South Africa has been under lockdown for over 50 days now, it’s been so long that it almost feels normal. During this time, we’ve become experts at interpreting our fellow citizens’ muffled speech, which emanate from the ubiquitous and colorful masks found all around the country. The cold smell of hand sanitizer and terms like self-isolating and social distancing have become a fundamental part of our lives.
This is our new normal. Humans have a remarkable propensity to adapt, and despite talk vaccines and cures, most sensible people realize this pandemic won’t “magically disappear,” as US President Donald Trump once said it would. As a result, we have had to adapt and to change our behavior to the new reality that confronts us.
To survive, businesses too have had to very quickly adapt to this new Covid19 world. Large corporates have had to design and implement new protocols such as limiting office access and asking employees to work from home. Less than two months ago these protocols didn’t even exist, but Covid-19 has upended everything we once knew, and the change we are experiencing now will be permanent. “The world of work and business will never be the same again”, that’s according to Sanchia Fairweather, who runs a consultancy business for SME’s. “We’ve all gotten used to working from home now, we start questioning do we need big buildings and offices? when we go back are going to need the same products and services that we did before?” she asks. These are the questions that many companies are currently asking themselves, the answers that will arise will have a lasting effect on the workplace.
In the retail sector, businesses that rely on face to face interaction have had to abide by strict occupational health and safety regulations. For these businesses to operate they have to ensure their premises are sanitized thoroughly on a daily basis and that adequate provisions have been made to keep their employees and customers safe. Mask wearing has become mandatory in public, and most businesses don’t grant access to customers who aren’t wearing them. Capitalizing our propensity to forget, enterprising individuals have set up stalls outside malls and shopping centers and are selling masks to shoppers who otherwise would have been sent home. Even in a pandemic, there’s always a quick buck to be made it seems.
During this pandemic companies have had to become nimble and agile in order to survive, they have had to engage in what I term as the Covid pivot. The reason why there’s a proliferation of masks around the country is because dress makers, cloth manufacturers and other fashion-related businesses have moved quickly to service a massive demand. All over the country, we are seeing businesses find ways of reinventing themselves, they are turning a crisis into opportunity and are capitalizing on the new normal. RAW Industries is a case in point; prior to the pandemic the company made busses, but as revenue dried up overnight, engineers at the company started building walk-through sanitization booths. These sanitization booths are now being used by Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya bus and Gautrain services, as well as in some mines. There are plans to roll-out these booths in many other high-volume traffic areas around the country. This is the type of fast thinking that companies in South Africa and around the continent will need to fully embrace if they are to survive in the post-Covid19 world.