We are living in the Age of COVID-19. This has sparked a wide variety of thoughts about the impact of the coronavirus –– both on our world today and what we might look like tomorrow.
Below are some of those observations and predictions. We invite you to share your insights by
posting them here on LinkedIn. Stay safe and healthy everyone!
What It Feels Like
- It’s 9/11 meets 2008 in NYC. The new epicenter of the war on COVID-19 is NYC and the fear it has provoked feels a lot like the wake of 9/11. Couple that with the malaise that followed the stock market collapse in 2008 and you get a sense of what this city feels like right now. It’s surreal to be here with once congested noisy streets now empty and quiet. But there is a positive. People are being kinder to one another and there is an acute awareness we’re in this fight together.
- In Europe, it feels like WWII. A friend living in the UK tells me that COVID- 19 triggered the trauma of WWII, which is deeply embedded in the European psyche. She shared that a friend who lives in Amsterdam says that even the stalwart Dutch initially reacted by grabbing supplies from supermarket shelves –– perhaps for fear of war-time rationing. French President Emmanuel Macron might have expressed it best when he declared on the airwaves, “We are at war.” He sounded like Charles de Gaulle.
- Wresting control in China. I don’t have enough cultural intelligence to comment on life in China right now but I do hear from several contacts that business operations are mostly up and running with work shifts in place. Meanwhile, the media is reporting that stores are reopening this week in Wuhan. Shoppers are returning but with limits on how many customers can enter a store at any given time.
How We're Operating
- The phone is ringing again. Phone usage has dramatically dropped over the last few years. Rather than one-on-one conversations, we rely on texts and emails. When the phone does ring, it’s likely to be spam. David Langton of Langton Creative and I have talked about how COVID-19 is changing how we communicate. We now find ourselves on phone conversations all day long and voice mail boxes are suddenly full.
- Stresses on broadband. Can household broadband services hold up while supporting both work and online education? Christine Friedlein and I discussed this problem a month ago, followed by a New York Times story one week later on broadband challenges in California. Now with millions of Americans asked to stay home, some are surprised at how well broadband has held up; others have said it’s been an abject failure. How's it faring for you?
- A bonanza for streaming services. With so many of us around the world required to stay home, popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Prime Video must be realizing big gains. And they may not be alone. Jason Korosec at Roku reminds me how that platform is offering more than 30 days free for a host of services including Showtime, Epix and Acorn TV.
- Anti-depressants anyone? If you’re not calling a doctor about COVID-19 symptoms, you may be seeking help for anxiety and depression. Don’t be ashamed as this is an understandable response to social isolation, balancing work with kids, or light deprivation from being stuck indoors. Remember that along with assuring good physical health, it’s equally important to maintain good mental and emotional stability.
What We Look Like
- Cleaner streets. I can’t remember the last time my block in Brooklyn Heights looked this clean – and that’s without street cleaners! Yes, there’s less traffic but fewer people on NYC streets has also meant NO littering. This is one new reality I’d like to see continue.
- Cleaner skies. My clean energy brother-in-law Nitash Balsara points out how recent satellite photos over parts of China and California are showing us pollution-free skies! This makes it clear (every pun intended) that by reducing carbon emissions –– albeit in this case from shutdown factories and severely reduced traffic –– we can have a rapid and material effect on our atmosphere. Once we get beyond COVID-19, this may be another #doyourpart opportunity.
- Personal beauty be damned! No hair salons. No nail salons. This could be a boon for L’Oreal hair coloring and Essie nail polish. On the other hand, if you now have the feet of a Hobbit, might it become a trend? As for “silver gray” hair being a new look, count on it. And welcome back buns and braids to control long or unruly hair on both men and women!
What We Will Look Like When This Is Over
- WFH. Telework/flex time was already in vogue before COVID-19 forced many of us to work from home. While many will be thrilled to return to the office, others will prefer the current arrangement. Working from home may very well become a new norm, particularly if organizations implement work shifts to protect employees from the prospect of ongoing health threats.
- Divorce rates may rise. For married couples who rely on distance during the day to keep them together at night, the current environment may be the straw that breaks the marriage bond. Just ask Vicky Townsend at the National Association of Divorce Professionals. As they did post 9/11, divorce rates are expected to rise.
- Marriages and a baby boom. Conversely, togetherness can make you appreciate the one you love. New marriages will result and more babies will be born. Rather than a Baby Boomers II generation, we will usher in the Covid Kids! In fact, my niece Ava Anklesaria, and her husband, Vedant Mehra, are having a baby in April. They’ve considered the following names: Covid, if it’s a boy, Corona, if it’s a girl.
- Time for renovations. People who enjoy working at home but don’t have a particularly good work environment, might want to improve their space. At the same time, families who have been trapped at home may want to update kitchens, tear down walls or enlarge play spaces. When retail reopens, Lowe's and Home Depot may be flooded with all those do-it-yourselfers, handymen and contractors planning home renovations.
- Chinese food once again. It's been tragic to see long-standing Chinese restaurants shutdown because of anti-Asian resentments over the coronavirus. As my friend Karen Trachtman says, these closings are a particular loss since Chinese restaurants have long perfected the art of takeout –– the only restaurant option available right now. It might be months away, but we look forward to once again ordering Hunan Chicken and Singapore Mai Fun.
- Higher education online. As higher education costs have skyrocketed and become out of control for many students and their families, will online courses become more of an option? Will top universities join the fray? There’s no replacing the classroom and campus experience but it might be an opportune time for universities to consider alternative ways to educate students while maintaining standards and lowering costs.
- Real estate redux. My colleague Jake Wengroff has been reflecting on the impact COVID-19 might have on real estate. On the commercial front, we both agree that the leasing of big office spaces may get hit hard if productivity proves strong with employees working from home. WeWork may wind up being a big winner after all! On the residential front, Jake is concerned about a potential bust later this year ––particularly in places, like Florida, where people have second homes. With job losses and diminished fortunes, will there be a new round of housing foreclosures? Let’s hope not.
- Will we be afraid of crowds? Everyone wants “normalcy” to return –– sports, theater, barbecues, family meals, visits with friends and just going outdoors. But let’s face it: our fear about unseen viral enemies has affected us deeply. As we look ahead, will anyone want to go to a concert? How will we handle riding in trains, buses and planes? Will social distancing continue on store checkout lines? It will be interesting to see what new crowd standards, if any, are put in place, and how mass transit and the airlines, will respond.
- Goodbye handshakes, hello bowing. Americans have long exchanged handshakes as a professional courtesy but COVID-19 may have rung the final alarm bell on the health hazards of this practice. This may be a great time to steal a page from the Japanese culture and greet our colleagues with a gentle bow! I like it. Please call me Maria-san.
One final note: The Heroes.
After 9/11, firefighters were our modern-day American heroes. You’d see a firefighter inthe street and your heart would melt.
This time it’s the healthcare workers –– doctors and nurses from across disciplines –– who are on the front-lines of this crisis risking their health and that of their families. They are working double and triple shifts with no end in sight. They are a wonder.
We must also honor the scientists who are working tirelessly on COVID related tests and vaccines; the police for answering emergencies and keeping order in our communities; the delivery workers showing up at our doors with food and our Amazon orders; and those supermarket and pharmacy workers who continue to stock shelves and serve the public at their own peril.
Blessings to these heroes, one and all.