The new colour of normalcy
'I can't wait till this is all over, till things can go back to normal.'
Every day, a version of the above statement is said no less than 500,000 times in the UK alone (this is also a fake stat), and I'm always ear to it. However, I'm pretty sure it's not an exaggeration. With that being said I'm always left thinking 'Will what we go back to after this be deemed as normal?'
The aftereffect of COVID-19 means that normalcy will be redefined. The way we interact as humans, the way we work, the way we Governments handle crisis, the economy, the people ... everything will change. But, more importantly the world will grieve. The hundreds of thousands of lives lost to this disease, will be mourned and grief too will have a new presentation.
How do you return to a normal that doesn't include lost loved ones? How do we move on when we couldn't say goodbye? How do you heal from the emotional scars from battling in the frontline? How do you mentally recover from losing careers and income and freedom to roam? How do you deal with new health concerns even after surviving a killer virus? How do you deal with the stigma of having it? There's a lot we must overcome and accept and what was will no longer be, and normal will have a new look
I'm not sure there is any level of preparedness for the new normal, because unfortunately, we can't predict it. Like we couldn't predict the virus, it's spread and it's effects, we can't say for sure what the future will look like. Studies will begin, theories will develop but everything that emerges from this current time will always be guesswork. Because the actual figures of deaths recorded, the number of cases survived - they aren't accurate.
This doesn't however mean that the new normal will be 'bad'. I personally feel that there will be a lot of good to come out of this period. We will change in how we relate with one another. That we all will know someone who was infected with and/or affected by COVID-19, means that collective grieving will come when we resume schedule. Many will seek catharsis in new activities - things that weren't in their immediate environment during the lockdowns, quarantines and isolations.
There will be a new value placed on life and it's uncertainty will be feared. For some this fear may manifest itself as anxiety - however for some of us, I am convinced that it will present itself as exploration. We will explore unventured paths, turn unturned stones and essentially try out things we thought we couldn't as the realisation that life is short/isn't promised.
Human interaction will have new value. There may or may not be initial hesitation, however, I believe that intent and purpose will drive us to connect deeper and more constantly with those we love beyond our household. Meet ups will be honoured, events will be valued and experiences will be experienced together. I can't say how long this will last - and if it will because in this same reality more work will need to be done to rebuild economies, communities and hope. However, it is possible that employers will see value in work-life balance and somehow find ways to deliver this importance to employees.
There will be a new working culture. Organisations have realised that previous working systems may well have been wasteful - in resources or time. Many organisations have made cuts and still realised that optimum operation is still possible - this may be their new normal. Working from home has proven not just possible but also effective for some and this may be included in the new normal. In January this year, Finland introduced the Working Hours Act this year which was to give majority of full-time workers the decision when and where up to half of their working hours were spent. This shows that it's possible for organisations to adopt this WFH culture at a much larger scale.
Writing from the perspective of a UK citizen, I also believe that the Government's approach to healthcare and immigration will change. The latter is more hopeful, based on the identification of nurses as key workers over the course of the pandemic. Home Secretary Pritti Patel introduced a point based immigration system that deemed nurses as low-skilled, thereby increasing the difficulties immigrants would face in obtaining work here in the UK. Although, we know that members of the Government - particular focus on Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, benefitted from the presence of these 'foreign' nurses in the NHS. The number of frontline staff, continuously at risk - and even those who have lost their lives. cannot go unnoticed by the Government. Doctors have had all annual leave cancelled for the rest of 2020, they have been made to work 13-hr shifts, they have dealt with more death over the past few weeks than some have over the past 6 months. The reward must go beyond a weekly round of applause and a televised thank you message. They must be fiscally reward and mentally nurtured. That being said:
In our day to. day lives. routine has been lost, new habits formed, old behaviours dropped and more has changed. This doesn't necessarily absolve the world of certain things restoring. Many things will still resume schedule as normal - others will only experience SLIGHT changes - others will have changes that will slowly fade out... but I truly believe that nothing and no one will return to how they were before the pandemic. Normal has been redefined no matter which angle we choose to look at it from. What was normal is dead and gone and now we can only anticipate the unknown.
What do you think the new normal will look like?