It’s safe to say most aspects of life will be quite different after the global coronavirus pandemic ends. A new report, “After the Virus” from digital firm Cognizant, looks at just how different things will be, from national politics to socioeconomics, work, business, and well, life in general. It addresses questions like will everyone work from home? Will global supply chains withstand breakdowns? Will we ever shake hands again or sit next to a stranger on a 15-hour flight?
SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same–here’s what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)
The report chronicles potential events in the year 2025 and takes a fictional look back on the changes that occurred in the days, months, and years following the pandemic of 2020.
Online’s big bang
“After COVID-19, everything that could move online did move online … and became cheaper, faster, and higher quality in the process,” wrote Ben Pring, vice president and director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and the report’s author. Although by early 2020 we thought technology was big, “IT had only really scratched the surface,” Pring wrote. “The virus ended all that.”
Huge infrastructure investments that could scale elastically to handle millions of remote employees and customers reliably paid off, the report noted. “Legacy kludges of technical-debt-ridden patchworks of systems were deemed poison.”
SEE: COVID-19: A guide and checklist for restarting your business (TechRepublic Premium)
The pandemic also spurred remote, augmented reality-based in-the-moment troubleshooting for everything from grocery supply chains undertaking massive restocking efforts to remote caregivers interacting with seniors or a client with a disability, the report predicts.
At hospitals, “constraints of geography and brick-and-mortar physical visits diminished,” the report said. Diagnostics, intelligent routing to specialists, and triaging at home became commonplace, relieving beleaguered doctors and nurses in the wake of the virus.
But there were downsides too. “Some have been seduced by virtual worlds they never want to leave,” the report said. “Like whiskey, too much of a good thing sometimes becomes a bad thing, and society increasingly prioritized digital detox to give addled brains a break.”
Everyone’s home is their castle
Houses are now built with dedicated office spaces that include soundproofing, connectivity, and 3D printers. “The key to home-office success became the ability to build and nurture deep, trust-based connections with peers, clients, partners, and anyone in the connected world to get work done.”
With work from home now firmly established, “it would be foolhardy to assume we’ll ever go back to the old ways of working,” the report said.
Business travel loses its cool
In the blink of an eye, business travel went from a high-status activity to an embarrassment, the report said. “The virus delivered a cosmic message that our travel behavior needed to change, the report said. “The post-virus hiatus forced us all to re-examine our flying habits.”
SEE: Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
For example, was it essential to travel halfway around the world for a two-day meeting?
Governments “nudged things along by progressively taxing flights, ratcheting up the cost for each subsequent flight taken by a person throughout the year.” Businesses launched innovative work policies with extra time off for those who chose to travel sustainably for meetings or vacations.
Whereas in 2020 air travel represented one of the largest industries in the world, the virus stopped it in its tracks and overnight, millions of people stopped flying. This led to a profound reduction in carbon emissions, which have declined drastically since their peak in 2019, the report said.
“Business travel, it turned out, was not the engine of commerce we’d thought it was. And those who still hop on a plane to get to a business conference find they’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do. Frequently flyers, it turns out, are no longer cool.”
By 2023, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the Health Security Agency (HSA) had ramped up “with a budget that made the TSA’s $77 billion look like chicken feed.”
Now, everyone must have a full health screen to enter any building, space, or country to prove you’re not carrying any infectious disease. There will be a telemedicine ‘OK2GO’ clearance system established where people are required to have a health scan.
At first, HSA staff will administer the scan, but by 2023 the entire process is automated and scanning equipment is ubiquitous in the lobby of every building.
The report details other predictions, including:
- Cell phone-based contact tracing will likely become common everywhere within short order. Many countries will probably follow Israel’s lead and write this into law.
- Before 9/11, people will remember heading to check-in 30 minutes before departure, just how all of that changed, so too will health screening when you travel.
- HIPAA may be amended as people anxious about sharing health-related data come to be regarded with suspicion.
- A new field of study called gerontechnology emerges, helping older people age at home on their terms, including palliative care for the terminally ill, and becoming a leading-edge discipline.
- Just like TSA, a pre-approval system will be established so people can enroll at home via telemedicine.