The Opportunity That Abounds Because of COVID-19

There’s no point in trying to sugarcoat it. Our economy will take a massive knock from all of this and, worse still, many South Africans may lose their lives. But in amongst all the heartache, there are some positives. Not least the opportunity to rethink the way we are living our lives, running our businesses and managing our country…

As the economy grinds abruptly to a halt and the threat of an unprecedented public health crisis looms large, it’s all too easy to lose hope. But hitting ‘pause’ on pretty much the entire planet does also present us with some unique opportunities…

It gives us the opportunity to rethink the climate crisis

In amongst all the doom and gloom, there have been quite a few good news stories about drastic improvements in air quality in China during the lockdown and the fact that Venice’s canals are running clear for the first time since WWII. The massive reductions in power generation, aviation and industry output have provided a short-term shot in the arm for the environment, but if we’re not careful, it will be business as usual as soon as the crisis is over.

Now is our chance to embrace green energy (As if Eskom didn’t have enough incentive already), to think about how much we travel (Do I really need to fly to Joburg for one meeting?), and generally reflect on what we could be doing to reduce our carbon footprint.

It gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our loved ones

The rapid pace of modern life means we spend very little time together as families. Parents dedicate most of their waking hours to work and children and grandparents have pretty full schedules too. This even spills over into our holidays as we try to find ways to fill the time, rushing around to ensure that we maximise our opportunities for enjoyment.

While many parents with young kids are (rightfully) a bit worried about the prospect of spending three weeks with only their offspring for company, this is also an incredible opportunity to simply be there for your little ones. If you’re in a different phase of your life, the lockdown may prevent you from seeing your parents/kids/grandkids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them. Take advantage of all the extra time to pick up the phone and actually have a proper chat…

It gives us the opportunity to change the way we work

Despite the incredible advances in technology which means that many of us could easily work from home at least a few days a week, loads of businesses (and some employees) have resisted the urge to change the way they work – often citing productivity concerns as the major obstacle. Being forced to allow employees to work from home during the crisis will show businesses which employees and/or roles lend themselves to this kind of arrangement. Having staff work from home can save businesses huge amounts of money in rent and other overheads, and it can also boost employee satisfaction tremendously.

The crisis will also give businesses a chance to trial some of the incredible software that cutting-edge businesses use to eliminate geographical distance between colleagues. Once the bosses have seen how easy it is to bring people together via programs like Slack, Teams and Zoom they will surely rethink how much they spend on flights every month…

It gives us the opportunity to reconfigure our economy

Patrick Cairns has already written some excellent articles (see here and here) on this topic so I won’t go into too much detail. While Cairns is in no doubt that the coronavirus shutdown will trigger a recession, he does also think that it may force the government into taking decisive action where they would otherwise have dragged their heels. SAA will surely not survive the meltdown, and there is also a real opportunity for ESKOM to get its house in order. He is even hopeful that the crisis will force the government to overhaul our crippled healthcare system. The short-term pain will almost certainly be real, but the coronavirus crisis might just mean that we’re all able to look forward to a brighter long-term future.

But wait, there’s more

Last but not least, the crisis has certainly brought all South Africans together as we rally against a common foe. When the lockdown is lifted and normal life returns, let’s not forget that the fight has only just begun and we can only win it if we all work together. Stay safe, we’ll catch you on the flipside…

Related: 5 Critical COVID Crisis Communication Steps