How Will the World Be Different After COVID-19? Challenging the Socially-Constructed “Normal”

What do you think will be the biggest positive change we will have made as a result of the pandemic? What will change, after COVID-19? Today’s blog is an exception, compared to all my previous ones. If you’ve read some of them, you’ll easily understand why.

The World After COVID-19: Personal View

When everything that was self-evident suddenly becomes impossible, one possible reaction is that it makes you think and reflect about life, about what/how you do, about priorities and about your attitude to life. For some, the crisis has been “a period to go through, until returning to normal”. Others used the crisis as an opportunity for reflection, improved their lives and became stronger than before. I hope that most people fall in the second category.

I strongly hope that the suffering and death of so many people is causing society to become more compassionate and accommodating. Else the death toll will go into the history books as statistics, and it will be a missed opportunity for society to become more humane.

During the pandemic, conservative definitions of “normal” were challenged, and new behaviors have become acceptable, or even mainstream (dare I say “normal”?). As the COVID-19 pandemic is still not behind us, it’s too early to draw conclusions. It can still go in two ways: either society will embrace these new behaviors as positive, maybe even desirable; or society will eventually aim to “go back to normal” and put an end to these new behaviors. I strongly hope for the former.

Challenging the concept of what is considered to be “normal” helps make people more tolerant and accommodating, and therefore it helps fight discrimination and narrow-mindedness. It contributes to inclusiveness and equality in society. As we’re talking here about people’s behaviors, I see no distinction between people in their personal lives and professional lives. Learning to let go of your (socially-constructed!) definition of “normal” teaches you to become more tolerant and humane; it will influence your behavior at home, on the streets and at work.

Therefore, I hope that the biggest positive change of the pandemic will be that it will teach people to stop thinking in terms of “what is normal”, and to accept the concept of “a multitude of behaviors” being equal, rather than label things as “normal” (i.e. OK) and “not normal” (i.e. disqualified).

And how will adoption of Digitization be, after the Coronavirus pandemic?

Digitization Post-COVID19: Business Level

Many people are uncomfortable with change. It is yet to be seen how current events will impact people’s acceptance of change (as opposed to “going back to normal”) after COVID-19. On the business level, the Coronavirus pandemic speeds up digitization processes. But I wonder how many companies will truly change their attitude to digitization due to the pandemic (I deliberately talk about digitization, not about automation; often enough people talk about digitization whereas they actually mean automation). It is not unlikely that on the business level eventually, the pandemic will only increase the gap between the “truly digital” (who will speed up digital programs) and the “truly not digital” (who may automate some more processes, but not “go digital”; they will go back to what they used to consider “normal”).

Digitization Post-COVID19: Social Level

On the social level I see a different situation, because once you “go digital”, you’re likely to “stay digital”. Take for example elderly people who started ordering groceries online during the pandemic. If due to the Coronavirus you started ordering groceries online, and you went through the process of learning and adjusting to how it works, it is likely that you may still continue using it post-crisis, because you’ve created a new habit.

Probably you won’t use online grocery shopping as a single method to buy groceries. But you will have turned from a “no user” to a user whose adoption rate can and shall be influenced by service providers. It’s no longer a question of whether you’ll use the online service; it’s a question of how regularly. Groceries are just an example here. The same applies to other e-Commerce outlets, to online meetings (e.g. grandparents meeting their grandchildren online when a physical meeting isn’t possible) or other forms of “going digital” for consumers.

Digitization Post-COVID19: Regulation Level

On the regulator side, I think that the pandemic has demonstrated the need for flexibility, in legislation and in operational processes. For example, the inspections of customs officers at the border. I hope that the pandemic will result in Governments becoming more agile. Digital is a means to this end.

Suggested reading:

  1. Removing Bias From Data – the Coronavirus Pandemic Example
  2. Fighting Workforce Discrimination: From “Broken Windows” to Changing a System of Beliefs

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Ziv Baida

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