What Will Our Post-Covid Culture Look Like?

April 20, 2021

One of the most frequent questions I’ve been getting over the past month is, “What is this all going to look like when it’s over?” The truth is that the coronavirus pandemic is a very dynamic crisis. We learn new things every week.

Two weeks ago we found out about a new symptom: Covid toes. Last week, we learned about the identification of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) that is associated with Covid-19.

There are new developments in this pandemic every week – not to mention the increasing number of deaths. So, while it is difficult to comment with any certainty about what things will look like when it’s over, here is what we know now.

With every major crisis in human society, there is a culture shift (changes in beliefs, behavioral rules, traditions and rituals). A few examples:

  • Before the 2002 SARS epidemic in China, business culture there was built on trust that required face-to-face contact. Business people had difficulty trusting someone else without looking them in the eye. But all that changed with the 2002 epidemic, which accelerated the establishment and expansion of e-commerce in China. The culture has not shifted back.
  • The events of 9/11 changed global travel. Anyone who traveled before then knows that travel has not been the same since.
  • The 1982 recession changed the employer/employee relationship in the United States. Before that recession, employers would recruit employees with promises like a job for life and a retirement pension. Those promises went away with the recession as companies downsized. Our work culture has never been the same.

Leading into the Future

As leaders, if we want to know what the future will look like, we must always be looking for trends that are likely to stay with us. To do so, I suggest you discuss the following questions with your leadership team on a weekly basis.

What changes are likely to come out of this pandemic …

  • Globally?
  • Nationally?
  • Regionally?
  • Locally?
  • In your industry?

I emphasize that these questions should be revisited weekly because of the fast-changing nature of this pandemic. If you discuss these questions monthly instead of weekly, you are likely to fall behind on emerging trends instead of staying ahead of the curve.

3 Trends Likely to Stick

  • Telehealth: Before this pandemic, insurance companies would not pay for telehealth. That horse has left the barn and is unlikely to return. Why risk an elderly person’s health (or anyone’s, for that matter) when a doctor’s visit can be accomplished effectively using video conferencing?
  • Supply chain: Before the 2009 swine flu pandemic, 3M, maker of the N95 mask, had its primary manufacturing plant for that mask in China. After that epidemic, 3M put a factory on every continent but Antarctica. Many other companies are already questioning the wisdom of having a single source, supplier or location for their materials.
  • Travel: Right now, many companies are saving millions in travel expenses. If people can work from home and perform as well as or better than they did when they were on the road, why would companies return to expenses related to travel?

These are just three trends. There are many more yet to be identified. Work through the questions with your leadership teams. Make it fun! At worst, you will have a fully engaged team. At best, you will be ahead of the next cultural shift and build a culture that will ensure your success well into the future.

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.

Keep cultivating your culture!

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