news

2021

THE VIRUS THAT’S HERE TO STAY

Why the coronavirus pandemic will leave permanent changes to the way we live and work

By Daniel Abrego

Even after you test negative for COVID-19, it can leave some chronic conditions that will require lifelong treatment. A virus is a clever thing, difficult to defeat and changes the way you see things after infection. So, it’s logical to say that the effects of the coronavirus in our lives are somewhat ‘here to stay.’

Yes, a vaccine would be the ideal exit strategy from this crisis. But we must remain cautious that a vaccine will return things back to the world we knew. There is no guarantee a vaccine can come swiftly and be 100% effective, if it will only provide protection for a period of time, if it will only alleviate symptoms or if there will be parents reluctant to vaccinate their children. We only need to look at history to see how permanent changes arose from previous disruptions. Take the SARS outbreak of 2003 which till today is marked by diligent mask wearing and long-term psychological stress on affected populations. Or 9/11 which reshaped the way we travel, airport design and even security in public spaces. Or the 2008 financial crisis which changed the way US citizens buy homes, our feelings towards investment strategies and the way we save.

Instead of panicking or denying the effects of a health or economic crisis, as a born optimist, I believe we can get back to useful and purpose-driven lives through sensible reopening. We can empower our day-to-day lives during a pandemic and this can be a good time for your business. It takes some practical changes which allow us to manage risks (because it is impossible to reverse them) and a change in perspective.

To begin, we must respect the changes in daily life that are there to protect all. For example, strictly following very basic hygiene measures, and increased current safety measures such as thermal scanners and on-the-spot lie detectors at border security points to ascertain travel history. Enable disinfection areas, UV-C disinfection technology and room filtration systems to recurrently recycle filtered air for closed spaces will become more common. Some cities are announcing more pedestrian zones to allow for social distancing and restricting car access during certain hours. And there’s data collection of all the aforementioned. Locating and tracing individuals which can help predict and prevent new outbreaks or provide algorithms to manage the operations of your workplace with a smaller workforce or shifts.

At places of work and congregation, besides regular deep cleaning guidelines, there must be safety and hygiene protocols if an on-site individual tests positive for COVID-19. Desks should be kept clutter free for thorough cleaning or swap out furniture and door handles for antimicrobial synthetic materials to reduce the spread of germs and use special air filters. Elevators can be installed with foot pedals rather than standard buttons and work schedules need to allow fewer people at a time on the floor.

If you are a business owner and you are facing doubt during the pandemic, think back to what motivated you in the first place. Most entrepreneurs will tell you they craved the freedom to create, the excitement of going into work and not knowing what to expect everyday, a way to push their boundaries and break through limited mindsets to reach their potential, flexibility over working hours and the chance to innovate and do things ‘their way.’ Reaffirm these values by recommitting to them.

Opportunities are still around. People’s needs have not gone away, they have just changed and they want alternatives. Now you can turbo-charge your innovative skills and ask yourself, ‘How can I provide something that is essential to people right now? And how can I offer this product or service in a consistent, value-added, back-to-basics and without unnecessary frills manner?’ I can tell you that customer needs are at the core of any business and you must determine what they need now rather than what they needed six months ago.

Embrace the change. This could mean changing your market or audience, or shifting from ‘doing things the way they were always done.’ This crisis requires us to be reactive at a new pace and level. For example, as a services provider, we have seen companies resisting data analytics tools which make sense of inventory, how much to order and how much will be in excess, far more accurately than a human can – especially during these uncertain times. Supply chains have become incredibly complex and only software can handle all this data so that you can make the right decisions for your business. Being averse to such changes and technological transitions harms your company and employees in the long run.

Finally, don’t forget the human touch. Now more than ever, your customer needs you to understand their days are stressed and thinly stretched between childcare, working from home and taking care of relatives. Customers don’t need snappy ads and marketing that they can see through. They want to trust you and know that you will show up. Simple as that. And you’ll see that this doesn’t take huge financial resources, but a personal touch that shows you acknowledge their needs and wants at this time and that you hear them.

Some of us are still stuck in our initial reactions to COVID-19. We must move past, accept the new reality and find ways to thrive creatively, monetarily and on a humanitarian level. We can choose how this pandemic defines us and we are only limited by our own imaginations. We must rediscover our full potential, not only in work but as human beings.

Daniel Abrego is CEO of Intercontinental Logistics Corp. He is an international logistics expert and a business innovator with over 20 years of experience. As a 5PL, his company provides logistics solutions and specializes in intra-hospital logistics as well as pharmaceuticals and medical tools/devices procurement and distribution. Visit www.ilc.com.pa or email tulogistica@ilc.com.pa for more information.