What is the #NewNormal
Recounting life in quarantine and counting the days before they lift lockdown
This is the new catch phrase for everything that follows life after the quarantine: the new normal. While this is not necessarily the end of the pandemic (because we still don’t know when), it is life after a lock down, where social distancing is normal and remote work is as common as your morning latte at Starbucks. It’s going to be the new way of life, where the threat of getting covid-19 still persists.
The manifestations of the new normal are increasingly seen and felt. More people are buying online — or at least using online means to get what they need: groceries, medicine, supplies, and other “essential” things. E-commerce has seen a surge in transactions and activities — and companies that were designed to handle online transactions, such as fintech, are reaping the benefits. Online banking — and mobile banking — are becoming the default destination. Meanwhile, remote conferencing services, such as the infamous Zoom, have become more popular. Now, Facebook and Google are scrambling to get their versions out.
I have seen my data consumption on my local network increase by as much as 20 percent because I am always-on, downloading and watching more content. Just ask people about how much binge watching has been happening since lockdown. You’ll see a huge spike versus pre-lockdown days.
We are also experiencing work hours extending beyond the “working hours” while laboring from home. Senior executives who once marveled at the thought of remote work are forced to accept this new normal: yes, you will do more online conference calls dressed in your PJs or sweatsuits and spend the next two hours trying to decode the powerpoint presentations streaming on the video conferencing platform of your choice.
Webinars that were once scoffed at as a cheap version of a real-life conference is the “new new thing” in corporate settings. Old, brick-and-mortar companies are now scratching their heads, thinking of the daunting task.of keeping the lights on.
Universities are forced to engage students and faculties through online means. Classes are now pushed online, forcing most teachers and students to try out platforms like Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and other platforms for online learning. It was no cakewalk for most, however, as Internet connection issues and readiness of most were not considered prior to this new normal. Some schools have announced that classes will resume between July and December, but they also are not sure if students and faculty are willing to step into the classrooms and be in the same physical space as the rest. The new normal means we are now anxious to be at close proximity with someone for fear of getting infected with the virus.
If we were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and use that as a framework for defining the new normal, we are in for a surprise. As we take stock of our lifestyles pre-lockdown versus post-quarantine, we will realize we are doing too much, demanding and buying things that are clearly “wants.” Marie Kondo is right. We have too much things in life that doesn’t spark joy anymore. Life in quarantine has forced us to reflect on our lifestyles and reconsider what is important, and what is not.
We are also pushed to look at how were managing our time. Is the new normal going to change this? Right now, we are working from the comforts of our home, but we still synchronize time with the rest of the team so we can say we’re working, as expected. But do we believe that? Will human resources know that we’re working right now, but in truth, we’re streaming our favorite TV series on Netflix while we tend to some work and chores at home? These are all hypothetical questions, but are worth answering as we count the days to life after the quarantine.
Yes — life after the quarantine is perhaps the best term to define the new normal at this point. Why?
- We don’t see the end of the pandemic anytime now.
- There remains no vaccine that will help quell fears and anxiety over possible infection when you start mingling with other people post-quarantine.
- We are creatures of habit. We have developed new habits in life during quarantine. These habits will persist post-quarantine life.
- Remote work will become the “new way” of working and the Internet and our powerful devices will allow us to do more meaningful work.
- The way we communicate will be redefined. There will be more work, and we need to be able to digest them faster and produce results while we deal with our new domestic life.
- Work and life overlap more than ever — and that’s going to be okay. Striking a balance becomes moot.
- For some of us, sources of income had been disrupted because of the physical and menial nature of our jobs. Digital transformation is forced upon our organizations because of the pandemic. We need to redefine “getting things done” and prioritize “what needs to happen.”
- Our ways of managing money are going to change. Investing strategies will follow, as economies contract.
- Bad governance by governments will become the best measure — and gauge of how people will vote in the coming elections. We hope everyone remembers.
- We’ve seen good and bad leaders emerge during the pandemic. Good leaders will stand apart.
A personal note
Every single person in the world who will survive this pandemic is forever changed. The generation growing up during these challenging times will see the world differently.
For now, the pandemic has forced us to:
- Take stock of our relationships with our partners, our work colleagues, and our family.
- Spend more time integrating work and life.
- Exercise more, or at least consider it as alternative to the stressful demands of WFH.
- Discover and develop new skills; home-cooked meals have become important as we watch more how-to videos on YouTube.
- Reconnect with friends, family and relatives whom we’ve ignored because we are “too busy.”
- Listen to God, and revive praying and reflection, as you restart reading the Bible and the gospel.
- Read more and realize the joy of this unique human capability.
- Be creative as you find ways out of “boredom.”
- Thank your Creator for the life that you now have, while thousands more die of the disease everyday.
- Realize that our purpose is to also help people in our own little ways.
Life after quarantine
Count yourself blessed if you’re emerging from this pandemic healthy. As to when will this end remains a question. We’re never going back to way it is. That’s clear. We are going to define what the new normal is. And whatever it will be, we need to be ready for disruptions and change, while we pick up the lessons and embrace them as the new reality.
Author’s Note: He works from home but keeps tabs on life through teaching, writing and living.