COVID has created a cataclysmic global economic disruption unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. Although an invisible adversary, COVID is a formidable beast, wreaking havoc on our bodies, minds, and spirit. Our lives are being recalibrated as an economy defined by social distancing becomes more defined each day. One thing is certain, the world is simultaneously experiencing the pandemic. There is a sense of unity and greater understanding in knowing that we are in this together.

Reimagining a world where we all deemed essential can lead to a better (re)alignment and distribution of resources (including human talent, precious natural resources, and financial capital). It can also enable every person to live life with purpose and resolve.

Tempering emotions to make sensible decisions

None of us has been through a global pandemic of this magnitude and severity. In real-time we are all learning about the virus, ourselves, and each other. Although each day we learn something new, there is a lot we still don’t know about COVID. The loss of life, global lockdown of people, and the cascading negative toll that the virus has taken on the economy has created enormous uncertainty and fear, revealing a range of heightened emotions.

Unfortunately, many emotions spill over during the daily press briefings of federal, state, and local politicians. Then there are unspoken feelings that lay just below the surface of employees, family members, and frontline workers all whom are doing their best to make sense of this surreal situation while trying to assimilate the realities of economic tensions, and their feelings surrounding different personal and political ideologies. That said, the response to COVID appears to be bifurcating and not aligned to any sense of a logical or well-coordinated [national] strategy, let alone a cohesive plan for economic recovery.

Resultingly, frustrations are mounting, and the dark side of human emotion plays out on a national stage and within local communities as cynicism, distrust, and finger-pointing take precedent in many cases over sensible solutions, careful reason and logic. If we are not tempered, we may very well find that the virus is not our enemy, rather it is our own undoing and inability to work together that perpetuates economic pain and results in premature and unnecessary losses of additional life.     

Essential versus non-essential

For many, COVID is being experienced (and viewed) as an inconvenience. There is no disputing the virus has resulted in many annoying daily inconveniences. But for many others, the virus has been an absolute nightmare, a devastating blow to their personal health or the prelude to death itself. Regardless of where you are on the COVID continuum, this virus has impacted everyone. Life as we know it is forever changed.

If there is one thing that COVID has revealed, is that we have taken for granted so many people that provide our communities with so much of their time, energy, and compassion. Each day we watch with awe and gratitude, as thousands of essential workers selflessly take themselves to the frontlines of the fight against COVID. In this time of crisis we now more clearly see and respect, the important work and contributions of grocery store employees, doctors, nurses, EMT’s, police and fire, utility workers, local government services, postal and delivery workers, and so many others who are providing critical care and service to people and our infrastructure. Without these essential workers we would not have medical care, food, power, transportation, public safety and security, or any sense of faith and hope.

COVID has also revealed that the global economy was quick to break, which means it was not very resilient to begin with. As we all know, millions of workers now work from home. Others have been furloughed, fretting about the fate of their financial future. Too many have all together lost their jobs, income, and in some cases their dignity.

With millions of people filing for unemployment, it is obvious that many workers, at least through the clarifying lens of a global pandemic, are deemed non-essential, or as an extension, the businesses they worked for are also non-essential. This is not to say these workers don’t have a utilitarian value, but it does represent a clear indication of a severely broken economy, one that does not adequately respect or optimize people and planetary resources as having an inherent sustainable purpose for serving society.

From broken to benevolent: a future defined by human dignity

When every human is treated with dignity, not only in the wake of a crisis, but as essential contributors to all facets of society, we can attain a more resilient economy. For those of us that sit and idle in our homes, we all have choices to make today and in the future, about who we are, how we spend our time, how we invest our resources, and how we choose to engage in society and the new economy. COVID represents a wake-up call to reimagine a world where everyone is essential, not only by virtue of economic security, but through a deeper understanding and collective recognition that each of us have a distinct role to serve, ourselves, our families, our communities, and our shared world.

COVID is an unprecedented crisis, but amidst the uncertainty there lies an unprecedented opportunity for humanity to recreate a better world, one whereby every person has an essential and distinct role to serve. In doing so, we can put society on a path to proactively predict and prevent future calamity. Further, we can optimize people and resources so that the well-being of every human becomes the central tenet of a more just, peaceful, and sustainable economy.

Resiliency as a service, the future of work

COVID has hit us hard and unexpectedly. While we long for some semblance of ‘the way life used to be,’ our unsettling reality is that there is no going back to business as usual. We are forever changed. Here on out we need to redefine how we live, work, eat, play, educate, and entertain.

COVID may have swept over us like a tsunami, but it has not destroyed our spirit or will to survive. As each day passes, we learn a little more about the inner workings anddestructive nature of the virus. The world’s foremost scientists and researchers are hard at work, studying and deconstructing every molecule of COVID, so that we can determine how to better manage, eventually mitigate, and ultimately destroy, this enemy of the people.

As we emerge from lockdown and begin the deliberate process of reopening our communities, everyone must now do our part, to be brave and vigilant, sensible and pragmatic, kind and patient, as we recondition ourselves to live in a world with COVID. We must also assess the damage and take from this historic fate, the lessons that will prepare us for future uncertainty. As new codes of conduct, operational procedures and organizational policies are constructed to warrant our social immersion, the world will look, feel, and be different.

The ‘now’ economy: people-centered and humanistic

The workplace is forever changed. COVID has already created and will continue to manifest new business models illuminated by a fundamental shift in how we produce and consume goods and services. The future of work is likely to be more inclusive of business models that intentionally build agility, resiliency, safety, security, and sustainability as a service into them.

A beacon of hope and possibility is that this moment will manifest a movement to stimulate a more people-centered humanistic economy, one that proactively protects and serves everyone, and as everyone is essential to the greater well-being of the whole. COVID has enforced change upon us all. But we still retain the power of choice and creative capacity for adaptation and innovation.

We are all essential to defining what’s next, particularly the novel economy. We must arrest the advance of any false narrative that seeks to define our lives narrowly or with incomplete measure of worth. For it is in times of great crisis and change that we must protect our individual and collective rights as we rediscover and redefine how the new economy will better serve us. This is our time to stand tall in the face of great adversity, to embrace our differences, acknowledge our flaws, learn from the past, and build a better world, together.                

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