Ten Good Things That 2020 Left Behind
Since Roman times, leap years have had a bad reputation. I don't know whether this “leap year, sinister year” stuff is true, but it is perfectly applicable to 2020. We all want to see it off as soon as possible because of the human, social and economic misfortunes that the coronavirus pandemic has brought about.
By nature, even when things get very complicated, I'm one of those who needs to stay positive and see the glass half full. So, despite all the bad things that 2020 has caused, I would like to share ten good, non-transient things from this year that are here to stay. Let’s begin.
1. It has forced us to stop and think
To some it may seem irrelevant, but it’s not. The speed that the world demands from us today—further accelerated by technology—has us running all day long, and we can’t stop to think about the truly important things in life. The pandemic locked us in our homes and stopped us in our tracks. It gave us what modern life normally takes away: time. Time to think and to truly share with our own, our family and our loved ones. Time that has led many to rethink their priorities and true aspirations. Who hasn't thought about it? Now, whether we have the courage to apply and maintain over time the changes dictated by our hearts and minds is another matter.
2. Collective environmental awareness has been awakened
The pandemic has awakened our environmental awareness. It forced into lockdown for months and showed us what the world was like without man-made pollution, letting us see from a distance places and areas that had been hidden from our eyes by mists of pollution. And it has posed a question that, at the very least, has forced us to think: to what extent do the current and future pandemics stem from the consequences of climate change, from the loss of biodiversity that it generates? We can guess the answer without really knowing it, although scientists have no doubts. Do you?
3. It has enlightened our social conscience
Misfortune makes men brothers, said—not without some regret—the Spanish playwright Benito Pérez Galdós. And it's true. In misfortune, in a vulnerable situation like the one we are living, it is easier to connect honestly with others. The instinct of helping others, of not leaving them alone, of collaborating, is awakened... the social conscience is awakened, so as not to leave the weakest behind. This is what governments are pursuing through aid for groups at greater risk of exclusion and to help companies endure. This is what many companies are looking for, focusing on helping the community in one way or another. And what the people who donate their time or money to help the weakest are after.
4. Digitization puts the pedal to the metal
In 2020, digitization has advanced more than in the previous five years combined. Many companies and businesses have equipped themselves with the necessary means to allow their staff to work remotely and have adopted online sales systems that they either did not have before or had not rolled out as they have now. Investments in technology have skyrocketed. Consulting firm IDC estimates that by 2023, an additional US$6.8 billion will be invested worldwide and that by 2022, 65% of global GDP will be digital. Technologies such as the Cloud, process automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence will concentrate a good part of the investments. There are no specific data for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), but it is clear that the digital transformation is key to boosting recovery in the region, according to an ECLAC report.
5. Work is no longer linked to a physical space
The pandemic has shattered all the conventions of those who until now have advocated for in-person work. The mass teleworking forced by confinement has revealed that productivity does not suffer from working from home but can be even higher. Work is no longer linked to a specific physical space, but rather to connectivity. This, which seems so simple, is a total revolution because it opens the door for employees to be anywhere in the world (if they are connected) and not necessarily all on staff. Undoubtedly, the gig economy (of temporary and/or part-time jobs) will flourish in the coming years. Now, more than before, we must seek formulas to achieve work-life balance as well as the right to disconnect.
6. A new, more humane and transparent leadership has emerged
The dispersion and different types of employees described in the previous point will demand relevant changes in how human resources are managed. In form, but also in substance, by accelerating one of the trends that was already among us: we need a more humane, transparent, and collaborative leadership. Leadership based on values, on a purpose that involves contributing in some way to the community, creating inclusive and sustainable wealth. Putting people at the center is the only formula that guarantees business continuity and commitment to talent. Such is the importance of human labor that some have already renamed ESG—an acronym for Environmental, Social and Governance —by adding another vowel, the "E", for employee.
7. Collaboration to find solutions
The world has such a degree of interconnectedness that anything that happens at any node on the global grid quickly moves to the rest. And when that happens, individual or partial solutions are useless. Global problems require global solutions. But local problems also require global solutions. COVID-19 has made it clear that either we get through it together or we don't make it at all. This necessary collaboration extends to all levels: from the individual to the business professional. During the crisis, companies knew how important it was to help their suppliers and partners in order to preserve their own survival as a company. Gone are the years when every company went to war on its own. Today, many have developed an ecosystem of partners and allies among whom there is even room for competition.
8. Creativity in its purest form
They say that crises are what allow us to advance and progress the most, both as individuals and society as a whole. The truth is that the pandemic has forced many companies and individuals to reinvent themselves by tapping into their greatest creativity. We have seen groups of fruit sellers who have launched their own sales channel through WhatsApp; businesses that have turned themselves inside out like a sock and started making masks and protective healthcare equipment when there were none; car factories that have started making respirators; competing bookstores that have joined together in an online sales channel to stand up to Amazon and its counterpart in LAC: Mercado Libre. Creativity, of which Latinos seem to have special doses, is emerging strongly from all corners. This is very good news that will make our future easier if there is truth in the fact that creativity is not spent; the more you use, the more you have.
9. We are more aware of well-being
The pandemic has also taught us that we must take care of ourselves, our minds, and our bodies. Eating healthy, exercising, taking time to relax, to love ourselves and to love others. This awareness of self-care will have a direct impact on some business sectors such as food—fast food is already incorporating healthier menus—and sugary drinks, with new regulations to make them more expensive, as with tobacco and alcohol, to name a few. This greater awareness of well-being, which leads to conscious consumerism, will indirectly affect many other sectors which, in the long run, will have to adjust to what is now only a seed: the circular economy. As opposed to the old concept of buying, using, and throwing away, the concept of a circular economy requires that the entire circuit of the value chain be considered from the beginning: from the use of materials, the design of the product, the method and model of production, energy consumption, and the model of consumption and distribution, repair, and reuse so that it returns to the circuit of the productive process and closes the circle.
10. We rethink cities to live differently
The post-COVID-19 world will be different, and cities will have to implement changes to adapt. Many cities are already doing this, e.g. by adopting more bike lanes, green, and pedestrian areas. If the concepts of work, leisure, and personal relationships will be different, it is necessary to provide physical spaces in the cities for these needs, adopting a more social perspective, bringing services closer to the areas of residence, limiting obligatory trips to a minimum and taking sustainability into account. We must also consider the change in consumer habits: perhaps not all stores that have closed in flagship centers will reopen after the crisis... if consumers increasingly buy online. If banks close offices because they are not profitable, many businesses will have to consider the actual profitability of these street-level locations. Before now, it was clear to cities that they had to be greener and smarter. Now, much more than ever, they must include another adjective: inclusive.
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