Some humble predictions for life after COVID-19

I’ve never done this – make predictions. I’m not a futurist or a sociologist or an economist, so take it for what you will. And some of these are less predictions than they are curiosities – things that I think might be possible.

  1. I believe this will put a new emphasis on financial conservatism in our households and our businesses. My wife and I have cash in savings. We are in a tiny minority. I can only imagine how terrifying it is to have a small or nonexistent source of money right now. I think people won’t want to ever be in that position again, so those who can afford to stop shopping and pay themselves first will have more reason than ever before to do so. And in our businesses, that positive cash flow that we wish we could “put to work” will look pretty good sitting there doing nothing.
  2. I wonder if this will inflame the debate on a single-payer health system in our country. Probably. The flaws – and possibly the strengths of our current system will come under far greater scrutiny than ever before.
  3. I think the supply chain for many products will change. There will be less trust in our ability to source products on short notice from anywhere on the globe. Products will still have to move, but perhaps in different ways, probably with a more local focus.
  4. The very nature of business planning, which is already under transformation, will also change. The move towards more agile and responsive planning processes has been underway but will undoubtedly accelerate. There can be no argument for going back to a method of planning that doesn’t allow us to re-jigger the plan on a moment’s notice based on unforeseen changes in the external environment.
  5. Now that many of us are getting a crash course in working from home, the momentum towards that model of distributed workforces will also strengthen. I think many companies will find this model works just fine, and others will decide it works well to some higher degree than they had envisioned. And along with the annoyances that come from working from home, I think the idea of leaving one’s car in the garage, saving commuting time and stress, and eliminating the expenses related to traveling every day to one’s job will be seen as positives that people won’t want to give up. And coffee shops and co-working spaces may find new ways to support people who want to work close to home, even if not at home.
  6. I wonder what the impacts will be from a technological perspective. If I were a betting man, I’d say that big tech will come out even further ahead, as people find more and more ways to make their homes connected, safe, and “independent” from the rest of the world. Me? I’m spending less time on the internet than before, but I doubt that’s a trend in society overall.
  7. The non-profit arts community will suffer tragically. I have to add this because I am the Board President of a Classical music non-profit here in Seattle. Serious musicians in our society (and visual artists, dancers, and creators of all sorts) have had to tightrope without a net in America all along. If we are in for an extended period of economic decline, or even slow growth, I fear that private support for the arts will be reduced.
  8. The earth will breathe a sigh of relief, if even only for a few short months. As we have reduced our daily activities, we’ve unwillingly given a brief break to the planet. Maybe as we recover from this nightmare, we will have found ways to get the important things done without having to burn so much fuel.

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Sarah Thomson

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