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Seven Ways The Virus Will Change The World

Technology has become central to keeping people connected during extended periods of forced social isolation. Whenever people get back to their routines in the physical world, it will merely be an effort to catch up, not be free from the virtual world.

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No handshakes, no gatherings, no outings, no school. COVID-19 has made our world unrecognisable. We don’t yet know how this will end, but we do know that the world that emerges post-virus will look and feel incredibly different. As COVID-19 takes the world into unknown territory, crucial questions are arising, some personal, and some commercial. Here are some predictions that might hold answers to some these questions as well as the key to the future shape of business, work, and society.

1) Online: A clear winner of 2020 and beyond

Despite a global outbreak, people have continued working, socialising and communicating remotely. The pandemic has digitally transformed physical functions, such as medical consultations, education, grocery shopping, and dining. It has accelerated remote and augmented reality-based engagements catering to different needs. From working out to partying, individuals and professionals are connecting online. This trend will only accelerate in the future.

2) The evolution of the home office

Corporations have started moving to a hybrid model of working, thereby creating a demand for home offices. This change is expected to have a profound impact on architecture and interior design. In the next five years, we will witness the construction of a new array of apartments and living spaces that come equipped with a state-of-the-art workstation. The home office might become as important as a bedroom or a kitchen for homebuyers and potential tenants. Personalising the home office—by getting it sound proofed, having a gorilla glass wall and ensuring optimal router placement for permanent connectivity, for example—is expected to become the norm.

3) A world of mixed/hybrid reality

Technology has become central to keeping people connected during extended periods of forced social isolation. Whenever people get back to their routines in the physical world, it will merely be an effort to catch up, not be free from the virtual world. In the next five years, digital adoption will accelerate and there will be an explosion of virtual reality start-ups enabling collaboration and interaction.

4) Cleanliness as a part of social and cultural zeitgeist

COVID-19 has brought home the need for hygiene and sanitation across the world. This will not only lead to behavioural changes in society, but also give rise to a clean regime where governments, international organisations, businesses and individuals will prioritise visual aesthetic and ritualised cleanliness. A “clean regime”-shaped global commerce and policy will become embedded in the society. Renewed government strategies and bills to promote societal cleanliness will become a norm, and some countries might even introduce taxes to this effect. Do expect new roles such as “Chief Cleanliness Officer” to emerge to lead the clean regime movement for enterprises.

5) Privacy - a casualty of the virus

Multiple countries have introduced applications to effectively track and isolate individuals considered high risk, as well as identify those they have come in contact with. It is an unsettling thought for many that it isn’t just their clicks and likes, but also their health, movement and biometric data that are up for analysis. Together, such data can be used to see not just what we look at, but also how we physically respond to that input. Put simply, our emotions too could soon be tracked and analysed. We are probably finally seeing the true death of privacy.

6) Business travel will lose its sheen

Along with the pandemic, online and technology services such as Zoom, Meet, and WebEx, have proven to corporates that traveling to another country to close a deal or meet a client is unnecessary. The virus has given rise to paranoia, leading people to flight-shame and pressure their parents, colleagues and their leaders into staying put. In Europe last year, a ‘flygskam’ movement was started in Sweden. The neologism ‘flygskam’ refers to the feeling of being ashamed or embarrassed to board a plane because of its negative impact on the environment. Following the pandemic, this movement will likely go global, drawing attention to the burden frequent air travellers put on the planet.

7) The biggest lesson: Recalibrating life on the planet

While COVID-19 continues to be a concern for global economic health, it has given people the chance to step back, take a deep breath and reimagine living on this blue planet. The virus has shown us how inextricably interconnected and interdependent the human race truly is with biological, economic and environmental implications. However, it has also allowed us to pause, look back and change for a better tomorrow. Five years from now, we could be looking at how we could drive economic growth without destroying the very ground beneath our feet.

Stairway to the future

The virus has given an opportunity to every individual, business, government, and society to look for new meaning to their relevance. We will have to view the future through a different set of lenses. This is no time to be timid ― there is no reason one cannot thrive in these new and unprecedented times. Hand in hand, and as a community, we need to work towards building a future full of hope, confidence, and optimism

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Manish Bahl

Manish Bahl is the Assistant Vice President, Centre for the Future of Work – APAC at Cognizant.

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