The lockdown, in its initial days, seemed like confinement and utter panic ruled our minds. We used to wait eagerly for getting time slots available for ordering the daily essentials. The number of panic buyers increased as the feeling of “will not get anything in future” loomed largely. When the lockdown started in the month of March, we hoped the deadly microbe to vanish from the face of the earth. But, on the contrary, the number of infected people has continuously on the rise. Now, after spending months caged in the safety of homes, we have learnt to accept it as the ‘new normal’.
Finding no other option but to accept the omnipresence of the Coronavirus or COVID-19, we are embracing the ‘new normal’, along with its obvious trends and norms. Post Covid, our lives have changed totally. The pre-Covid era seems to be a distant dream now. As the world is gradually restarting all the activities, it is well accompanied by the fear of the contagion. Numerous small and large companies and business organizations have embarked on new workplace norms for retaining efficiency and productivity. Keeping the employee experience and safety at the centre, the organizations are remodelling their business strategies.
Giants like Microsoft “trialled a four-day working week last year in Japan which was deemed successful in terms of employee feedback and productivity. It says it now has a ‘hybrid workplace strategy as worksites slowly start to open’.” The pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the Future of Work. The digital dependence has increased three folds in less than three months. Be it work or entertainment, we are highly dependent on the Internet. Even for one hour if the internet facility is disabled, we feel helpless and miserable. The post-Covid era has arrived, but the lethal contagion has not left us. It is still there, and we just have to “ADAPT”. In both our personal and professional lives, we have to adapt and continue living with this contagion. The glimpse of this ‘new normal’ is highly prominent in three levels. They are:
- Workplace Norms
- Lifestyle Norms
- Business Norms
New Normal in Workplace
The traditional concept of ‘workplace’ or ‘office’ appears to be obsolete with the trend of remote working. The home and office are dwelling under the same roof. The line between personal and professional life is blurred. The personal laptop which is used to binge-watch series and the professional laptop is placed side by side, creating a dilemma in the minds of the individual. The remote working or the work from home which was once a luxury has become the new normal. We have never imagined that a day would come when we would hanker for the office life and the fun at the office canteen. There are certain challenges of the remote working which were unseen previously. Now, the pandemic has made them crystal clear, and we have to overcome these challenges in our own ways. The schools, colleges, education as a whole are continuing via online sites.
How to set up an efficient workspace at home? Digital intervention is crucial. When the staffs are shifting from the giant tech hubs to their sofas and couch, this ‘new normal’ questions the redundancies of the expensive office spaces. Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that “half of Facebook’s 45,000 employees worldwide will work from home within a decade, joining the growing wave of companies deciding to move to permanent remote working. This will result in thousands of staff leaving giant tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley, resulting in vast redundant infrastructure.”
New Normal Lifestyle Trends
Our lifestyles have taken massive hits during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, we used to go to the shopping malls and marketplaces for having fun, even if we don’t have anything to buy. But since the pandemic, fear rules our minds. We are afraid that the fatal virus can infect us, in spite of taking precautions. Now that the economic activities have started to resume, we can see the ‘new normal’ unfolding in front of us, wherever we go. Suddenly, all of us have become extra cautious.
Wearing masks to shield ourselves from the visible pollution and the emissions seemed optional or ‘not so necessary’ to us. But now, the invisible virus is compelling us to wear not just the masks, but gloves, and also taking all the possible precautions before going out to buy groceries. Social distancing is imperative. Best safety measures and quality assurance is getting preference over lucrative discounts. The restaurants are having their shutters up, but the number of customers is unfortunately close to zero.
“On the first day of reopening of malls, customers were allowed inside premises after thermal screening and measures were taken to maintain social distancing during shopping and billing. However, the number of visitors was less on the first day. Among the visitors most visited supermarkets located inside the malls to buy groceries and other household items. As per the order of the government, cinema halls and children play areas remain closed.” The restaurants and eateries are opened, but moderate inflation rates are prominent. “Most hotels are serving food in disposables – paper cups, plates while some have taken the sustainable route serving food in areca plates and wooden spoons. Several hotels have hiked the prices of the food to make good the additional cost of disposables. A few hotels have also taken to serving food on banana plantain leaves, either directly or in a steel plate.
Meanwhile, the seating arrangement allows only for two people per table, reducing the capacity by half. Most hotels with seating arrangements have put up thermal scanners. Darshinis have also installed hand sanitisers. All the cooks and servers are mandated to wear hand gloves.”
New Normal in Business Trends
Both small and large businesses are adversely hit by the pandemic Coronavirus. The businesses are facing severe financial crunch and reduced revenue generation. There is a shortage of labour of working staff, as many have returned to their home towns. For delivery apps like Swiggy, Zomato, Big Basket, Amazon, etc there is a shortage of staff, resulting in problems with delivery. The eCommerce sites were severely hit, as there were travel restrictions during the lockdown. Even now, as things are getting normalized, the ‘new normal’ will face sluggish recovery rates. Many business organizations, of various sizes, had to sack employees. The rate of unemployment and layoffs has surged exponentially with the advent of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, many organizations are looking for part-time consultants, who can work on-demand basis. The expert professionals must have domain-specific knowledge, niche skills, and relevant experience pertaining to the live projects. Onboarding consultants on-demand basis can help the organizations manage the overhead costs, and save the expenses. On the face of the uncertainty, many organizations, especially from the IT sector have expressed their preferences to hire part-time basis, instead of full time. The radical shift towards the gig economy and freelance services have been accelerated by the pandemic Coronavirus.
The ‘new normal’ is rather something very new, quite contrary to our prevailing concepts of “normal”. Things will never go back to normalcy post-Covid. The world is slowly getting accustomed to this imposed ‘new normal’. Cosmetics and accessories have become optional, whereas, the masks and face shields have become mandatory. The fear of infection will always exist at the back of our minds. We can no longer be carefree, now that we know that the virus is here to accompany us in the near future.