No need to mention that these days we have faced one of the most unexpected and extraordinary challenges in modern history. People of the 21st century, who were so obsessed with staying online as much as possible, now are crying the rivers of complaints, and have already missed their annoying working places, old friends, and favorite cafes. Coronavirus pandemic has not only taken thousands of lives but also has caused many changes in our viewpoints, edited our behavior, and brought new values, or simply let us notice them. Our languages have developed some sort of neologisms, as the English language has got such new an innovative word as covidiot. Even world-famous brands have got new logos and covidentities. The business has changed tremendously, and we are chaotically trying to maintain our positions and find new opportunities.
Every country, city, industry, and the market reacted to the pandemic and social isolation differently. Some companies decided to produce respirators and surgical masks instead of clothes, others started to produce ventilators instead of space ships. Our plans, habits, and lifestyle have changed, and the world, perhaps, won`t ever be the same.
Being almost the last country to take the quarantine measurements, Spain has become one of the first countries in means of mortality rate due to the pandemic of COVID-19. And in my opinion, except for some incorrect government decisions, the main reason for the high infection rate lays in the Spanish culture. Now singing “Resistere” from their balconies and social media profiles, a month ago they would strongly resist getting things serious. Though the first cases of infection were reported at the beginning of March, here in Valencia, the football team would go for the match to Milan, and as a result, according to some sources, bring the virus to their domestic fans. People here, at first, would resist changing many things in their lifestyle: hanging out with a friend in restaurants, eating out in traditional (not very hygienic) street cafes, going to the seaside on weekends, celebrating traditional holidays in the crowd, organizing outdoor festivals, and even not taking off shoes as they come inside their homes. Spanish people are very emotional, and everybody knows how important for them are gestures, handshakes, and hugs. It may sound strange, but many experts blame these habits for such a high speed in transmitting the infection. So, neither the government nor the people took the pandemic seriously at first, and all the chat groups were full of jokes and memes.
The other thing I’d like to mention is that the average life expectancy in Spain is quite high, so in combination with the above-mentioned factors, the outbreak of the virus targeted the elderly, and unfortunately, it has gone too far. Hospitals can hardly cope with the number of patients, and a high lethality even turned the skating halls into the mortuaries.
In the beginning, emotionality and inconsistency may be seen everywhere: police penalizing people for going out to buy single not very necessary goods, people refusing to wear masks, and of course, some toilet paper fights in supermarkets. But as many people say, the pandemic will change a lot of things in our lives, but I’m convinced that the first thing that is changing now in Spain is not even economy or political situation, it is culture and traditional lifestyle.
Many people whose fields of activity had nothing to do with online technologies, faced the necessity to start working remotely, use different messengers and online conference applications to keep in touch with their colleagues and get everyday tasks done. Some have found it interesting, engaging and even funny, but many others developed constant depression and got exhausted by the lack of time management skills, and ability to focus on their jobs instead of watching movies, snacking or playing video games. The majority of motivational speakers and personal development coaches, whose sessions used to cost thousands of dollars, started sharing their “priceless” information for free. I would say that in these cases the audience got a great chance to see whose advice and techniques are worth their attention, and who just overestimate their professionalism by sponsored adds and SEO techniques.
Due to the quarantine many employees in my country started working remotely, got many new duties and have to be 24/7 online.
If to think about remote work out of quarantine and social isolation context, it’s a good opportunity for people who like or have to travel a lot, those who want to spend more time at home and with their family. In general, 21st century made it easy to be a digital nomad or freelancer, and do your job without thinking about office routine and commuting.
On the contrary, working remotely can affect a person’s lifestyle and have negative impact on our health. When we work from home it’s quite difficult to keep the work/leisure balance. You either work too much or hardly cope with your time management. The same is about diet. Form my own experience, the first thing that suffers is a water balance in our body. Some people may simply forget to drink water during the whole day. Otherwise we may drink too much water, and in addition to the lack of movement after a month or two it will bring some negative impact on our health too. The other issue which is really important for me is a possibility to communicate live, see each other, enjoy sharing your vibes and energy, and simply observe the facial expressions and body language of your counterpart.
Nowadays people got used to texting each other instead of calling. When you start working online you may face a kind of modern form of loneliness, feel the total emotional isolation. That’s why I try to send messages not very frequently, I call my colleagues instead. You may object my approach telling that it might be more exhausting at the end of the day, but I think that in such way I help myself and my colleagues survive this enforced isolation.
Some jobs are more or less flexible to be done online, but the others are either complex or consist of tasks that are hard to perform remotely. Some companies have been struggling for decades to make their operational algorithms more agile, the others have recently found out how important are CRM and other managerial systems for optimizing time and cost of routine processes.
Petrochemical industry the same as gas, oil, and the chemical is quite specific, and if we consider a big plant, it`s approximately impossible to make all the employees work from home. For example, operational unit employees must be stick at their working places, control all the processes at the site, check the board, and collect data. The same is about maintenance and repair departments, which must be always alert in case of the power cut, fire or explosion. The technical services department can control the operational status of the factory only by staying at the site. The same is about the laboratory, which must constantly take samples of the products and check whether the products meet all the necessary standards. The majority of engineers and designers cannot perform their functions remotely, and that makes the petrochemical industry hard to adapt to the new challenges.
The managers of departments at our plant have recently started working from home. Fortunately, at big pants in our industry, there`s always a strong automation system for the cases of such unpredicted situations and several employees, who are mostly involved in decision making than in direct production, can work online under the condition that they are always provided with the correct data from the site. Although, in the emergency situation, heads of the departments must be also present at the plant in order to control the situation and make decisions immediately. Under normal conditions, all the operational decisions about the purchase of spare parts, trade operations and so on, online conferences can be enough.
If to consider the quality of work online and offline in our industry, I would say that even in the case of proper time management, automation and data availability, working remotely always lacks speed and order. For sure, staying at home, our engineers also may find it difficult to detach themselves from all the distractions, but I believe they CAN do it! It is a bit hard to maintain performance rate and quality. But the new challenges that occurred these days due to the virus show that technical facilities matter, but human resources have a crucial role and value for our industry. So, to protect our people, it was decided to minimize the risk of infection, and we made all the employees, whose presence in the operation cycle can be ensured online, stay at home. I believe, even despite the difficulties we may face, it is the right decision.
Living in Atlanta, Ga, USA I have been working for the biggest Technology store in the world, Best Buy as a Smart Home Expert Consultant, which most of my duties involve contacting clients in person, creating and mapping out a smart home solution for what they need for their home. It is a job that needs to be face to face, so customers can understand the complexity of the products that we sell and how they work. COVID-19 has impacted lots of families, friends and even jobs within this state, reducing face to face contact with social distancing and closing bars, schools, and even some banks. As a tech store, we are still essential to the community, as we provide our customers with what they need to be able to work from homes, such as laptops, printers, and even cellphones. For some clients, it still hard to reach us, especially my smart home clients, as Best Buy has changed the way they operate. Instead of being face to face, everything has to be done over the phone, and the store is only open so you can order the products and for us to be able to ship them to the customers. Unfortunately, some of our resources have been shut, meaning either we have low inventory, or we can’t get the products on time.
As my job as a smart home consultant becomes a bit harder in these times. Being able to reach out to my clients is near to impossible, as I am not able to send out my team to help my clients get what they need immediately. The company is helping its team and customers to get what they need on time. The main priority is that all of their employees are staying safe, and are ready to come back within a short time when they actually open. I am hopeful that this situation will pass and things will get better, not possibly to its normal state because that would mean everything will go back to the way it was, but in these circumstances, time will tell. Most of us have to get used to the online world now, businesses such as eBay and Amazon have the highest gross rate at the moment because that can provide customers with what they need in a short time. Mentally, it is a situation hurting most people within this state but even so, I hope we will come back stronger and more powerful than we started.
The field of education has always been one of the most flexible fields, and the majority of new technologies are applied daily to make the process of studying and learning easier. Many schools and universities all over the world provide educational services online. But the COVID-19 pandemic made all the educational establishments move online. Nobody has ever thought how strong may be the impact of time zone differences on the quality of education. Before the outbreak of the virus, and the necessity to lock down all the schools, colleges and so one, students from different origin would attend the same classes at the same universities, but now many of them have had no choice, but go back to their countries, and spend the quarantine at their homes. So, now to keep up to date with their universities, classmates have their classes simultaneously, but being in different time zones. So the classes at Harvard that take place in the morning for students from Canada are in the middle of the night for students from South Korea.
I can tell about going online, based on personal experience and observations. At first, we were struck by the confusion of both the government and my university. The world trends were causing different concerns as the epidemiological situation started to change. A bit later, I could easily answer all the trivial questions about how to get on with the changes. But I’m sure that many things could have been easily predicted and planned beforehand. There were some outbreaks of panic and confusion everywhere. Although, for me, all necessary measures for the systematic migration online were absolutely clear. My faculty coped with the transition to distance learning in less than a week. I was really lucky not to have a painful adaptation period thanks to the flexibility of our dean’s office and all the teachers. But the other faculties, according to my friends’ information, at first would only send material for self-study.
By the second week of quarantine, the system of lectures, homework, deadlines, and organizational issues had completely stabilized. We were personally approached by the administration of the KBS to improve and optimize the learning process. In general, though the transition was very sharp, thanks to the promptness and involvement of the teachers, it was quite fast and painless for students. We have our classes in the form of video conferencing via Cisco Webex. We can also send personal messages if we do not understand something. Our teachers always answer all the questions immediately.
Personally, for me learning online is more difficult than the classic offline attendance, as I’m at home and constantly relaxed. Inside the university walls, I am more focused and ready to work, than lying on the sofa at home. The main problem of distance learning is that we are often too lazy to do something, we constantly put off the tasks for later, and do everything except studying. The majority of my friends also faced the same problem. We are strongly influenced by the lack of face to face communication and personal contact. Many have become depressed. For me, the reason is very simple: at home, we used to rest, not work (at least most of us). Though, there are quite a lot of advantages to such a change in lifestyle. For example, we do not waste time on public transportation and commuting, we can afford to sleep longer, we are more comfortable cooking at home, saving money as we don’t eat out. In general, I think that moving online was an irreversible process that has been reinforced by external factors. We just have to adapt to the changing world to remain competitive in our fields of activity.
And in the end, I’d like to share my optimism and positive vibes with everyone, because only this way we will survive and stay stronger.
When our school moved to work online, the necessity of coping with technical equipment caused a little shock. For myself, I noticed some difficulties on three different levels: physical, emotional, and, as I mentioned, technical. Physically it was a bit hard because my eyes would get tired during the first week. Emotionally, I was uncertain whether I would meet all the needs of my students, and the process of sharing knowledge and skills online would have the same quality as it had had before under ordinary conditions. How to manage all the aspects of learning in the new presentation? How to make everybody feel comfortable interacting and talk? And I simply was worried about the internet connection, and how I could fix the situation if the connection was lost. So these were my main concerns.
Fortunately, as soon as we started working online, I realized that technical issues were not as scary as I had thought. Moreover, the listening skills training was much more productive than it used to be during the offline lessons. And online lessons gave students an incredible sense of timing and equality to express themselves.
But the main conclusion about moving online is about the role of flexibility. Because when you have to change the working conditions due to the new circumstances, it is time to show who’s really ready for the change and progress, who is eager to search for new opportunities and compromise. Flexibility, that is more about adaptation, is the key value of modern times.
New challenges make me feel thankful to those who are looking for new ways to grow and move forward, and admiration to those who always choose the different road.
Living online is not science fiction, and what was depicted in the plot of Surrogates movie in 2009 risks to become the everyday routine for 2020 and further years. We have talked a lot about moving online from offline, but many of us still fear to open accounts in virtual banks, using mobile applications for money transfers, and letting search engines form our tastes in fashion and entertainment. What are the main concerns about leaving the offline world behind?
It’s hard to say that China had to bring their routine online, as far as our life has moved online far before the COVID-19 pandemic. China nowadays might be one of the countries with the highest Internet dependence rate. Home Wi-Fi and mobile internet are the key components in all the fields of modern life. The Internet has brought a lot of advantages to our work, leisure, and communication. In China, almost everything is tied to the Internet and mobile applications: food delivery, work hours calculation, money transfers, and payrolls.
With the development of blockchain and cloud technologies, big data have gained significant importance for all kinds of business and other fields of proficiency. That’s why now in China many jobs and workplaces exist only thanks to Internet technologies. The majority of them are involved in Internet shops and online trade. According to recent researches, more than 20% of the Chinese population work in the field of internet trade and approximately 40% of the monthly costs of families are spent online.
On the other hand, Internet addiction made Chinese people vulnerable to some emergencies, such as power cuts or any kind of natural disasters that can cause connection problems. Imagine, that nearly 78% of all the payments and money transfers are made via mobile applications. So, approximately all the people in Chine don’t usually carry cash in their wallets, and it may leave them absolutely helpless if they fail to have a constant Internet connection. All the branches of everyday life may fail if the connection fails.
Besides, pandemics and social isolation have caused many other concerns about Internet-dependency. Usually, online payments are done with the help of face recognition. In China, such platforms and Alibaba and Tencent, used by 90% of all the population, are constantly collecting large amounts of personal information that is further stored. The government uses face recognition options for security needs, so that any person wanted may be found in about 15 minutes, even if they are in rural or remote areas. And the safety of the above-mentioned data is closely related to the stability of an Internet connection. So, any failure of the Internet may cause personal data leak or even lead to national security issues.
It’s been a long article, containing many ideas and points of view. if you’ve read it to the end, I hope, instead of getting annoyed, you’ve got a strong desire to share your own experience. Trends change quickly, and not to miss this one, leave a comment about the impact of new challenges on your personal, cultural, and professional life. Don’t stay silent and take care!
Lots of love,