It may not seem so right now, but on the other side of this pandemic some things will have changed that perhaps should have happened long ago. I conveniently created a short list:
1-The necessity of “going to the office” has been severely challenged. I’ve always looked at offices as petri dishes of cultural bacteria, fomenting time-wasting meetings, gossip, jealousies, clock-watching and commutes that contribute to harmful emissions, wasteful and costly fuel consumption and misuse of valuable time.
Oh sure, there’s the notion of team camaraderie and collaboration, but that can be accomplished much more efficiently and conveniently without forcing employees to spend their days tied to an assigned workspace where they’re sitting ducks for all manner of productivity-sucking distractions. Scheduling regular in-person meet-ups may be sufficient to satisfy the need for a little person-to-person contact and relationship/team building. Working remotely doesn’t mean permanent exile!
Telecommuting isn’t new, of course, however, many companies offer this option as a favor or reward to precious few employees. The fact is, given today’s technology, you can perform almost any task, conduct meetings that include graphics and video and collaborate on projects from any place on Earth with decent web or mobile connectivity.
Now that so many office workers have been forced to do their jobs remotely, a lot of them are finding they’re more productive, less stressed, can manage their time better, saving money on gas and are enjoying a better quality of life. I’m betting that once this crisis is over, bosses should be ready to field a ton of requests to keep working from home, or Starbucks at least most of the time, and it’s about time more office inmates had that option.
Of course…some folks love going to the office to either get away from the house for awhile or just to be with other adults or for the free coffee or whatever. That’s great if it works for you. Here’s hoping businesses that did not previously offer the option of telecommuting will see positive outcomes during this time and make it more available to appreciative employees.
2-Car dealers that rely so much on showroom foot traffic have been forced to rethink its importance as we practice social distancing to help kill off the spread of coronavirus. Who doesn’t dread spending 2,3,4 hours at a dealership from the time you choose your new ride to sitting at the sales person’s little desk, haggling over the price, then pivoting to the finance person’s star chamber where they try to foist extended warrantees, safety and security plans or a dizzying number of finance options. My wife and I excel at this process. We walk in and tell the person, “we’ll make it easy on you. No to everything.” The last guy we did that too just sagged his shoulders while he surrendered saying, “it’s just not gonna be my day.” That was some time into our third or fourth hour.
But now dealers have learned that online vehicle marketplaces are catering to exactly what many consumers want. Do it all online, quickly. To deal with the need to socially distance, a lot of brick and mortar dealers are offering home or office vehicle deliveries, online document signing and even virtual test drives where a “concierge” will give you a tour of the vehicle via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc. My friends at DriveShift.comwill even have the concierge start the engine so the customer can give it a listen. It’s true, nothing beats a physical test drive and the chance to literally kick the tires, but for some customers, expediency carries the day.
Yes, many dealers have had a long time online presence but not all have made it possible to complete the entire process without a showroom visit. As George Augustaitis, one of my trusted sources of prescient auto industry analysis at CarGurus.com told me the other day for my Forbes.com story, “To me, dealers should be thinking about relationship building, where if you’re online and you have a staff that can answer emails, text messages. I think a lot of this is about producing content. People can watch at home, answering questions online. When people feel like they’re ready to buy their car they’re going to reflect upon the fact that over these many weeks the dealer is always answering my questions, sending me videos, doing these things so I can do my research.”
So that’s just one example. The pandemic has spurred scores of other businesses that have never been involved in e-commerce to jump in and are offering the convenience of remote ordering and delivery which are especially helpful for shut-ins, disabled folks and others who are just really busy or don’t have personal transportation.
3-The whole concept of “social distancing” is one we should have been practicing to some extent anyway. Giving others some space–enough space so whatever nasty stuff is in your cough or sneeze is deprived a landing pad on someone else’s epidermis, is not only smart, but considerate. Honestly, I hate it when I’m in line at the supermarket checkout and the person behind me insists on getting close enough to read the fine print on the booze bottles in my cart to the point where they comment, “Oh yeah..Makers Mark..love the stuff. Just had it for breakfast!” Back off! That’s my lunch you’re talking about..achoo! Got ya.
4-Much of the world has given up on using cash for even the smallest transactions and because of the danger of touching bills that may have been handled by hundreds or thousands of others, the use of credit and debit cards for in-person purchases has increased. That way, you’re the only one who has to handle your method of payment. For those of us codgers who still carry folding money and change, that’s something going into the memory bank as we make the transition. I was dragging my feet. The virus helped me pick up the pace. Perhaps it will do the same for the more of us who still like the feel of cold cash but not the bacterial loot it harbors.
5-This final one is probably the most important. I see more concern between human beings about each other’s welfare. Not just friends and family, but co-workers, acquaintances, even those with whom you have casual contact asking how we’re feeling, and parting with the words, “be safe,” or “stay safe.” I see a degree of unselfishness that’s so heartening. If you browse posts on the Nextdoor app, you will see quite a number of posts where folks volunteer to go to the store, do a little yard work or perform other errands and services for those in tough spots…for free, in many cases. We’ve gotta keep this going even after the worst is over.
So those are just a very few examples of how this terrible time we’re in right now has kickstarted some positive actions and behaviors that should have been in wider practice all along. I bet you can think of others. I’d love to hear about them.