By Marco C. Janssen, UTInnovation, the Netherlands
I strongly believe that we will emerge from this Pandemic, stronger, more resilient, more aware, more social and more cognizant of the things that truly matter to us.
After being bombarded daily with negative statistics for so long now regarding COVID-19, and witnessing how politicians are unable or unwilling to properly manage a crisis, how the extremely wealthy got wealthier by the minute, how we have been deprived of normal social interactions with friends, family and colleagues, what is there to write about that hasn’t already been said? Well, in continuation of my previous column, I want to spend some time to show that besides all the negative aspects of the pandemic, there are several positive effects caused by COVID-19.
The first thing many people, myself included, have noticed is that relationships are important. For years many of us have been living a life of busy schedules where we lost perspective of the importance of interacting with the people around us and in particular the importance of our family and friends. As governments confined us to our homes and restricted travel and social activities, we have come to realize that we need to invest in relationships. This has driven a level of creativity to create new ways to stay connected with the people that matter to us and whose presence we value in our lives. This to me is a very positive development.
The need to stay connected has also caused a new wave of tools and software. We have witnessed a startling increase in digital solutions, from digital classrooms to virtual offices including the applications that let you manage the workflows and processes that are crucial when you have to run a business or teach digitally.
At the same time in the public space we have seen the creation of new health focused solutions from self-diagnosis bots to automated emergency protocols, and touchless biometric attendance systems to name a few. The lockdowns have also forced the manufacturing industry to take a step towards the robotic era in order to avoid halting facilities a second time around.
On the personal front an entire lifestyle change has occurred to practice better hygiene. The fear of being infected has created a common understanding that being hygienic is no longer just a good habit, but a skill you need for survival. People are now much more aware of how important it is to keep themselves clean. With humans being social animals the ability to emote and connect with fellow beings is crucial for our existence and the pandemic has made us more aware of how to do that more hygienically. It is funny to observe how a common gesture such as shaking hands when meeting each other has disappeared over night, how we now cover our mouths when we cough, and how we sanitize our hands after touching something. It is for the better though.
As stated, the quarantines have created a new wave of creativity to beat a lockdown. Companies around the world have started thinking about creative ways to not let the boredom of our four walls get to us. This has started a new way of thinking about connectivity and how-to bring fun, relaxation, and social interaction into our homes. As such the digital transformation that we have been talking about for years just started to happen because the environment demands it.
The new options created by the digital transformation of our societies has made us realize that in many cases we do not need an office to do our work and many companies now work remotely with up to 100% of their people functioning virtually. A side effect of this is that investments made in office space are declining and companies are actually not letting geographical locations stand in between when hiring talent. This is creating a new work dynamic, which I personally find very attractive.
As quarantines have made businesses go remote, companies had to learn to trust the integrity of their employees and to accept that they will loyally work even when there’s no one to look over their shoulder every now and then. I think this is a great development that will create more responsible and engaged employees and that will improve the level of personal freedom employees will have to manage their work-life balance.
There are of course many other examples of how the pandemic has sparked innovative solutions and I invite you to share these positive examples with your colleagues, friends and family. Even though the pandemic has caused a lot of misery for many people, I strongly believe that we will emerge from this situation, stronger, more resilient, more cognizant, more social and more aware of the things that truly matter to us.
Marco C. Janssen is the CEO of UTInnovation LLC and the former Director of the Smart Grid PMO at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. He received his BSc degree in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic in Arnhem, Netherlands and has worked for over 27 years in the field of Smart Grid, Protection, Control, Monitoring, Advanced Metering Infrastructures, Distribution and Substation Automation. He was a member of IEC TC57 WG 10, 17, 18, 19, the IEEE PES PSRC and CIGRE B5 and D2 WGs. He was the convenor of D2.35 and editor of the Quality Assurance Program for the Testing Subcommittee of the UCA International Users Group. He holds one patent, has authored more than 58 papers, is co-author of four Cigre Technical Brochures and two books on Smart Grids and Electrical Power Substations Engineering and is the author of the “I Think” column in the PAC World magazine.