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Return to Life – Cautiously Easing into the Post Pandemic World

Last week, March 11, 2020 began the first Covid-19 lockdown in Austin.

I thought it would last a few weeks at most.  Now we’ve passed the year mark. We know the Pandemic will end, but we just don’t know exactly when.

So what will my life and leadership be like after the Pandemic?  What are the new opportunities created, and the new dangers going to be? . 

Now is the time to chart your course for a very different world we’ll be entering. 

The post pandemic world of life and work going forward will be as different as the world we left behind—before we could ever have imagined a lockdown.  The changes going forward will be dramatic.

You’ll go back to an office that will never be the same again.  The content of your job will shift significantly. There will be new attitudes and mind shifts you’ll need to understand.  From going to Starbucks to picking your way through the airport will require new mindsets and skill sets.

A Path for Optimism Ahead

But we can now begin to optimistically see our way towards the end of the crisis.  Infection rates are falling significantly, as well as Covid deaths.  We see a slow distribution of the vaccine here in the US on the one hand, and on the other hand the speed of the development of three vaccines and their effectiveness is beyond amazing.    The prediction for everyone getting a vaccination is this spring, but I am thrilled about the possibility that most people will likely be vaccinated by the end of the year.

The End of the Covid Crisis Will Not Be Clean Cut or Clear

We’ll still wear masks in stores and other public places.  We know there will be no clean, final ending to the Pandemic of 2020—it won’t be like at the movies where the story ends, they roll the actors’ names by on the screen, and the lights come up.  There will still be infections and tragic deaths, and resurgences.   There will be new strains that stump the experts. There will be frightening new spikes.  Much of the world will not be vaccinated.  

Yet we’ll gradually move into the post pandemic world, and we’ll need the skills and mindsets to take us there.  Here are some areas of significance.

Your Personal Strategy for the Post Pandemic World

  1. The Post Pandemic Job Shock—AI job elimination will be massive.  A set of new opportunities and threats are suddenly here.  A convergence of new technological developments, along with the disruption of the world workforce will accelerate AI job elimination.  The motivation for business to cut costs and accelerate production will be even greater in a more  competitive post pandemic world.  We’ve all known for a long time that clerical jobs would go away. 

    Now AI can plan a skyscraper or write a doctor’s prescription, sell a car, design a website, or do academic research with little need for human input.  The good news is that numerous studies tell us that AI will create more jobs than it destroys.  Many jobs will be created that haven’t even been thought about yet.  The challenge is that we must embrace change and prepare for it.
  2. Develop New Skills to Thrive in the Post Pandemic World.  The changes in job skills caused by AI will be impacting us like a tsunami in the next five years.  It will be as dramatic as the shift from the horse and buggy to the internal combustion engine automobile. 

    You’ll be better off financially than you ever have beem in your life if you can seize the  new opportunities created by technology.  Unfortunately, many people will just keep applying for horseshoe manufacturing jobs in a world where they have gone away and will never come back.   Our task now  is to understand how our various jobs are changing and to be agile in adapting.  

    You have to be curious enough to research the direction your new job will take in the industry, and to ask people who know what’s changing.  What are your basic skills?  How can you apply them in a variety of areas—getting trapped with a single job or skillset, no matter how safe it seems, will be devastating.  AI will create new opportunities for those who embrace them.
  3. You’ll Have to Escape the Dr. Alexandre Manette  Syndrome. In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, a major character, Dr. Alexandre Manette, was imprisoned for 18 year during the French Revolution.  Upon release, he lived with his daughter Lucie, but could not escape the prison cell in his mind.   He paced back and forth the dimensions of his cell for the rest of his life.

     Although we have complained abut the difficulties of the isolation of lockdown, the now deeply ingrained ways of interacting on Zoom and isolation will tend to stay with us—we’ll pace the dimensions of our smaller world and won’t be able to escape. 
  4. Regaining the Power of Office Interaction.  Why go back to the office at all—ever again?!   We have proven that a great part of business can be done quite well virtually.   People who haven’t really seen anyone in over a year have effective team meetings, hire people they’ve never seen in person, sell products, do deals, and raise money.

    One thing is certain is that we are moving forward on the social momentum of yesterday’s office relationships, and we’re running out of gas fast.  Face to face human interaction is the only thing that will produce the kind of break through creativity and group dynamics that will move organizations forward successfully into the post pandemic era.  

    Another imperative about going back to the office is mental health.  Loneliness and isolation is taking its toll.   A recent Wall Street Journal survey tells us that 2 out of 5 are suffering from loneliness and depression in the US and 3 out of 5 in the UK.  We must restore the social fabric of the office.  It’s important that we freely admit that we miss each other.  We want to restore the friendship circles of people who work together.

    A lot of what will happen will emerge, and nobody can possibly know what it will look like.  Safety measures that involve cleanliness must continue.  Testing and tracing will become a part of work life.  The whole workforce may only occasionally be all together at once.  Office space will be used differently.  But we’ll all be back together, and I can’t wait! 

The Pandemic Will Be Over—But We’ll Never Be Over the Pandemic

The Pandemic will be over—but we will never be over the Pandemic.  No event in my lifetime has had the impact that the last 12 months have had over my life.  It’s like the Great Depression of my parents’ lives.  It was indelibly etched into their personalities, and so it will be with the Pandemic.  Coming out of the Pandemic will not be like going back to where we were.  It’s a new world that we’ll learn to navigate. 

Austin, Texas

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