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The Pros of Living through a Coronavirus Crisis

This article continues a special series titled “Creating Resiliency During the COVID-19 Crisis.” 

This series will feature articles, podcasts and additional resources from our Consultants Collective member consultants, advisors and coaches, and others whose experience and expertise includes risk and change management, Asia, China, offshoring, leading distributed global teams, managing crises and internal communications, deploying and managing online collaboration tools that enable people to work together virtually, developing new models, as well as expertise in innovation and design-thinking, work-life integration — and more — all of which uniquely positions Consultants Collective to serve its clients during this time. We hope this series is a valuable resource to you and your organization as you tackle the challenges presented by this global public health crisis. If we can provide additional help and support through our executive consulting, advisory and coaching services, please contact us.

While we may be living through the worst pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish flu pandemic that swept the world during late 1918 in the aftermath of World War I, very little has been written about the “bright side” of our current situation, which we hope will impact us less. 

That is completely understandable, because there is very little to love about a coronavirus crisis. It has already changed our day-to-day lives in nearly unimaginable ways — and with so much at stake, and the fast unraveling of our society-at-large, we may need to survive through very trying times indeed.

But, to take a step back — and to think about the potential bright side to all of this drastic change and pain; most notably, the loss of more than 6,000 people to the virus around the planet as of March 15th.

Here are some trends to take notice of that could be positive developments:

We, as a global people, are being forced to come together

Ironically, we may actually come closer together with other humans, worldwide, even as we are forced to practice social distancing (creating gaps between us of at least four feet) in our local communities. As some of us,  lucky enough to be able to work from home have already discovered in our newly mandated isolations, there’s a new appreciation for the company of our fellow humans. Just not so close-up and personal. 🙂 We are now inventing new ways of engaging and communicating with each other.

And, for the first time in several years — there is suddenly a more global focus on what is happening around the world, and how those events affect the rest of us humans on a planet that we all share. For example, we in the U.S. have learned how to successfully control the outbreak of the virus based on shared lessons from China and South Korea; despite misinformation spread by our own government.

From a macro-economic point of view, it has become utterly undeniable that the trend of isolating ourselves and building barriers makes absolutely no sense in an interconnected and globalized world.

Instead, a vast majority of us have suddenly been given some space to decide what’s really important to us in our personal and professional lives. At least in the “rat race” of modern life on the West Coast of the U.S., and in many other similar urban markets around the world, we all get very little downtime. This unprecedented and massive “pause button” gives us an opportunity to rethink and reinvent ourselves.

Everything is canceled or postponed – maybe even global climate change?

After early complaints about the “cancellation culture” that quickly emerged along with the seriousness of the virus outbreak, and how it would impact all of our lives in a big way, we — as a society — seem to be settling in to a life of no non-essential gatherings and not going outside our homes unless we have to.

From early March 2020, onward, we have quickly moved to cancel or postpone all major U.S. sporting events, the theater — whether we prefer ballet, movies or plays, major trade shows and conferences that bring in millions of dollars to local municipalities and show organizers, winter/spring weddings, concerts and Saint Patrick’s Day (well, except for some young, silly Spring Breakers around the U.S.)

With most of our major outings and entertainment on hold, and a huge drop in those commuting to work or needing to fly on planes, our carbon emissions should begin to take a major dive downward.

As CNN reported this week: “There’s an unlikely beneficiary of coronavirus: The planet.” In China alone, which was Earth’s first country to shutter its factories and clear its streets and highways of commuters, the “average number of ‘good quality air days’ increased by 21.5 percent in February compared to the same month last year. Another big help: China’s consumption of coal plummeted by 36 percent.

By one estimate, China’s reduction in air pollution likely saved more lives, because about nine million deaths per year in the country with the world’s largest population are attributed to poor air quality. Marshall Burke, a Stanford University professor, estimates reduced air pollution in China due to the recent virus’ economic disruption likely saved 20 times more lives compared to virus-related deaths.

The lost art of reading, house parties (a.k.a. kikis) and having the time to create

After working as a journalist, producer, publicist and creative director for two decades, I have sadly not had the time and inclination to read fiction or non-fiction novels that I loved to consume as a youth. By the end of the day, I usually just want to pour myself a cold, tall martini and watch Netflix, honestly.

Yet, I am happy to report that I bought my first new novel in a long time at one of the only book stores left on Haight Street just the other day. It is William Gibson’s Agency — a sharply imagined sequel to The New York Times’  bestselling novel The Peripheral. I was first introduced to his classic novel Neuromancer, another far-future speculation, when I was a student at Syracuse University back in the early 1980s.

Also on tap: my final accomplishment of reading Arthur Rimbaud’s complete works, Armistead Maupins’ Mary Ann in Autumn — a Tales of the City novel, and Susan Sontag’s long essay titled: On Photography. I may also re-read one of my favorite novels in recent memory: André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name.

We are re-discovering the magic of small house parties, or as our gay culture call them: “kikis,” where we can “spill the tea” and be snarky, silly or just let loose — which we could all use a healthy dose of right now. Due to social distancing, we are keeping these social gatherings very small for now; keeping far enough apart and bumping elbows to say both hello and goodbye, just like the Hawaiian word: “Aloha.”

Starting this week, we have begun hosting virtual happy hours with friends and family using Zoom Video, Google Hangouts or Skype. Some online sessions have lasted more than two hours. All you need is a few bottles of wine or your favorite adult beverages, some nibble or snacks and a strong WiFi connection.

Most of all, similar to the book titled Slack that one of my favorite mentors gave to all of her direct reports, it is so refreshing and joyous to have the time and space to be able to be creative again.

Some unexpected business sectors are suddenly thriving

My heart goes out in a big way to the many people who have been severely impacted by this virus crisis — especially those in the restaurant, nightlife, hotel, hospitality or travel industries. With mandatory shutdowns in some of the largest urban markets already in place, and surely more on the way, the economic impact will likely be deep and long-lasting. And, very sadly, many small businesses of all kinds – including old-style movie theaters, non-essential boutique shops, spas and clinics are closing their doors.

My hope is that the government will, in fact, step up and help those most affected by the shutdowns. And, be ready to bail us all out, just like they have in the past with large banks and financial institutions.

While the economic impact will reverberate for months to come, there are some sectors that have actually seen a significant spike in sales and volume — including: e-commerce sites, most notably Amazon, new video conferencing options for more of us working from home than ever, and a boost in traffic and sharing again on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram that have fallen out of favor with consumers due to a distrust of how tech giants are using our data and invading our privacy.

This is an ideal time to learn an entirely new skill set or just get sh*t done!

At the end of the day, no matter what we prefer, it is highly likely that we will be “sheltering in place” for some time. At a minimum, through April, but potentially much longer: moving into the summer. With so much time on our hands, and little distraction — at least for those who have less of a workflow (not doctors or nurses), or an inability to do jobs without being in person — this is a big opportunity.

Have you been wanting to learn a new language, software skill or to spend more time on a hobby you love? Do you want to learn how to samba, or waltz elegantly with your partner across a ballroom? This is an ideal time to learn an entirely new skill, or just get sh*t done around your home. Spring cleaning is upon us: get rid of all the stuff you don’t use, clear out your she-shed, start a summer vegetable garden.

There are so many things we can not focus on due to our daily work schedules and family commitments.

This coronavirus, while quite scary and isolating, is also a fantastic chance to do what you normally can’t — so take advantage of the extra time and space we have before us now, at least for the near-term.

*****

We’d love to hear more from you about the unexpected bright spots you might be experiencing in this historical event that is impacting people around the world during 2020. Please leave your comments.

This is the first installment of a two-part series. Knight’s next article will examine “The Cons of Living through a Coronavirus Crisis” — and what the author will not miss when “this crisis, too, shall pass.” 

Chris Knight

Chris Knight

Chris Knight has worked as a journalist, marketing consultant and brand evangelist in Silicon Valley and San Francisco for 25 years. He’s the co-founder and creative director of Divino Group and Every Media Company.

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