Whenever I look at the news and view comments on social media outlets, it is very common to see people asking when we would be able to go back to normal. I would presume that such questions are directed to the kind of normal when we can all go out in freedom without having to worry about being infected by the deadly coronavirus. As of this writing, there are 139 million cases around the world, and it appears that the fight is far from over.
I get to ponder about the question of either going back to the old normal and the new normal and realize two possible implications in our lives.
The Old Normal
Going back to the old normal could certainly mean that most of us if not all of us will begin crowding business centers once again. The economy will be back on its foot and businesses will require most of their workforce to get back to their offices to get back to work.
Most likely, employees who want to avail themselves of free and faster internet connections will report to their offices again on a daily basis. Oh, how difficult it is to attend meetings only to be cut off due to poor internet connections!
Travel destinations will find themselves flocked again by tourists like birds who have long been encaged by the resulting travel restrictions and are getting their renewed access to freedom. People will start crowding airports and seaports once again be crowded with people. High demand for shuttle services for tourists will resume.
Consumers who want to buy the latest items on sale will flood shopping centers once again. Diners who are eager to eat in restaurants will be willing to line up again just to get an open slot.
A return to the old normal where economic activity flourishes is indeed very promising. This is to assume that the virus will miraculously disappear.
But come to think of it, the old normal has also posed on us its own perils.
With the restoration of movement of people, all of us will be back to long hours of commute. With the restrictions of public transport during the pandemic, one can only surmise that there was no need to add to the existing number of vehicles that cater for public transport aside from those that are already needing replacement. Add to that is the fact that most of the workforce was forced to stay home. Hence, with no additional means of transport, we will again find ourselves seeing longer queues as a common sight on transport terminals and ports.
Traffic jams will once again be common. In my case, I was driving for about 3 hours going to the office and another 3 hours back home prior to the pandemic. And the time I spent on the road could have been time well spent with my children. Going back to the old normal means spending more time on the road once more for me.
How many of us want to return to a kind of life where you get up at dawn to beat traffic, spend about 8-9 hours at work, and arrive home late in the evening after desperately overcoming the rush hour?
And what about the other threats that urbanization has brought during the old normal which we may likely face again if ever we return to the old normal? Are we ready to embrace them once more?
The New Normal
The new normal surely brings challenges to us.
In my experience, I get to work longer hours on a work-from-home setup than I used to prior to the pandemic. It was as if the vacuum that was left behind by traveling to and from the office was occupied by work itself. Poor internet connections also prove to be a challenge whenever communicating with colleagues and clients.
With the continued implementation of health protocols and restrictions, how long will industries that thrive on the physical presence of consumers such as restaurants, shopping centers, and even office spaces be able to survive? I work in the construction industry and I can only imagine how many more people will invest in huge buildings that cater to business process outsourcing (BPO) offices if people are forced to work at home?
And what about hotel industries and other tourist destinations? Are we going to see people filling them up given the effects of the pandemic on tourism?
With millions of jobs lost, how long will people be able to return to their jobs? There is a possibility that some industries that may eventually disappear especially with continued digital transformation in various sectors of the economy. However, there is also a possibility that new forms of business will emerge to cater to people’s needs brought about by the new normal.
And so I think the question for us is this: how prepared are we to continue living under the new normal? If your industry gets badly affected by the pandemic, do you have the skills sufficient enough to transfer into a new line of work or industry?
The Necessary Course of Action
Whichever way we are heading – the old normal or the new normal – one thing is for sure: we need to upgrade our skills.
If you no longer want to go back to the old kind of living, spending long hours of travel to and from the office, you should start acting now. Start building your own business. The internet provides an array of opportunities for people to start an online business.
Imagine those long hours you spend on social media which you could have used to invest in building your own business. Instead of being a mere consumer, why not become a producer and start earning? Establishing a business is a marathon, not a sprint. So it may take time before your business gets traction but what matters is that you have already started charting your course to establishing one.
If you want to be ready to embrace the changes of the new normal, upgrading your skills will be crucial. We are now on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and embracing a digital life is no longer just a matter of choice but necessity. Learn digital skills if you like. Pursue life interests and study online courses that align with your passions. That will improve your chances of being more competitive in this ever-changing world.
Whatever path that our world is heading to is something that most of us can only guess about. We have no control of our surroundings but we can definitely control one thing: the choices that we make.
The internet provides various avenues for us to find ways to establish online businesses for very minimal amounts. There is also an abundance of knowledge online which anybody can access so that he can learn to upgrade his skills.
Start your own journey towards having your own online business and being more competitive. One thing about life is that undesirable events also lead to opportunities for people. Don’t be left behind. Get yourself better prepared for what lies ahead.
Be blessed and be a blessing!