Is “virtual”, the ‘new normal’?

The COVID-19 situation labours on. While Bangalore and Karnataka seem to be managing the situation much better than the rest of the country with lower infection numbers, the numbers are continuing to grow at an uncontainable pace nationally. The government has no option but to relax the lockdown in order to restart the economy. After lockdown 4.0, now we are in the phase of Unlock 1.0.

We have been hearing the term “New Normal” a lot lately. Is life going to change completely post COVID-19? There have been a lot of comments around this subject. However, is it all going to change? do you think will we bounce back? Will there be some sort of a middle ground that we can find? Let us explore this.

Last week, I finally had my first meal in a restaurant after almost 3 months. I expected it to be eerie and quiet considering the situation. I was in for a surprise when I saw that the restaurant was almost full. Now, how did that happen? I expected everyone to be at home due to the pandemic but there were so many people who wanted to come out and eat.

This really begs the question: Are we going to see a new normal after COVID-19 or are we jumping the gun and panicking too much?

Human beings are resilient and the human race has seen many tragedies and even pandemics over centuries. There were six cholera pandemics in the 19th century. Originating in India, the disease first reached Europe in 1831, during the second pandemic via military and trade routes, and killed 32,000 people. In1918-19, between 20 million and 50 million people were recorded to have died during the Spanish flu, the most devastating influenza pandemic of the past century. More recently, in 2009-10, there were more than 18,500 lab-recorded deaths from swine flu during the pandemic, but statistical modeling suggests the true extent of deaths could have been as high as 570,000.

What I am getting at is that we have always bounced back strongly from every adversity. While everything seems like gloom and doom right now, there is always a calm after every storm and it is followed by bright sunshine.

The prophets and their prophecy  

Several ‘prophets’ have emerged overnight in the world post COVID-19. This is also in fact a pattern, with prophecies after any major occurrence in the world. These COVID-19 prophets are predicting a new normal where everything is going to be virtual from now onwards. In my last blog, I had spoken about work from home. Even then, there were mixed responses when it came to what people thought about the WFH concept. Many were going bonkers sitting at home all day, while only a few loved it.

Similarly, are we going to see a lot of change in behaviours amongst us? Of course “yes”, as we need to adapt to survive.  But is the world going to become completely virtual?

Virtual Future?

Humans are social beings. There is an inherent need for us to meet and interact with others. While everything can be done virtually, do we really want to? Won’t we get tired of it? Don’t we want to go to a movie, watch a show, go to a concert and attend parties? Can we spend all day staring at a screen? Don’t we miss those interactions in the office?

From talking to many people, I find that people are craving to get back to a normal office environment. While some are genuinely enjoying the home environment, most people, I spoke to, wanted to get back to office. Some of the comments I have heard are:

  • “It’s difficult to balance family and work when you are at home”
  • “There is no concept of personal space”
  • “There are infrastructure issues”
  • “It is easier to resolve issues face to face, than virtually”
  • “There needs to be a balance”
  •  “It is difficult to stay home all the time”
  • “We have to be available for calls and meetings all the time”

With the uncertainty of finding a vaccine anytime in the near future and the infection numbers going up, things are very uncertain, and time seems protracted. I, however, think that in the grand scheme of things, this too shall pass.

While COVID-19 will change a lot of things for the human race, I think there will be a middle ground somewhere…the broad unexplored territory. For years, the middle ground was shunned as the coward’s way out. However, with COVID-19, it has become the need of the hour. The future, I think, lies in finding that much needed ‘middle ground’. Our entire lives cannot be lived virtually for all of eternity.

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