Social revolution has always started with people, not with government, not with business. While it can seem that we are powerless as individuals, we actually hold the most power. Take an issue that makes you angry and follow it to the root cause. At its root was a decision by an individual or a bunch of individuals that had the power to make a different decision. Through our votes, we decide who represents us in the government. Through our money, we decide which businesses thrive, a double whammy because thriving businesses in many ways control the government. Our collective power is unmatched. The pandemic has opened us up to see what’s possible. It’s possible for us to put people’s safety and health over money. It’s possible for us to prioritize humanity on a global scale. Lots of people are asking, how will the world be different after this is all over? I’ve been turning that around in my mind, looking for an answer I can settle on.
First, we must acknowledge that the pandemic is a nightmare for many people around the world. We are all horrified by the news headlines. Yet for many of us that’s a distant reality. For many of us, quarantining is an inconvenience. The widespread financial impact of job loss has safety nets, allowing housing payment delays, loan forgiveness and expanded unemployment. We know there’s a likely reprieve if we can’t pay a bill. While there are devastating impacts, the pandemic has created unexpected positive outcomes as well:
- Our Earth has been given time to heal from our relentless degradation.
- Corporations have found innovative and swift solutions to solve global issues, solutions once thought impossible in times when profit was prioritized first.
- Families are spending more quality time together and there is a collective slowing down, taking stock
- Communities have come together to support and rally around one another
Ask A Different Question
What will our world be like when this is all over? A danger lies in that question. The question creates complacency, making this all seem like time wasted in waiting. It sets up that once this is all over we can breathe a sigh of relief and return back to “normal”. But back to normal for most of the world was already unacceptable. A world where the anonymous quote “if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention” was ever present. Do we really want to go back to that? If we think about it differently than being “over” does that change how we approach this time? What if this is an opportunity to RESET our society starting right now? Starting now to apply our key learnings. Starting now to shape the world how we want it to be. Starting now to visualize the evolved world we are going to actively create. How could we do this now?
Broaden the work from home approach now
Far more jobs can be done from home than ever anticipated. Many companies had old fashioned thinking about “face time” and “butts in seats”. There’s no need to go back to the way it was. Working from home on a larger scale saves enormous resources; less oil from reduced driving, less heating and cooling big spaces, less carbon in the air. OK, maybe it is optimal to have people see each other in person sometimes. So do that sometimes, it doesn’t need to be everyday. In fact every day is incredibly inefficient when you factor in commute time. Some 100% remote companies have proven that a wonderful culture can be built remotely. Tons of research shows that people are more productive at home, despite the draconian managers belief that people need to be watched like children. Imagine how much better working from home will be for everyone when the kids are back in school! Companies can start planning a post pandemic work from home policy right now.
Stop buying “stuff”
We don’t need as much stuff as we thought we did, do we? In this unusual time our minimalist approach to life is fueled by store closures and product shortages. Has it really mattered that we couldn’t buy the latest gigamabob? Not at all. What if we assumed everything was 4X the cost of the retail price and then asked ourselves if we really need it? 4X is conservative. If the actual cost of all of the stages of the product life cycle were included, such as the environmental degradation created to make the product, the societal cost of the child labor, the transportation costs of distribution, and the livable wage workers should be making it’s definitely more than 4x cost. So if you had to pay 4X more for every product you buy, what would you choose to buy? A lot less stuff, a lot more consciously. What if each time you bought a product you had to give the difference between the price you actually paid and 4X to a grassroots organization fighting to solve a mass consumption problem? Be ready for the onslaught of marketing in our eventual recovery telling us it’s patriotic to buy stuff. As soon as it seems reputationally safe to do this our government and big business will start this campaign. Don’t fall for it.
Stop buying fast fashion and new clothes
The clothes we have are enough. The apparel industry is a top pollutor in the world.. If we shift how much we buy (a lot less), how often we buy (less frequently), where we buy (resale stores rather than new) and reject fast fashion (designed to sell us cheap, low quality clothing that is highly discarded) then the industry will be forced to shift too.
Boycott companies that are only out for themselves
We can choose now to only buy from companies that align with our values and are focused on the greater good rather than solely on their own success. The bad actors of our society need a message that their ways are no longer acceptable. Social media has many costs and benefits but one of the clear benefits is that employees can share the real story directly. We don’t have to sort through companies’ marketing strategies to determine what’s really going on there. And COVID has changed our expectations about what’s possible. Let’s not forget what we’ve learned. One obvious company to boycott – Amazon.
Devote your precious time and energy consciously
While no one knows what the recovery will look like, at some point companies will surely be scrambling to hire lots of workers to meet rising demand, as so many have laid off extensively. It will again be an “employee” market, where workers will have more leverage due to demand and a plethora of choices. Choose wisely. While you may not have a choice at the start of the recovery you will have a choice again in the not too distant future. Choosing to work for a conscious company will make all the difference in your life and also in our world.
We can envision our new world and act now
What if the companies that emerge stronger from this experience are the best companies for the world? These are the companies that provide the most meaningful work for employees and are intent on doing something good. When the cranks of the economy get turning again we all have immediate choices to make about what company we work for, what products we buy, and how we spend our time. We have the power to force systemic change. We have all been indelibly changed by this experience and we can take the time now to commit to what we will change about our behavior, our buying, our holistic life when we move to the next phase. There’s no mystery about what shapes the next phase – it’s us.