In their 2005 book, ‘Freakonomics’, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, highlighted several major unintended consequences when changes in one aspect of life impacted on others.
One example, that has been much debated since, is the correlation of the change in abortion laws and the dramatic fall in crime rates two decades later. I was shocked to read that once restrictions were lifted across the USA (in 1973), the number of abortions each year rose to 1.5million, compared with 4million live births. Then, twenty years later, between 1991-2001, crime rates fell by 30%. An uncomfortable coincidence or evidence that allowing millions of unwanted pregnancies, particularly in the poorest communities, led to this significant change in society?
I’ve been thinking about this theory as we’ve moved into the ‘Covid Managed Period’ as I’ve styled the current times, (normal is still some way off I feel). I wonder how many things will have changed in 10-20 years as a consequence of the pandemic that are not so obvious now? I suggest some might be significant.
I’ve selected three that I’ve seen personally.
1. Hybrid working
The vast majority of employed people have now experienced working from home. A study, published in Harvard Business Review (May 2021), highlights a survey of 80,000 people who work for Fujitsu in Japan. Only 15% feel the office is the best place to work. 30% said it’s their home and 55% favoured a mix, a hybrid model.
If replicated across the world this not only causes issues (problems and opportunities) regarding commercial real estate, transportation and other economic factors but has huge significance in respect to social interaction. It also calls into question how people will manage their time and the blur between work and leisure that’s already obscure. Home design, education, entertainment, leisure and much more will all be impacted. On a very human level, what about relationships that will no longer have the pressure-cooker valve of separation for the working day to ease tensions?
One of my nephews, Seth, is extraordinarily bright. 14 A* GCSEs confirm that this isn’t familial bias. Now, in no small part due to Covid, he has no intention of going to university. I wonder how many others of his generation might opt for work or other forms of education instead, having realised that perhaps a degree in the 21st century isn’t worth what it was in their parents’ day?
Even if Seth isn’t typical, I suspect that the way we educate our children, and our adult population for that matter, might be very different in the next decade. Many learning institutions adapted brilliantly and discovered that they could deliver great content digitally at a fraction of the cost and ten times the speed. This option existed before of course, as our brilliant business coach Grant Leboff put it in May last year, “Covid19 has changed nothing……it’s accelerated everything”, the difference is that now we might begin to actively seek out new and better ways of education.
Change is one of just three constants so it isn’t new, but what’s different is that, having been forced upon us, our attitude to it has changed. Rather than being fearful or favouring a ‘wait and see’ approach, we now have firsthand experience of implementing significant changes at rapid speed. On every level; personal, family, local community, nationally and internationally, the speed of change has been turbocharged in the last year. It still gives many concern, but a significant number of people have come to realise, as Casper Berry, another of our business coaches put it, “The line of unacceptability is a long way from the comfort zone – most people don’t realise it though.”
When you think about it, everything you’ve ever done of significance has happened outside your comfort zone. A new job, moving home, forming a relationship, starting a business, pursuing an initiative, championing a cause – all of these and many more, happen when you decide to give up the status quo and make a change. In the last year, just about every one of us has had our normality affected to some degree or another. There are many changes that are obvious but I suspect that, unless we properly consider the possibilities, the future, consequential changes from this period, will be even more profound.
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