was necessary under COVID will be the “distancing” that people are going to insist on keeping from anything that has to do with the coronavirus and its impositions, be they healthcare-related, social in nature, or economic. In the various surveys conducted by VideoAge, all respondents noted that they longed for a return to face-to-face meetings.
By now we’ve learned that history repeats itself, and looking at a previous deadly pandemic allows us to come up with a fairly clear picture of what to expect. Despite a global flu pandemic that by 1919 killed 675,000 Americans and a depression that gutted the economy in 1921, the U.S. not only recovered, but entered into a decade of unprecedented growth and prosperity.
In his 2014 book, The Forgotten Depression: 1921:The Crash That Cured Itself, author James Grant wrote that, “by late 1921, a powerful, job-filled recovery was underway.”
American consumers, who had scrimped and saved, began to live it up. Europeans also joined in, purchasing $8 billion ($121 billion in today’s money) in exports from America. Inflation ticked upward, and so did prices, but consumers were willing to pay anything for a taste of freedom.
“Instead of the widely expected deflationary slump, the economy experienced an inflationary boomlet, and everybody exhaled,” wrote Grant.
This pandemic also gave a boost to the concept of socialized medicine and healthcare (something that was also foreseen by Filipino sociologist Walden Bello). Plus, it spurred technology: The use of electricity be-came widespread, sparking economic growth and greater productivity. Mass manufacturing of cars was dependent on other industries, including highway construction made possible by the Federal Highway Act of 1921. The rubber, steel, and building industries also flourished as hotels, gas stations, and restaurants became essential to accommodate hordes of tourists. Radio became popular and movies provided mass entertainment.
In my opinion, the upcoming post-pandemic era will not be different from that of 100 years ago. However, after this experience, I’ll make sure not to be around for the possible pandemic of 2120.
(By Dom Serafini)
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