The new normal may be anything but
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Maybe we’ve hit bottom. Three months into the COVID-19 lockdown, it appears that mitigation measures have “flattened the curve.” Measures are being taken to reopen the economy on some level in just about every state in America. How far and how fast this will proceed remains to be seen.
A common refrain is that we are trying to “get back to normal.” That makes sense. Humans are creatures of habit. We don’t like change — particularly when it’s thrust upon us under these kinds of conditions. We want to get back to the way things used to be before all this happened — when we had at least some modicum of control over our day-to-day lives.
There’s only one problem. Those days are gone — if not forever, for a very, very long time. Many of the ordinary activities we took for granted, like strolling through a bustling shopping area or joining packed crowds at a sporting event, will not be available to us any time soon. We need to accept the fact that the new “normal” will likely not look anything like the old one.
That doesn’t mean we will be relegated to lockdown and crisis conditions forever. It just means that the way we do things may be rethought, reinvented, or reimagined. These changes break down into several key categories:
Things That Should Have Been Changed Long Ago. This includes cleaning the New York subway system on a regular basis, sanitizing airplanes from top to bottom, and stopping people with fevers from engaging with others.
Ways to Make Life Easier. Mobile deposits for checks of any sizes and removing signature requirements for credit card transactions fall into this category, as does ordering household staples for ongoing delivery.
Exercising Creativity. Forget the boring white surgical mask. There are now thousands of options for masks and face coverings — from your favorite celebrity or sports team to colored coverings to match your wardrobe.
That’s a Really Good Idea — Why Didn’t We Think of It Earlier? One-way traffic in supermarket aisles and Plexiglas shields between store employees and customers make perfect sense. So do limiting the number of people in any given waiting area, and offering many types of appointments by video instead of in person.
Find Another Way. We can’t go to the mall or eat in a restaurant, so takeout and curbside delivery may be the only option. Sadly, stores and eateries that catered to business lunches or in-person shopping experiences may not be able to make the shift to the new normal. Those that can find an alternative delivery vehicle may not just survive but thrive in the long run.
Shut Down For the Foreseeable Future. No live sporting events. No concerts or theatrical performances. No movies shown in theaters. These are the most disruptive changes and the ones that are likely to be the longest lasting.
How easy will it be to accept a new normal?
Consider what happened post 9/11. We were introduced to TSA checkpoints, the need to remove shoes and laptops for inspection, and the prohibition from carrying liquids of more than 3 ounces onboard. While these requirements can be annoying, we’ve all learned to live with them. We know that when you travel, this is the new normal. The old way of doing things isn’t coming back. Period.
The sooner we can discover how to serve customers in this new world, the better off we’ll all be. Don’t wait for things to get back to the old normal. It ain’t going to happen.
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