With the dreamed end of the lockdowns nearing (dream because there is no real certainty that new lockdowns will not soon be necessary, even in countries benefiting from vaccines), the time has come to ask whether we really want to go back to the pre-pandemic world.
The business world, as well as the states, have an interest in this: the old world provided work, profits and tax revenues. Every student also needs it, to get back to real teaching, which, for thousands of years, has never been anything other than the direct transmission from a teacher to the pupil.
Each one of us also dreams of it, to rediscover our former pleasures, and in particular access to live shows, restaurants, hotels and travel.
However, if this parenthesis really closes, we must dare to learn a thousand lessons from it, and above all not return to the same things.
I have said, here and elsewhere, on several occasions, that this should be the moment to become aware of the importance of a profound transformation in the nature of production and supply chains, where we would gradually put aside all activities linked to the production and use of fossil fuels, sugar, tobacco, and all other sources of death, to develop all the activities of the “economy of life,” which are cruelly lacking (health, education, public health, healthy foods, sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, sustainable housing, digital, research, culture, democracy, security) and all the related sectors necessary for their development.
This requires a real long-term vision, implemented over time by investors, entrepreneurs and governments. This should be the topic of major debates from now on, in particular to give meaning to the recovery plans, which while on the one hand favour activities that are useful in the fight against global warming, and on the other hand provide infinite resources to sectors that make it worse.
There are also other more urgent issues, particularly in the employment sector: will employees in any sector really want to go back to work as before and under the same conditions as before?
In many business sectors, and in particular in the hotel industry, many employees are reluctant to return to work, either because they are happy with the current conditions and the social protection they are afforded, or because they have developed a taste for independence, the absence of a hierarchy, a more personal management of their time, and they dream of becoming their own bosses.
Moreover, in many companies and public service entities, it will have been understood that the same work can be done by fewer people, with fewer meetings, and in much less time. It will also have been recognised that remote meetings take an unnecessarily long time, and that there are an unnecessarily large number of people involved.
Lastly, we will have understood more clearly that the boundary between work as an employee under a long-term contract and self-employment is much more blurred than we thought, and that an employee under a long-term contract can become a part-time consultant, that a working person can be a part-time retiree, and vice versa.
It is time to experiment with something else, depending on the sector and the job: a four-day work week (with the same time spent working on a weekly basis); a sustainable allocation of two days in the office and three days of remote work; limiting any real or virtual meeting to one hour, and limiting the number of participants to ten. And many other initiatives.
This will have a huge impact on many other sectors, and on the lives of families. Society will not emerge unscathed from this very long parenthesis. It is time to prepare for it.