26 May 2020

5 Covid-19 Lessons

It is certainly an interesting time. The Covid-19 virus has changed our lives, and not always for the worse. As I enter my fourth month of social distancing and working from home, I'm considering what long term changes we may see once we return to something like normality.

Choose your employer carefully

I'm lucky. I work for a tech company in a growth sector, and with colleagues in many locations worldwide. Even before the pandemic, I worked from home one or two days a week. So making the switch to being at home full time wasn't a big stretch. Sure there were some changes required. I had to arrange a lot more online meetings with my team and others, but I'm well versed in holding meetings with folks in Boston at 9pm UK time.

Others aren't as lucky. I know many professionals who aren't able to work from home for a variety of reasons. Maybe their company is in a sector that's suffering (e.g. construction or retail). Even if you're a qualified professional (e.g. lawyer, accountant) the company you work may be forced to temporarily lay you off to cut costs. Tech firms or professions that rely on technology may not guarantee job security, but it can increase your chances.

Jobseekers will have to think hard about their future employer. How did they treat their staff during the pandemic. Were they quick to provide the support they needed to work from home? Are they in a sector that would be adversely affected by a future event such as Covid-19? Are they successful enough to ride out the pandemic? After all you don't want to be in a situation where your job or mental health is jeopardised.

The end of cash as we know it

There's been a lot of talk about the demise of the high street in recent years. Big retail names have ceased to exist, whilst the likes of Amazon continue to expand their empires. Online shopping is where it is at, and most retail outlets with physical stores must have an online element to survive.

With the pandemic, the use of electronic payment methods is a must. In fact, those retailers that are open insist on it. Why? Cash is mostly paper based, and the virus remains on paper for up to three days. It is a simple case of preventing the virus spreading. I suspect this could be, if not the final death knell for cash, certainly a severe blow.

Remember to network

Maybe it is different living in a city suburb, but I'm finding people are talking with each other more. Whilst out for a walk, you may cross the street to avoid walking past someone walking in the opposite direction, but you'll more than likely catch each other's eye and acknowledge the act. On quieter paths there's often some words exchanged. Even runners manage a grunt or two as they pass.

The cul-de-sac where we live is fairly untypical, in that it is like a microcosm of village life at the edge of a large town. Even before the pandemic, we all knew each other by our first names, frequently stop for a chat outside our doors, and occasionally socialise with together.

Such friendliness doesn't automatically happen elsewhere. Take those few minutes talking with a colleague in the kitchen over lunch, or whilst making a cup of tea. Those social interactions take some effort when we're all stuck at home.

I'm making an effort to contact one or two of my workmates every week to have a chat about anything other than work for a while. I've found these distractions to be warmly welcomed, and sometimes even reciprocated. It's important to remember that we are social animals. We need each other, and talking about football, politics, or just the weather for a few minutes, is great for the soul.

The end of the business trip perks?

If there is one thing this pandemic has shown the business world, it is that flying someone halfway around the world for a meeting is totally unnecessary. The technology exists to do business online. Like it or not, it is a fact. Yes it is different, and requires us to adapt, but good businesses must adapt to survive. 

It is purely your own self importance and vanity that requires you to fly first class, stay in a five star hotel for several nights, and schmooze with a prospect just to get them to sign a contract. If they are serious about becoming a client, they don't need schmoozing. They'll put pen to paper anyway. It may be a perk of the job, but we can learn to live without it.

No one in our company has been on any business trip for nearly three months, yet we're still earning new contracts. Time will tell if this is indeed the new normal, or whether we'll fall back into old habits.

The importance of keeping healthy

It is a fact that those who are healthy are far less likely to succumb to Covid-19. According to NHS England, less than 5% of previously healthy individuals died from Covid-19. This compares to over 25% of all Covid-19 related deaths occurring to those with either type 1 or 2 diabetes. Additionally, 18% had dementia, 15% respiratory issues, 14% kidney disease, and 10% heart disease.

It is easy to look at statistics and draw conclusions, but there is no doubt that exercising and eating healthily reduces your chances of suffering most of the above conditions. Yet there is so much we still don't know about this virus. For example, the ONS (Office of National Statistics) reported how some ethnic groups had as much as double the mortality rate. There's a lot of data out there, but precious little analysis to date. Perhaps these disparities could be caused by cultural or socioeconomic trends. Only time will tell.

Whatever we discover, the sheer number of fitness items being ordered from online retailers is a good sign. Part of this could be explained by regular gym users who are unable to get to their regular exercise sessions, but it could also be people being stuck at home and feeling sedentary.

Take me as an example. If I didn't make the effort, my daily step count would be around 2000 steps. That's against my average of 14500 daily in the three months before the lockdown. Since the lockdown that has reduced to 11,000.

I strongly suspect I've had the coronavirus. In late February / early March I noticed a shortness of breath and a slight temperature. It wasn't very noticeable, and only for about a week. I thought it may have just been a touch of hey fever to be honest, but it probably wasn't. I consider myself to be a very fit individual for my age. I even won the over 60 age category in a 10km race late last year. I'd like to think this was why if I did have Covid-19, my symptoms were so mild.

Takeaway

Remember you're far more likely to contract the virus inside poorly ventilated spaced than outdoors like your home. For a start there's a much higher chance of contaminated surfaces. In 1995 University College London academic John Adams said, 
"In the dance of the risk thermostats, the music never stops."
So keep dancing, just preferably outside and away from others.

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