Everyone is fixated on the time when things will get back to normal. They define normal as meaning the way things used to be before March of 2020. They want to walk the boulevard past little shops they hardly notice and never visit. They want all the restaurants open again so they can complain about the bad food and slow service. They want the gyms to open so they can buy memberships that lapse without ever being used. You know, normal.
Right now, you can go see a movie in a New York City theater. However, there is no real evidence that many people are keen on joining you. Even before the pandemic, theaters were dealing with an existential crisis brought on by streaming services and high-quality in-home viewing options. People just aren't excited about waiting in a long line, herding into a packed room full of strangers, walking through that sticky mess that is never fully eliminated between cleanings, and enduring a bad movie and overpriced snacks. Now, they have to do it while wearing a mask and jumping at the sound of every cough coming from behind them wondering if this will be the one.
The good news is there are better ways to return to some of the old activities in a mostly safe manner. The new normal will even have a few advantages over the old way of doing them. Here are a few examples:
A Better Way to Office
Let's be honest: No one except bean counters actually like open plan office spaces. Even before COVID, they were almost universally hated by people who had to work in them. Then, the virus came along and reminded us why having clearly defined and partitioned spaces made sense. Upgrade those open tables to partitioned spaces with office workstation shields. You don't have to get rid of those tables. You just have to make them safer. Even one sick employee in an open office can take down the entire workforce. That has never made sense.
Every desk should also have a bottle of hand sanitizer, especially if the desk is shared. Telephones and computer peripherals are breeding grounds for all manner of infectious bacteria. Hand sanitizer does not cost that much and can pay dividends by keeping more people at work rather than being sick at home. It is past time for Houston to get back to work. The simple expediency of adding clear separators will make a world of difference.
Smarter Holiday Activities
Yes, you can have an Easter egg hunt. No, you can't do it the old way. You should not bring a large group of kids and parents together boiling, decorating, and hiding dozens of eggs inside and outside the house so that hoards of little ones can... Yuck! Who was the person that decided this was a good idea? It doesn't matter. If you really want to do some version of it, you can. You just have to be smarter about how you do it. Consider the following:
● Reduce the number of children in a single venue by half
● Eliminate all indoor hunting
● Masks for everyone
● No sharing. Have extras ready for those who weren't as lucky.
These are the kinds of simple and obvious precautions that can be the difference between a happy and unhappy holiday. Some traditions will make it into the new normal with only minor modifications. Other traditions like bobbing for apples, forget about it.
By now, we have all read about Zoom meetings gone awry. It is past time you learn how online meeting software works so you don't end up trying to convince a client that you're not a cat. Any sales person will tell you that the safest and most productive meeting is no meeting at all. When meetings are unavoidable, do them remotely. Save your company tens of thousands in travel fees for in-person meetings that accomplish the same thing as a remote meeting. The old way stopped making sense a long time ago. The new normal of remote meetings is both safer and smarter.
This is the moment for us all to figure out how to carry forward old traditions in new and safer ways. We will still go to work, enjoy holiday activities, and endure meetings. There is a very good chance that the new ways we are finding to do these things are here to stay.