Many people talk about new normal generated by Covid-19. I am enclosing my thoughts about what the new normal mean to me. Hope you enjoy the reading, which at the end is food for thought.
The New Normal in Japan Tokyo, June 26, 2020
After ending the state of emergency caused by the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has set up guidelines to bring back normalcy into daily lives of people, businesses and social organizations.
Social distancing has become a new normal in daily life of every citizen in Japan, joined by the customary practice of mask wearing and hand washing. Meanwhile, there is a great hope that a vaccine will be developed in the coming months or within a year to end the coronavirus pandemic and bring relief to people everywhere.
Yet, the situation of COVID-19 varies across the world, with Asia and Europe restarting economic and social activities and controlling outbreaks of coronavirus while the US and Latin America are still struggling to control the spread of the disease.
As for Africa, the spread of COVID-19 has reached every country in the continent, where efforts to control the disease and keeping the countries open go hand in hand, but with very fragile health systems and scarce resources for widespread population testing.
In this context, what is the new normal we have entered in Japan? First, Japanese people will have to keep wearing masks beyond the hay fever and flu season while social distancing measures are now implemented in every public space, from companies, to organizations, schools, gyms, restaurants, bars, etc.
Second, telework has become a new working modality, which must probably will be adopted by many companies after this “trial period” forced by the coronavirus pandemic. It will provide Japanese companies an opportunity to break with a rigid system of management and hopefully will boost a much-needed workers productivity, reducing the need to stay long hours in the workplace and waiting until the boss leaves the office late at night.
For employees, working at home it represents a new challenge as there is not supervisor to directly seek advice or discuss any work-related matter or exchange views, ideas or experiences with other colleagues in the office. Truly, it imposes a greater responsibility and discipline on employees as they have to accomplish a number of tasks during the day without direct supervision. And, many employees will have to perform their tasks while their kids are playing around the house.
Third, virtual meetings and videoconferencing are now a fashionable way to communicate in the government, corporate, academic, cultural, social and any other field, reducing traveling costs and being more efficient in the discussion of concerned issues.
As the CEO of Toyota, Mr. Akio Toyoda clearly explained in an interview in May in the Japan Times: “it’s still important to see things for yourself, but for the right reasons and at the right times. But it’s also becoming clearer that people shouldn’t be traveling all the time just to attend meetings…Underscoring the point, the CEO said he spends 30 percent less time in meetings, and cut related paperwork by a half…Now, I can just get on a video conference without any materials and deal with any issues then and there.”
During the past six months, I have participated in several video conferences related to Covid-19, using the application Zoom, where I could receive first-hand information about the situation of different countries dealing with Covid-19 and also had the opportunity to discuss business-related matters with partners in Latin America. Needless to say, I am quite sure many people also enjoyed several musical concerts online.
Fourth, remote learning is also becoming an important modality in the teaching-learning process in Japan. Although we will continue observing kids attending schools, some Japanese parents will be encouraged to use online tools to provide English language education to their children or any other subject as the ministry of education is lagging behind in foreign language teaching and other key educational issues. And certainly, we will see professionals from different fields, using online tools to upgrade their skills or learn new ones by taking courses online in Harvard or any other prestigious higher education institution outside Japan.
Fifth, online commerce will continue to intensify. Increasingly, more businesses will join or develop their own digital sales platform, which now is dominated by a few giant players. It will be accompanied by the more often use of digital signature, digital payment and even digital verification of the product being bought.
In a nutshell, the new normal we are observing is the acceleration and intensification of digitalization of human activities, complemented by the development of Artificial Intelligence. It means that everybody needs to deepen their knowledge in the language of applications (Zoom, Line, PayPal, etc.) which I call the fourth language, after our mother language, the mathematical language, and the foreign language, in order to avoid becoming an illiterate in the digital world.
Certainly, tomorrow’s citizens will learn and master the language of computers (today only mastered by computer technicians), which will enable them to speak and interact with machines built by ourselves.
Dr. Ritter Diaz, Independent Business and Government Consultant