Considerations and Implications of Returning to a New Normal

“We sense that ‘normal’ isn’t coming back, that we are being born into a new normal: a new kind of society, a new relationship to the earth, a new experience of being human.” -Charles Eisenstein

What does normal look like post-COVID-19? All of us are going to discover the short-term and long-term impacts of the Coronavirus and the national and international measures used to deal with it.

Making decisions during stressful times

In prolonged crises, we can persevere, allowing us to develop character and thus driven by the discipline necessary to advance, or we can let the pressure drive an emotional reaction leading us to fear the worst. People have experienced both extremes and everything in between. How well people emerge from crises depends on how the difficulties are perceived and processed.

Informed choices will guide us to a disciplined response enabling us to work through the difficulties ahead. Emotional reactions can compel us to make uninformed decisions that can heighten the stress levels we may already be dealing with as we prepare to return to a new normal, post-COVID-19*.

The emotional and physical impact of prolonged stress

Susan Pease Banitt says, “PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.”  

Consider the fact that you and your people returning to work will not be doing business as usual. We have all been changed to some degree by our experience with COVID-19, and all that comes with it. For many, experiencing certain levels of prolonged stress, the impact is felt both emotionally and physically and will take time to recover.  

The American Psychological Association states, “Chronic stress, experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time, can result in a long-term drain on the body. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes a wear-and-tear on the body. It’s not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic.” (1)

“A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon (2)

Prolonged emotional stress invites certain levels of anxiety; continued stress can hamper our ability to make informed decisions. The onset of depression is not an uncommon experience amid prolonged stress. The presence of mood swings though not unusual can be a challenge. Some studies show a possible connection between various stress levels and depression.

Business leaders need to be aware that the people returning to work may not necessarily be the same people who left us several months ago. Inviting some health care professionals to visit for some Q&A with your staff may be a good idea. Most, if not all, have lost either friends, family, relatives, or know someone who has. We must consider that while navigating our way to a new normal.

Considering the new normal

“The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.” – George Bernard Shaw

Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singhal provide some food for thought in their piece, “Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal.” “What will it take to navigate this crisis now that our traditional metrics and assumptions have been rendered irrelevant?

More simply put, it’s our turn to answer a question that many of us once asked of our grandparents: What did you do during the war? Our answer is a call to act across five stages, leading from the crisis of today to the next normal that will emerge after the battle against Coronavirus has been won: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform. 

Resolve

Address the immediate challenges COVID-19 presents to institutions, workforce, customers, technology, and business partners.

Resilience

Address near-term cash-management challenges and broader resiliency issues during virus-related shutdowns and economic knock-on effects.

Return

Create a detailed plan to return business to scale quickly as COVID-19 evolves and knock-on effects become clearer.

Reimagination

Reimagine the next normal, what a discontinuous shift looks like, and implications for how institutions should reinvent.

Reform

Be clear about how regulatory and competitive environments in industry may shift.” (3)

Saying we’re all in this together, we’ll get through it together may sound cliché, it is true none the less. Together we will be creating a new normal.

“What is now proved, was once only imagined.” – William Blake

 

* By “post COVID-19” I’m referring to the recovery that can last two years or more.

(1) American Psychological Association https://bit.ly/3ft3jvv

(2) Web M.D. https://wb.md/3dt2EbQ

(3) McKinsey & Company COVID-19: Implications for business https://mck.co/3dnsU7a

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