Summer 2021 is officially here, vaccina-tions are well ahead of my earlier (and yes, wrong) prognostications, and it appears as though our ‘next’ normal is taking shape. This good news brings with it a host of new challenges, welcome as they are.
Your less-than-humble scribe has an ambitious list of friends and colleagues to reconnect with over safe patio coffees or lunches from now until Thanksgiving. Bye-bye two-dimensional, Brady Bunch Zoom calls and hello three-dimensional, in the flesh, my you are a lot greyer, thinner, or well-fed than I remember you. Will we shake hands again or just fist bump? Is the double-air kiss or hug acceptable if we are both fully vaccinated? Best advice if you are unsure, ask in advance before you meet.
The same goes for line-up etiquette as I am noticing the standard two-metre spread shrinking at the Farmer’s Market and some grocery store line-ups. Personally, I hope the extra spacing survives on a more permanent basis. However, it is time to give up this wipe down the counter and conveyor belt charade after every transaction since we know that most COVID-19 transmission is via inhalation and proximity, not physical surface contact.
As for some of the plexiglass partitions and in-store, in-building, in-office one-way signage indicators, the future is very uncertain. For medical and repeated customer service interactions, I can see some businesses keeping these protections in place for the safety or comfort of their employees and customers alike … time will tell.
Now, please allow me to get a perturbing peeve off my chest. Orléans is home to many roundabouts but over 50% of you do not know to properly drive through or from them. Just like an intersection or lane change, it is the law that you must signal when making a right out of the roundabout, unless it is a dedicated and separate right and right only lane. Ditto for the left-hand lane where you have the option of continuing straight or arcing left, you must signal your intention so other drivers know what you are going to do! Thank you, I feel better.
Keeping with the theme of travel, especially continental and longer inter-national flights, I predict that mask wearing – a staple for many travelers across Asia for almost two decades – will be a more common occurrence around the rest of the world, long after the pandemic has receded.
The big wildcard in all of this is the Delta variant. Make no mistake, we will experience a fourth wave of infections, the duration and severity of this is in our hands. If Ottawa, Ontario, and Canada can keep up our steady pace of vaccinations and supply remains stable, experts are pointing to the end of August or early September for reaching full vaccination rates of 75 per cent to 80 per cent for all Canadians over 12 years of age.
This is an important objective to achieve with laser-like focus. Fall 2021 could mark a return to full indoor and outdoor activities, in-class learning, returning to work a few times a week to conduct in-person meetings, organized sports, community events, chari-table fundraisers and so many other daily pleasures that we never knew were so important until they were cancelled.
On the other hand, our next normal should be different and better. Hybrid working should remain for many who have the technology at home to avoid long commutes and employers seem to be figuring this out. And the concept of core working hours, say nine to two, or ten to three, may finally gather steam. Indeed, leading writers on productivity and leadership are coalescing around a body of evidence that says we are, at best, only uber productive for four to five hours a day. The rest of the time we are toiling away on questionable email volume, unnecessary meetings, or other frivolous distractions.
For many of you, especially if you are of my vintage, or heaven forbid, as old as Fred Sherwin, the next six months also includes scheduling that long overdue visit to your healthcare provider, attending a few celebration of life gatherings, booking some sort of vacation (near or far) to try and decompress, and working through the aftermath of two years of upheaval and longer-term mental health impacts on your kids, your parents and yourself.
The end of this pandemic – at least for Canada – is now clearly in sight. But lies beyond the finish line is less clear. As I have written for the last fifteen months, the best way to discover this new future, this next normal, this back half of 2021 is to remain, #InThisTogether.