(originally published on WorkersCompensation.com’s Experts View on April 16, 2020)
New habits form within 21 days. That time has passed (and then some) during the societal freeze of shelter-in-place related to the novel coronavirus. This tumultuous time has exacerbated existing issues and accelerated trends for entire countries, individual companies and industries like workers’ compensation. Because of that, this pandemic is ushering in the new Age of Tele-Everything. For example:
Tele-Health: The appropriately named “waiting room” has long been misery in slow motion at healthcare facilities, combining close proximity with illness and behind-schedule appointments. Concerns about security of private information and perceived lack of human interaction have restrained tele-health (medicine) from wide acceptance. Both providers and patients have now found out that the convenience of tele-health, while maintaining (or even surpassing) effectiveness, overcomes those concerns. Beyond increased provider productivity and enhanced access to care (time and specialty), consumer expectations for the delivery of care will be permanently altered. As will, likely, the “temporary” relaxation of state regulations.
Tele-Work: Some bosses connect being able to see their employees to productivity. Some employees cannot fathom a work environment without direct access to their colleagues. Those opinions changed during the rapid execution of disaster recovery plans as productivity was maintained (or even increased with less distractions and commutes) and collaboration was enhanced (because it now has to be a conscious choice). In addition, work-life balance has become more than an academic term with business stakeholders realizing that getting the job done is more important than how, when or where. “Zoom” will be a new verb in the dictionary by year’s end. Many bosses and employees that moved home temporarily will likely find that to be a permanent location (hello, vacated office space).
Tele-Education: Parents figuring out how to home-school children has proven to be a challenge. However, the ability to do college work in a virtual environment has raised legitimate questions about incurring high personal debt to pay for physical infrastructure or why vocational skills may be a better investment. That extends to industry conferences, already struggling with shrinking exhibitor renewals and attendance seamlessly replaced by a proliferation of webinars (live and recorded) with reduced time and financial investment. Not to mention the democratization of speakers (everybody can create their own platform). The methods for personal and professional growth has changed forever.
Tele-Travel (yes, a purposeful oxymoron): Sales teams, in seemingly a matter of minutes, had to change tactics from in-person networking to virtual pitches. The jury is out whether revenue goals can still be achieved via e-Mail and LinkedIn (and, of course, via the 144 year-old telephone), but necessity is the mother of invention … and creativity. With more time available, there is a higher focus on relevant, consistent and persuasive communication. If it works, everybody will reassess the opportunity and financial costs of travel and may decide that it is not as important as originally thought.
Add on top of that a redefinition of “essential,” an adjective that has now become a legal term. Before COVID-19 everyone agreed that first responders, healthcare workers, military, fire and police were the primary recipients of that designation. Now we know that hourly workers in grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and warehouses along with truck drivers, postal workers and plumbers fit that category. The physical presence considered essential prior to March 2020 has been quickly redefined. Not by academic studies or whitepapers but being forced to put into practice a different paradigm and then seeing the results were not dramatically different.
Everyone knew a new decade started on January 1. What nobody knew was that it would be the start of a new Age … of Tele-Everything.