• Bruce Malcom

The Rainbow Over The Current Pandemic … Good Things to be found in the COVID-19 Storm Cloud

There isn’t much about the  coronavirus pandemic that one could call positive. The news from  around the world can get quite grim at times, what with people getting sick and dying, schools closing, the healthcare workers become stressed and people losing their jobs -  plus lots of  organizations suffering financial challenges and stock markets crashing. And for those in municipal work, whether you are “directly in the line of fire” or not, Covid-19 is putting pressure on you, shaking up our inner self, triggering fears and making many aspects of life uncertain.

No matter how grave and gloomy all of this COVID stuff gets, there are reasons to be hopeful … as the Judy Garland song from The Wizard of Oz SUGGESTS there is a better place out there somewhere -  “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”  

As the saying tells us. There are no problems only opportunities in disguise”  When I say “opportunities”  in the crisis I don’t just mean extra business for companies like Zoom ( since this hunker down at home thing started , between family and friends and business associates I have been part of the Zoom Boom!)  and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings or for Amazon … I just heard  the latter is planning to hire another 100,000 employees.

I am thinking of opportunities – in general - for normal folks like you and me. 

When I say  “opportunities in  general” I am thinking of opportunities that at are available for most people affected by COVD-19. 

The current crisis offers a few of them:

Opportunity 1: Offers More time

Today,  time is often seen as the word’s most valuable commodity. Covid-19 shows why: because we have filled our lives with  social gatherings and entertainment – movies, birthday parties, clubs, restaurants, bars,  gyms, music, festivals, concerts and the lists go on. Suddenly, all of that is cancelled or outright verboten, SUDDENLY, we find ourselves with gobs of extra time. Yet- life still goes on. It’s a real demonstration of just how easy it is to clear our calendars. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every  sector. There are some like health care that are crucial  - beyond those it applies. 

It has created an opportunity to spend time on other things—or on nothing and enjoy the leisure time. 

Opportunity 2: Offers a Chance to Rethink

There is no doubt the coronavirus has disrupted our daily lives … but, what opportunities has it provided to cause us to take a moment and  think about things - perhaps consider why we do, what we do, when we do them. 

Things perhaps taken for granted—like going to the mall—are suddenly not possible anymore. As well,  many people have had to figure out new ways of working, many suddenly working from home and not going to the office. This means that a lot of our routines have been interrupted.

Looking at it positively the interruption has afforded us  a great opportunity to tale a serious look at our habits and routines and perhaps make changes. No eating out twice a week, or hours of driving every day,. Not hanging with friends or partying every weekend- with this extra time, you can reflect on whether you really want to keep living your life “the same old way” after post COVID. Let’s face it the virus may have forced you to make changes to your everyday life that you might want to keep, after the crisis is over.

Opportunity 3: Affords a Chance To Set Aside the rules 

Many municipalities suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies, in many cases making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced  a kind of break through  in some of these rigid systems and resulted in “on the spot decision making”. Suddenly , a lot of procedures have been  passed over or accelerated, rules can set aside as individuals are empowered to make decisions – at least more autonomously and without formal approval. And in some cases, its acceptable to work from home without direct supervision.

Covid-19 has shown us that, when the conditions are “right” things can change. The innovation I some cases has been remarkable. Restaurants otherwise closed , are shifting to delivery mode. Many schools are teaching and testing online. At a minimum it has presented the opportunity to create innovations now that can remain in place after the crisis. As a bonus it may even help to keep people in the  innovation mode post virus.

Opportunity 4: An Opportunity to Improve Meetings

According to one report in Forbes Magazine many spend up to 23 hours every week in meetings- half of which are considered a flop or waste of time – somehow, I have to believe that municipalities may have even more meetings. The current crisis has forced a  rethink on how we deal with meetings. In lots of cases we are not allowed to meet with a group in fact, many meetings are cancelled. And when a meeting does happen they are mostly virtual and often shorter.

So, here’s an opportunity to deal with one of the most disliked parts of administrative life. The technology for it has been around for more than for a couple of years- suddenly COVID has created  a sudden need for it. The real opportunity here is to make systemic changes to the way we meet, perhaps making meetings more effective now and  after the crisis

Opportunity 5: A Time to Reconnect

Have you ever noticed that when things go wrong it can seem awful at the time but then later you realize a special bond was been created with those with whom you shared the awful experience ? Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other innovative ways of connecting and helping people. Naturally, missing opportunities to visit family and friends only serves to increase those feelings of isolation and loneliness. But the attitude of  “we’re all in this together” has also caused some interesting ways of relating. No doubt, you’ve seen some of those that have gone  (is it still okay to say “viral” ?)—such as the song about  Cooper the Montreal puppy “The Pets Will Thrive” pandemic anthem   —but there are other many smaller, local initiatives too to connect and help people who need it.

In the “small worlds”  many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create closer relationships. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. This opportunity comes with a big WARNING though. Right alongside the “nice things that have been happening  we have also seen how far some will go to protect themselves and their families. Food and medicine hoarding,  and don’t forget the  toilet paper all  without a second thought of  others. So, while there is a  self-serving egocentric side to the Covid-19 crisis  … it has provided us a time to reconnect and to be sociable.


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