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The Post-Pandemic Blues
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Summit Consulting Group, Inc. -- Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Summit Consulting Group, Inc. -- Alan Weiss, Ph.D.
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: East Greenwich, RI
Thursday, February 29, 2024

 

Episode 333 | February 29, 2024

The Post-Pandemic Blues


Alan Weiss PhD

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Show Notes

The pandemic is a milestone event. Even if the medical effects have been ameliorated (which is debatable), the social impact is huge and continuing. Some of the evidence:
  • Some people continuing to wear masks, which also serve as a “warning” to others, and is an extreme behavior if one isn’t otherwise medically compromised. Covid transmission interpersonally would require someone in very close proximity for an extended period of time. Also, masks prompt people to keep touching their faces, which can cause further disease spread.
  • “Live” business meetings have been hugely reduced, from conventions of thousands to conferences among a few people.
  • Business travel has been commensurately reduced with remote meetings preferred.
  • People are suffering from mental health issues being in isolation in their homes, even with family, because of the inability to have lunch or a drink with co-workers.
  • Work pressures have mounted as leaders try to figure out how to assign and measure productivity among people who are not physically present. This has ranged from many tech workers never coming into an office to Elon Musk demanding that his SpaceX workers show up physically for 40 hours a week.
People are more isolated than ever, and more despairing than ever. Add to the increasing automation and AI integration and the trend worsens. Once upon a time a driver could chat with a gas station attendant about politics, sports, the weather and so forth. Now, most gas stations are self-serve, attached to a mini-mart. (The gas pump, however, does talk to you, since it’s programmed to play advertisements.)
We’ve made some progress in dealing with business needs and travel needs since the pandemic, with supply chains and international trade, but not so much with emotional needs. Our ability to express ourselves to colleagues and acquaintances, to learn whether our positions are supported or resisted, to share a laugh or a celebration are severely reduced. 
It’s true that people continue to gather in large number for sports and entertainment events, whether locally or remotely, but these aren’t frequent and far from intimate. A million people might gather for New Year’s in Times Square, but they’re only sharing some moments in time and not personal sentiments. (Is there anything so superficial as an entertainer telling the audience that he or she “loves them all”?)
We’ve actually made more emotional progress, however, socially than we have professionally and in business settings. Coffee shops are still jammed in the mornings, restaurants are overflowing, golf courses and pickleball courts are filled. Most people in these venues know each other and continue the relationship, and newcomers are usually welcomed.
But in business we don’t enjoy equal opportunities. There are three huge problems:
  1. You can’t casually continue relationships. There is no cubicle next door and you can’t expect just o contact someone on Facetime or Zoom. There are no chance meetings in the halls, restrooms, or elevators. There’s no common coffee area in which to complain about the coffee.
  2. You can’t network. Prospects, suppliers, peers, customers are not around. On a remote basis you can’t single them out and go for a drink or lunch. It’s very hard to develop relationships remotely. (Exacerbated by people who refuse to turn on their video, as we’ve discussed earlier.
  3. The distractions are far more severe. On site you’re not likely to pick up a guitar and try to play a diminishing fifth, or get to Level 20 on Angry Birds, or try on a new outfit, or watch Celebrity Family Feud, or replay an athletic event you taped. Nor are your kids going to ask for help with a toy, nor your dog demand you both take a walk (sometimes indicating an accident might take place in presence). A non-working spouse (yes, there are still plenty of them) thinks nothing of walking in to discuss dinner because “you’re not really working.”
 
Social Proof
Nothing startles someone working at home as a call from the boss that’s unexpected and requests the person immediately get on Zoom or Facetime for an important issue. At the office you’re not worried about what you’re wearing, if you have makeup on, or if you’ve combed your hair.

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Introduction to the show recorded by Connie Dieken

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