Returning to normal?
Returning to normal?
Disruption coupled with innovation has been the norm since the start of the pandemic. Now, we are experiencing a significant easing of restrictions both locally and abroad, but are things returning to normal?
I travelled to Johannesburg for the first time in two years and felt comfortable with the health and safety protocols at the airport. I expected lengthy delays from screening at checkpoints, but instead I was surprised at the efficiency. Hopefully, the airline industry can ensure the maintenance and/or replacement of ageing plane fleets.
Working remotely has positive and negative connotations in reshaping personal and social life. The negative aspects have been an increased prevalence of mental health and various challenges for general well-being. While social media has been a compensation for some, reports indicate increased rates of depressive disorders. Many studies, meanwhile, have shown that mental health issues can be attributed to greater risk-taking or poor health and safety.
The economy is in complete disarray, with expectations of rising inflation rates, worsening food shortages, and impacted industries, in large part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If food shortages continue, hungry workers may struggle to listen to instructions and concentrate on their jobs, increasing the probability of an accident. For example, a hungry employee working at height or operating plant equipment has the potential to seriously injure themself and/or co-workers. With all of this in mind, everything possible should be done to bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine, or at the very least prevent it from escalating.
The pandemic has also brought about positives though, such as the chance for people to spend quality time with family. General attention to hygiene has improved, and there is now a greater concern for the health of individuals and the community at large. Technology has enabled many employees to work remotely and created massive opportunities, with multinational companies now sourcing skilled employees from across the world. A number of world-class universities are offering online courses to upskill the international workforce, and this format reduces fees and potentially makes access to high-quality learning affordable in developing countries.
We need to be aware of the reality that with any change – whether the mostly negative change at the start of the pandemic, or the positives that have arisen by its end – there will always be some element of anxiety. As employees return to the workplace, there is a necessary component of encouraging and reassuring staff about the health and safety protocols and the care being taken for their mental well-being. This is not a return to the normal world we knew before the pandemic. Rather, we need to embrace constant change as we navigate a course through a “normal” post-pandemic world.