• Dan Truman

5 Positive side effects of COVID-19

Don't read that the wrong way - the situation right now is bad and getting worse.

At the time of writing Italy has gone into full lockdown (60 million people only allowed out of isolation for emergencies), the UK is in a panic situation but refusing to take any course of definitive action, and the US seems to be halfway in preventative measures and halfway in complete ignorance (see below tweet from Donald Trump for reference).

The only thing the world currently has in common is that there are a lot of different approaches being taken due to this outbreak.

However, there have been some real positive stories to come from this pandemic too, which should be highlighted for all.

1. Rise of remote working

This has to be the biggest winner of all - for a lot of workers globally, the commute to the office in the 21st century.

The rise of people sharing #remoteworkingtips on Twitter has been exponential and lovely to see.

Tips for remote working include:

  • Having a clearly designated working space

  • Removing distractions

  • Ensuring regular brain breaks and exercise to keep fresh

Some themes to develop out of remote working for a higher percentage of the workforce have included more attention on integrating children and pets into the daily working lives of adults. Sitting children down to discuss why a meeting is important or why a parent needs some time to work will help relationships and understanding.

There have also been notable positives for communication skills - being remote requires very clear articulation of expectations and promotes the requirement for clear reasoning and rationale to deliver salient commentary and discussion. Within a few days, the difference in quality of written discussion has been clear and continues to improve.

Examples of excellent communication have been seen in a common format - namely

I DO ARRT - where clear notes are made in the following format:

  • I - Intention of project/meeting

  • DO - Desired Outcome of project/meeting

  • A - Agenda expected to be completed in project or meeting

  • R - Roles of project team/meeting

  • R - Rules to be in place for project/meeting

  • T - Time for project/meeting

This has been neatly summed up with the below quote, heard on a UK radio station in early March 2020.

"We're going to finally discover whether that meeting actually could have been an email"

2. Reduction of pollution

This is a result seen most heavily in China so far, but very likely to be true for Italy soon too.

As the below image from The Verge shows, the reduction in manufacturing output, travel bans, isolation orders and other preventative measures taken in China, has caused a vast difference to the airspace above the country.

Once the pandemic has ceased to be centre of the world's attention, we need to work hard to drive progress on the climate changes required to ensure sustainability to the planet.

3. Adjustment of economy

Depending on how much your personal pension or portfolio is down, this may ring more or less true as a positive from COVID-19.

"There was a correction coming"

However, in economic terms we were well overdue a recession (we have just exited one of the longest bull markets in history); in less economic terms we were in a fairly "toppy" circumstance across most financial markets, and there was a correction coming. It was just a question of time, and of what would be the cause.

In 2008, famously, the US housing market was inadvertently propping up a significant proportion of the world's assets. When it failed (or rather defaulted) on its repayments, the world was thrown into utter chaos in a matter of days.

That has not fully been the case this time. There have been a number of weeks of continual decline, yes. However, leading economists are speculating that this may alleviate a fatal decline further down the road. The hope is that this is a short-term blip, which will promote long-term efficiency and force companies and industries to evaluate their processes and ability to succeed in the future.

The process to find out what might succeed in the future is a hard one - people will be made redundant, companies will go bankrupt etc but overall, our economy will become stronger because of it.

Competitive markets will become clearer as infrastructure developed on soft foundations will begin to show. The world will likely come out of this in a clearer and more certain direction than before.

4. Conscious travel

This should likely read no travel, given the policies adopted across the world currently. However, it is likely that any travel in future, will be given a lot more consideration before embarkation. For a long time, we have lived as citizens of the world with little or no thought as to whether we "should" travel, just whether or not we "could".

This will change industries - strengthen the proposition of many online offerings, and weaken those reliant on consumers coming physically to interact with brand. The significant drops in pollution noted above show the impact we are having on the world with travel and it is likely there will need to be mitigations and cautions in place in future.

This "pause" of the world's travel will also allow people to reflect and plan their travel for future getaways. To be very selective about where they want to travel and with whom. Brands will need to be clearer in what they offer and the value available, they will need to be more flexible as customers have time to research online their exact requirements.

It is also an opportunity for those brands. Very few people will travel in this time. Commercial airlines are grounded, staff are redundant, everyone is at base 0. Customers will return once the virus is cleared, and that is a unique position for all travel companies to find themselves in.

The questions many executives will ask will be:

  1. "How secure is my business overall?"

  2. "How do we gain maximum market share on return to operations?"

There are unparalleled negatives to the current situation, but there are also opportunities to re-evaluate and drive meaningful change, without damaging business continuity, for once.

5. Scrutiny of (social) media coverage

There have been waves and waves of media and social media coverage of COVID-19.

All perfectly understandable - it's a huge topic that is changing lives on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

However, some of the media coverage has been appalling - it has incited panic, it has led to miscommunication, misunderstanding and overall uncertainty. This has been the way media has worked for a few years now - by creating uncertainty and drama around topics there is a likelihood for repeat purchase/engagement by consumers. This can then become the lifeblood of publishers who rely on either paywalls or advertising revenue to generate income.

The development over time of social media has allowed for the six degrees of separation rule to shrink rapidly and therefore content that would previously have taken weeks to distribute evenly across a population can do so in hours. The issue is that often this content is "fake news" and eagerly gobbled up by clickbait hungry users.

With COVID-19 news there have been instances of clickbait of course, but on the whole it seems that people are more aware, more alert, more keen to call out and think critically about the information presented before them. It is a pleasing development that can only benefit society as we seek truth through difficult times.

These 5 positive side effects are just a few of many, some softer examples may include:

The good news is that COVID-19 will end. When we do not know, but we will all find strength between now and then to resolve ourselves to doing the best we can.

There are positives everywhere, one needs to work hard to ensure they are exposed.

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©2020 by Dan Truman.