Coping with Covid – the virus that keeps bugging us
Just as you think you’ve conquered it, it jumps up again, like the weevil in the rice. Covid-19 is not for early surrender, that’s clear. Indeed, it may be heralding a new way of life altogether. Chances are we’ll be able to go out without a mask one day – but maybe not. Better to see how we can make our lives tolerable and productive even if we are locked in. Look at Covid as a disability we have to live with and work around. We’ll be more successful if we do.
Stop the spread
People have been working hard to do that, and with considerable success. There is room for more. Health is a primary concern, naturally. Stopping the virus spreading is of paramount importance. Rigid disciplines are needed if that is to succeed. Not everyone understands infection and contagion, especially those in their twenties, teens and earlier. If they have to stop what they want to do, they see their youth slipping away. If they are unable to attend school and university, they see their jobs slipping away.
Mask design is a major challenge nobody has yet mastered. Any length of time in the present masks and you end up with a mouth full of linen, worse if you have a cold. It should be possible to make a comfortable, reusable product that is held away from the mouth and nose enough to make breathing less sweaty. We don’t mind looking like horses if we have to. By the same token, hand sanitisers suitable for carrying in the bag or briefcase would encourage people to take more precautions more frequently. These are small issues for a swift trip round the supermarket. Longer sessions of work or play make them onerous.
Understanding the long-term consequences of Covid-19 is becoming a major question. Unknown at present there are worrying signs that the virus leaves traces or consequences that may affect vital organs. If this is so, apparent recovery may not be the end of the problem and a vaccine may need to do more than prevent the most obvious manifestations. All this is still unknown. For the moment we have to handle life as best we can.
Improvements for the new normal
First rule is to improve internet communications better. Technologically there is considerable improvement to be made and Zoom and others should be encouraged to get on and make it. We want slick presentations, ease of switching between charts and people, a better way to handle large groups of people and much more easily facilitated ‘chatter’ or networking. The internet must become as good a networking operation as lunches and dinners. We’ve got to feel part of it, be thoroughly engaged and raring to ask questions. This is a time of terrific learning.
Next we want better study subjects to fill in the time between our work and play. Covid and after are obviously going to occupy our minds but there is much more going on in the world, more that people should be helped to think about, not just be given solutions to. Authority is losing control. If you don’t think so, visit Bangkok. Or anywhere – The States, Europe, China, Asia, even Singapore. Authority is pretty good here which is why we obey it and keep ourselves relatively safe. But is it – or any other authority for that matter – really looking to the future and deciding how to determine it?
Disrupting the mind
A society on the brink of annihilation wants to see the future and there are plenty of McKinsey articles – and others – dealing with that. Equally important is the reason for being here in the first place. Stark futures remind us that the busyness of life can, all too easily, obscure its purpose. Being clear about our purpose is vital if we are to deal with perhaps the most difficult of coronavirus’s threats – the disruption of the mind. It Isn’t that we are inflexible. Humans have lived through wars, plagues and other disturbances and coped with them well in retrospect. Often at the time they were more invasive and unsettling than the subsequent history might suggest.
We forget how minds were warped and personal equilibrium disturbed at the time. Locked away from the touch of others, even from sensing their breath on our skin, we feel an isolation greater than in almost any other situation except perhaps prison. Prison governors know how important it is to let their prisoners mingle at least once a day. They may quarrel and fight but at least they get some human contact. To put your hand on the arm of another person, to let your eyes connect with theirs, in a way no Zoom or Skype has yet been able to allow, is the foundation of human respect.
We have always been inadequately equipped to deal with mental health. Our knowledge and resources are stretched to their limit with Covid-19 rampaging through societies. We need everyone who has been involved in keeping people sane through change to be mobilised to help those who are finding the effects of lockdown and isolation oppressive. Contact will often be enough to stabilise them again. ‘Someone to talk to’ may sound like a simplistic solution. It is usually an effective one.
Reskilling in a VUCA world
Most important of what needs to be done is the reskilling of those out of work or on lockdown, to cope with the new order of employment. Digitisation is not something that affects only big companies. It is in your mobile phone already. If you are to keep up with the speed of communications today, you must be equipped with an awareness of new techniques and advanced apps and a facility to use them soon after they appear on the scene. Those who are in search of learning because of the virus are perfectly poised to use the time to do so.
When Covid is history the world will charge forward at a pace not before imagined. Let’s hope we can keep up with it.