Since its emergence back in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus has rampaged its way across the world leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Now, as the virus reaches the ripe old age of one, cases of COVID-19 worldwide are nearing 70 million with over 1.5 million deaths as a result.
However, while the medical statistics behind the virus are daunting enough, the economic implications of months of lockdown and isolation are only just starting to become clear. Some experts believe the world is on the verge of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 30s.
The New Normal of work
Nonetheless, most people agree the world can’t just grind to a halt and despite flagging economies and countless redundancies worldwide, companies have had to learn to adapt to working through the virus. In the main, this has come through leveraging the power of online technologies afforded by the internet.
While the promise of at least three working vaccines is offering the hope of a return to normality soon, most experts predict the majority of 2021 will look a lot like this year – with a continued need for distancing, sanitizing, keeping to small groups and face coverings.
The continued role of technology in the workplace
With distancing looking like it will last well into next year, it seems the practice of remote-working will be with us for some time to come and the importance of technology in our lives will only increase. The number of home-workers skyrocketed through 2020 as employees moved to working over wide-area company networks fitted with an intrusion prevention system to ensure sensitive company information remained safe.
Indeed, statistics show that the companies that weathered the COVID-19 storm best were those that already had robust, secure networks in place and could adapt quickly to the new impositions forced by the virus.
Further, some companies have even profited through lockdown – again (and almost without exception) those that were already operating in the online environment or had existing provisions in place that they could turn to. In particular, e-commerce companies have experienced a huge increase in sales – as have streaming companies and content providers.
Potential positives to come as a result of the virus
While most of the news to come out of the virus has been overwhelmingly negative, it seems COVID-19 may yet bring some potential, long-lasting positives. Global CO2 emissions dropped by 8.8% in the first half of the year compared to 2019, thought to be mostly attributable to reduced flights and travel for work. Rivers and waters around the world cleared for a time – perhaps most noticeably in Venice where the canals sparkled brighter than in living memory.
Globally, populations reported experiencing a greater sense of collective responsibility for the welfare of others with many saying there had been an upturn in community spirit. Also, there has been a huge increase in communication between family and friends as people more-readily reached out for support using online communication tools.
Meanwhile, many employees reported enjoying the better work/life balance afforded by working from home to their own schedule, without the time-consuming, frenetic rush-hour commute. Many experts believe the world has turned a corner in terms of how and where we will work in the future, with most expecting at least some form of remote-working to continue long after the virus has passed.
One thing is for sure – when the virus is over, the world will be a different place. Whether we return to our old practices remains to be seen but it seems highly probable that our work lives, at least, have changed forever.