What will be the longterm affect of the pandemic on society?

Hopefully, the worst of the pandemic is behind us and we’ll soon return to normalcy. But what will the new-normal look like? How will the Coronavirus affect us in the longterm? 

I’ve asked eight friends to share their thoughts about how their specific industry will likely be affected (non-profit organizations, small businesses, parenting, local churches, retirement, public education, public transportation, and the U.S. economy).

Non-profit organizations—Rick Crocker, CEO, The Samaritan Inn

Obviously, the Coronavirus has painted with a very wide brushstroke and has played no favorites. The convulsive impact of this pandemic has been felt within the nonprofit sector too—ranging from a disruption of services, a significant drop in contributions, soaring demand for services, increased costs, to the cancellation of crucial fundraising events.

There is no knowing just how long this pandemic will last and it’s still too early to predict all the long-term impact.  Without doubling down on sweeping pronouncements, we can be assured of this pandemic will leave its indelible mark for a long time to come:

1. Sadly, some organizations may become insolvent and not survive.

2. For others, core programs may be virtualized and some service models may include tele-services.

3.  Because revenue streams have been and may continue to be impacted, many will evaluate their sources of revenue and seek to better diversify (relying less on grants or special event revenue).

3.  Some organizations may consider exploring opportunities to align, merge, or join forces with others to continue critical community services.

4.  Grantors (e.g. foundations, corporations) may re-design their grant programs/requirements.

One thing is clear: when this crisis fades away, there still will be a great need within our communities for the marvelous work of all our nonprofits.

Parenting—Priscilla Murphy, musician and mother of two

As I listen to my children pray every night for “the virus to stop spreading so things can go back to normal,” I am struck with the thought that this time in their lives is something they will never forget. It will have a profound effect in both positive and negative ways on their lives, and the lives of millions of other children and families around the world. 

Fear, stress, and anxiety are emotions all of us are experiencing to some degree in this time, and children are no exception. As the future unfolds, it will be important for parents to be aware of the fact that our families have been through a traumatic time, realizing this could very likely have long term physical, mental, and/or emotional effects on us and our children. 

However, I find encouragement in the fact that families are gaining a new perspective of what is important in life.  While they may miss all of their activities, they truly long for human connection. Daily dinners together, family walks, and game nights are forging closer relationships for many people. These close family relationships will be key to overcoming the difficulties that lie ahead.

Local churches—Christopher Cass, executive pastor and lifelong student of leadership

In my conversations with church leaders across the country one thing is abundantly clear: there is no going back to what we once considered normal. In fact, a large denomination recently published a projection that in a single state over 1,000 of their churches will go bankrupt by the end of the year.

In a practical sense I see three things that will likely change in the post Covid-19 era: 

    1. The disparity between large and small churches will increase as virtual small groups, once thought impossible, are now experiencing true community together. Large churches will take advantage of this new strategy to “plant” churches all over the globe. 
    2. I anticipate that many churches over the next 6-12 months will realign their staff away from program directors to relationship developers. Our faith is built through relationships and that has never been clearer.
    3. Sober minded planned abandonment – churches do many things, much of it beautiful, most of it beneficial, and some just because of emotional attachment to the past. My hope is that church leaders would be emboldened in this time to cut vast amounts of beneficial but non-essential/ineffective ministry from their budgets.

Small businesses—Lauren Clarke, founder and CEO of Turn

As a small business owner, these times are certainly scary. For those of us who have survived so far, we daily watch our bank accounts, forecast revenues with uncertainty, and reduce expenses wherever we can. My utmost concern as a leader is for my people, ensuring that my team is paid, safe, and well.

In my opinion, there are two clear benefits to being a small business now, compared to the relative safety and security of a large corporation. First, we can pivot, innovate, and execute much faster than a large ship. We can (and should) change more quickly and easily. Small “non-essential” businesses that have not adjusted to offer new products, or delivery methods will greatly suffer and may not survive. Tom Peters has said, “those who dislike change, are going to like irrelevance even less.” Get used to change and welcome the risk of innovation.

The second clear benefit of being a small business lies in harnessing the power of local community support. Loans and grants from the government cannot be counted on. Your local community and your customers are your best investors. Traditionally speaking, consumers don’t root for or defend ‘big business’ – they love small businesses. Verbalize and broadcast your underdog story and empower others to share it. Get creative in your storytelling and remind your local community why you are important.

U.S. Economy— David Holmes, former managing director at four global investment banks

Frightening unemployment numbers and sweeping uncertainty are roiling our once-robust economy. “Black Swan” shocks, like COVID-19 and an oil glut, distort short-term supply and demand dynamics and temporarily dislocate longer-term economic fundamentals. But, good signs are visible.

The economy remains structurally sound as underlying innovative business models are awaiting restoration, while others challenged by forced telecommuting discover new efficiencies. Decades-long gains in non-manufacturing productivity point to a robust post-virus rebound, and lately positive interplays between stock prices and bond yields, a tested information tool to gauge forward sentiment, are hopeful. Penned-up consumers are poised to launch a massive spending wave. Meanwhile, inflation remains abated (momentarily ignoring torrential government monetary and fiscal initiatives), and interest rates remain low. Oil spot-prices are a mixed story, but longer-dated futures contracts appear more rational, and low gas prices will spur faster re-growth. Expect serious China-trade implications to catalyze the repatriation of key manufacturing jobs. Finally, the run-up in national debt must be confronted eventually – but thankfully the government is borrowing money and buying oil at historically huge discounts. 

American entrepreneurship, innovation, productivity, and spirit will insure that happier times will soon return. 

Public Transportation—Robert Horton, sustainability executive in aviation

Transportation Impacts – mid pandemic

      • Transportation systems played a pivotal role in accelerating the spread of COVID-19 around the world.
      • Current mindset of passengers reveals extreme uncertainty and mistrust combined with an unwillingness to travel.
      • Passengers and employees are highly conscious about environmental conditions and travel disruptions are tolerated.
      • Social distancing is desired and culturally expected.

Transportation Impacts – post pandemic

      • Restoring trust is key to allowing the world to return to a normal state, but improvements to status quo are expected.
      • Airports must be equipped to screen travelers who are asymptomatic or travelers who have masked, subclinical and undetectable symptoms.
      • As time passes, passengers will still be conscious about environmental conditions and social distancing but less tolerable about inconveniences.
      • For example, following 9/11 passengers tolerated enhanced security screenings to ensure they were “safe” but 19 years later, they become frustrated with long TSA lines.

Public education—Pete Hazzard, district  administrator, Frisco ISD, Texas

True learning cannot take place in isolation. The holistic education of a child goes beyond academic development.  Social-emotional learning is an important part of creating a well-rounded child capable of operating effectively in the 21st century workforce. While COVID-19 has forced educators to create asynchronous systems of remote eLearning in a short amount of time, this system is certainly not the ideal and is not sustainable.

There are certainly tangible benefits to the brief interruption in the educational environment. Educators and administrators have learned to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in new and innovative ways. Technological exploration and creative problem solving has allowed educators to develop new skill sets that will last far beyond the current pandemic. However, technology, which has certainly benefited educators over the last few weeks, can never replace the relational aspect of knowing every student by both name and need.

Certainly, there will be gaps in student learning that will have to be addressed when face to face instruction resumes.  To me, the true beauty lies in the renewed sense of appreciation for teachers and our educational system that has resulted from this brief time away.

Phil Bruce—retired from 30-year career with IBM

Lonely. Retired people as a segment of the population probably suffer more from loneliness than any other. Young singles have their social media. Married couples with kids at home don’t know the meaning of the word. Older, retired folks can be quite isolated by the quarantine, especially single retirees. 

The lucky retired have developed some computer skills and are perhaps active on social media or attend their church or neighborhood groups with Zoom but for many, a trip to the grocery store is the event of the week. In the future, kind friends or relatives should gift a computer and skills to take the edge off lonely.  

For the retired with “underlying health issues” the pandemic is especially frightening. They’ve seen the statistics on the news of whom is dying from the virus. Their isolation could be more permanent than they’d wish. That realization weighs heavily. 

But most retired folks have significant concerns for the world and the economy that their kids and grandkids will face. They probably agree with Dan Patrick, Texas Lieutenant Governor, that personal sacrifices for their grandkids’ benefit are a reasonable trade-off to them. 

What are your thoughts? How will your life and our society be permanently impacted by this crisis?

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