As the global universe deals with this horrific virus with, at this point, no cure, I can only look forward. Asia appears to be on the back side of this pandemic. The US, with still a great many cases documented and the medical professionals say we have not yet reached the peak, is already making some plans to reopen the country and its struggling economy. But the big question is “what will the US and the world look like when we attempt to return to normal”? What will normalcy look like in a world that has, as of yet, to develop a vaccine for Covid 19?
This pandemic does not surprise me. There have been many articles written over many years that have suggestedd that the world’s population will not end or be decimated by a nuclear holocaust but by a rampant virus of some sort. And again, it is not surprising that this disease probably started in a country with a huge population like China. At least in China there is a high population of educated people who could understand what may be necessary to control the virus. Maybe they did not act quickly enough or were not upfront with the rapid spread of the disease, but that is not what I care about in this discussion. Just think what it would be like if ground zero was in the ghettos in India where the population is poor, under educated and lacks, for the most part, even the most basic medical care.
Where does opportunity exist? It exists in the way we handle a new world order, in new technology, construction, population management and on and on it goes. I have been listening to a lot of talks about what will the new normal look like in the way we worship for example. We assume that social distancing will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. That means that our mega churches that have stadium style seating for say a few thousand, will only be able to seat maybe 750 as social distancing will require six feet in between each church goer or 2 seats in between. As churches rely on donations, how do they make up the lost revenue from the loss of seating capacity? Add a service? I don’t know? But some genius will come up with a way to make “community” among church goers work. If the online service has been moderately successful, maybe amp that up. Will there be a resurgence in the drive in movie theater that could double as a Sunday morning church service venue? We will think big, think different, use the ingenuity that has always gotten mankind through troubles almost as great as what we experience now. And that is just one example.
I was listening to an article on NPR the other day talking about how we will have to change our workplace. They were specifically talking about the interior floor plans of the style of workplace that is in vogue right now, especially among the younger working persons. The floor plan that has randomly scattered desks, a game room, a total open space with minimalist furnishing. And the speaker also discussed the air filtration system which in most buildings is designed to push air around and not necessarily filter it for bacteria. In fact, I have read that inside many office buildings the air quality is fairly poor and can be a breeding ground for disease and germs. Yuk! Schools the same way. And lets not forget gyms and restaurants. And on and on the list goes.
Right after hearing this article, I had lunch with my youngest of two daughters and we were talking about this talk. And first, I must add that since we don’t live under the same roof, we sat outside her first floor apartment and had lunch while respecting the 6 foot distancing norm. She discussed that very thing. Her office is set up in pods of 4 work stations to a pod. Each desk area faces another desk and has no separation. If one person coughs, they all get the spew from that cough. As they think about opening up that office, that is something, for the health of their employees that they must consider.
The company that she works for is a very large international construction company based in this area. Now here is where a golden opportunity exists. There current office building is stunning by office building standards. Being a construction company, one of there goals was to showcase there design and construction prowess. And they have succeeded. It’s beautiful. But, because of their rapid growth, they have nearly outgrown their location. And now comes their opportunity created by the Covid 19 pandemic. Their plans are to build a new location and have it operations by sometime around 2025. As buildings standards will surely change, create this building with state of the art design and construction. A current standard is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified office building with the highest rating being platinum. Go beyond that standard. A new post Covid 19 standard will incorporate the same level of design and environmental thought but add to the mandate air movement within the building. Germ and bacteria buildup and remuneration of it. Materials usage that is clean even prior to installation. Construction techniques that have that same care. Windows that open to allow in fresh air (fresh being hypothetical). A floor plan that reflects maybe an open concept while still respecting the need to keep your coworkers germs to themselves. Landscaping that helps filter air into the building. Washing stations throughout the building and not just in the bathrooms. Bathrooms being totally touch free. And the list goes on. Her company has the opportunity to show the world new ideas on an old concept, our work place.
Working from Home
One thing that will definitely come out of our quarantining is that working remotely from home works. But it is far from perfect. I think that we will see creative ways to increase bandwidth from our home work stations. As always, weather it is because of a weather emergency, whenever we are forced to work from home, that becomes a huge problem. The current network infrastructure is overwhelmed. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom are easily slowed when it seems that half the world is zooming.
My generation primarily, has been skeptical about how successful working from home would be. Many in my age group may feel that if he, as the boss, can not see a person working, than they are probably doing a bit of work, than watching TV and that if an employee worked from home, their productivity would wan. Because everybody is working from home, I think we see that it is very possible to be a good alternative to an office environment. But then again there are many folks who like the office environment and will continue to go to the office. They like the friendships that they have developed at there office. Even before the pandemic, I have wondered if the office building will become a dinosaur. If a large proportion of the work force is now working from home, will there be wholesale office vacancies? What will we do with the 30 and 40% and more office vacancies that I foresee in the future? What is the future uses of these buildings.
If you were to ask me what I miss the most, I would have to say dining out. I miss the social interaction of dining at a restaurant with friends. I think the “with friends” is the most important part of the statement. I would have to say that is it possible that we are seeing the demise of “fine dining” though. I would define “fine dining” as generally good quality food, well cooked, well presented and in an atmosphere of some elegance. Tammy and I were discussing just last night that the style of restaurant interior that I like may be white linens, beige curtains, the service staff dressed in white shirt, apron, etc. Just my version. But how can we expect that to be these days in the new error of social distancing? Tables are spread out, staff wears gloves and masks or food is to go.
Do we need to rethink or will we rethink what dining out is. Is a more sophisticated version of the food court possible. And maybe that is not so bad. Picture the “plaza” or piazza. New construction prior to the pandemic has city blocks being created with office, shops and restaurants being created with apartments and condos atop them. Nice idea last week. But this week, should we look at a large square, with those sames shops and restaurants surrounding it but instead of a scattering of benches the square is now filled with tables and chairs where patrons of those restaurants can carry their food to those tables and enjoy and outdoor meal. From an economic standpoint, maybe not so bad for the new restaurant. Their real estate space is minimal as now they are more of a store front with minimal indoor dining available. Their staff requirements are less. What do you do during bad weather? That is a caveat. Indoor seating is definitely limited, so you have to rely more upon your warmer months. Or just simply be creative. There are lots of creative people out there that will figure it out and not just survive but thrive.
As to my fine dining? Well like I said, maybe eating out socially is more important than that elegant fine meal. Maybe I reserve that experience either in my home or at one of the few fine dining restaurants that will figure it out.
Our World has Changed Forever
Our World has changed forever is probably a “no kidding” statement. There are those persons and groups out there that long for our old world and old way of doing things. And that is just that. In just a few short weeks and months, our Old World is out the door. Lots of good will come out of this pandemic. That is not to say that we should not mourn the loss of more than 100,000 lives and counting in the US and many more around the world. But in the spirit of positivism, our new world may be so much better. We have seen that the family is a pretty good thing to rely on and be around. I like my wife…a lot. And my dog. And my kids (although I miss them as they live elsewhere). I have connected with my brothers and sisters and mother on a more frequent basis via Zoom calls. I have lost a fair amount of weight by eating at home. Fortunately I like to cook. Wholesalers who sell to restaurants don’t have restaurants to sell to so they are selling to us folks. We are buying better quality fish and meet and making some very terrific meals. I was supposed to do a fair amount of traveling both overseas and within the continent and that won’t happen this year. But we are now saving more money so that when we do travel we can do a little more.
Overall, life is good. As long as our health remains strong, this hiatus from life for maybe the entire year is good. I hope you all see the possible changes as positive and remain hopeful that in the months and years ahead, we will, in fact figure it all out through innovation, caring and love. Carry on, care for your neighbors, be cool, enjoy the summer with your family and continue to live life to the fullest.