On 14th April 2020, the Prime Minister of India extended the lockdown to 3rd of May 2020. Obviously we all know the global pandemic predictably in India and World is not seeming to rest. In Fact if anything it seems to be on the rise. Needless to say we find ourselves in a precarious situation. Even then let’s assume all goes well and the number of cases reported comes down then what can happen after lockdown is lifted, is the question to ask.
If you are expecting minimal changes in your lifestyle you should brace yourself for an entirely new experience of what it could be in the aftermath of what the world is suffering from right now. Today’s article would be an attempt to understand and assess the changes that will accrue after the lockdown lifts.
The New Normal
You now fairly understand what social distancing means. But in case you don’t know it’s basically a Physical distance of about 6 feet or about approximately 2 meters from every single human being who is in your vicinity (To read more about social distancing here – American Redcross Society). The new normal would incorporate social distancing in about almost every facet of life. Till the time coronavirus looms you can expect standing or sitting at places like restaurants or workplaces where social distancing would be the new normal.
Imagine standing in a queue but wait, it just got more longer. From small things like buying groceries at the supermarket it might just happen that you would have to wait longer for your chance to come. Let’s say Bigger showrooms, malls, restaurants, sports complexes, public places might restrict the number of people entering the place at a given point in time. So you would have to wait outside because apparently there are an adequate number of people already inside and social distancing has to be followed. This no doubt increases your waiting time for anything and perhaps in many cases the opportunity cost. The opportunity cost is the profit forgone when choosing another alternative or choice.
Problems in socializing
I expect that wearing a mask will become the rule. A mask usually covers about 60- 70 % of your face. Around 55 percent of our communication is via expressions and the majority of it is through facial expression. Now imagine wearing a mask and communicating. One would expect be that there will be less communication as expressions are suppressed. Japan has a mask culture, Japan has also one the highest suicides rates globally (Check wikipedia). Now imagine this you are working from a 9 am -6 pm job. You get off around 6pm, wear your mask and head to your home. When you look around all you see is people wearing masks, you can’t see their faces or expressions. Nothing comes to your mind. You reach your home. And if you are someone who lives alone and works alone it only aggravates the social isolation.
From what I remember when I go back to my home from my office via Metro I see many faces, Some pale others busy on the phone, some smiling/giggling others intently reading a book while commuting. I will not know what to say when in future I will see only masks. A mask culture is mechanised culture which inhibits any form of social interaction. It forces people into socially isolated states even when they are surrounded with people. I am not very inclined at the very thought of it because I think it will impact our expression and the way we communicate. It will create a socially isolating society.
You can expect to see more people around you wearing masks. It will seem like a world of mirrors.
Aftermath of covid 19 pandemic will see a decline in travelling. Our commuting will see a shift. More rides back in cabs and vehicles. Less travel from public transports like metro or buses. Those who don’t have options other than public transport will try to find slots which are less crowded than usual. Some would give in as learned helplessness as it just can’t be avoided. Either way it’s going to increase our anxiety. Travelling will soon become a hassle.
Commuting will become costlier. It may also increase production and maintenance cost. For example, the cost of sanitization and cleaning would increase drastically. Ultimate burden bearer would be the consumer.
We can expect some changes because economy will struggle for sometime. There is already a talk by the government and Niti Aayog on gig economy or contract workers. You can expect retrenchment and rationalisation of departments in the following time. The country will slip into a culture of hiring fixed term employment, part time workers, or work from home people. Since, it reduces the financial cost of bearing an employee and the job requirements are becoming more temporary in nature.
In corporate, handshakes play a very important role. Handshakes are expressions which convey welcomeness/ equality/ dominance. Since we have to avoid them, impressions would suffer. How would marketing of products happen when it can’t even be cordial. Imagine a mask and no handshake and you have gone to market your product. What will follow will be a less impactful impression of your product. Which will lead to less sale and poor profits. Certainly a workplace culture permits many social interactions but its seems some there will be some changes to that. Negotiating a business deal will become much harder.
There will be more emphasis on digital communication and less physical communication. New protocols will be set to participate in meetings and review meets via digitally. More emphasis on spaces which will create more distance between working people in an office working environment. Cubicles would be preferred than open working spaces.
In all you should expect social distancing and its logical consequence a psychological distance will follow in Aftermath of Covid 19 pandemic. At least till the time vaccines are not mass produced and donated to countries. There will be an anxiety regarding people around us. If not us then government will make sure we follow new rules of social distancing which will create barriers to effective communication and general dysphoria.
Read also – Covid 19 and its impact on Job sectors