It's been more than half a year since COVID-19 was first released. Today, over 400,000 people worldwide have succumbed to the virus, and there were 121 deaths in Malaysia alone.
The unemployment rate in Malaysia rose to 5% in April, the highest level since 1990, and is expected to increase further this year to 5.5%.
Based on a survey by the online home services platform Recommend.my, 68.9% of local SMEs have experienced a business decline of over 50% since the MCO started.
These are just a few of the tragic and heartbreaking events since the pandemic began.
However, I believe that we have learned, adapted and innovated a lot from all of this, not only in different areas of the world, but also in our own lives. I would like to emphasize this here.
I fully acknowledge that I am writing from a privileged position in which I have largely remained untouched by the pandemic on a personal level.
Given the endless hourly coverage of the disadvantages of the pandemic, I think we will take a moment to understand that we are adapting and innovating at a rate that we have never thought possible.
1. Get to know the people we live with better
COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown mode, with our own MCO being a version of it. And those of us who have spent the MCO in the middle of a family are likely to have a number of stories to tell about this experience.
We got to know each other better, whether it was to admire the “working mode” of your parents or your spouse or to recognize what your child really is like in class.
In front of the MCO, I could sometimes only catch a glimpse of my father, as he usually goes to work earlier, and I can't often have dinner with him at night because I get home a little late (thanks, traffic jams).
However, for the past few months, I have had lunch and dinner with him every day, helping him maneuver technology so he can give live classes online (he's a professor).
I and my father took a photo in MCO one afternoon for a phone review that I did with him
I saw my father in “work mode” and sometimes it could be annoying when his classes and my meetings collided, but ultimately I know that I will fondly remember those days when I return to the office.
2nd Find out more about us
Whenever we are placed in new and unknown positions (such as the daily WFH), it goes without saying that we adapt and grow in one way or another.
On the way we learned something about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, limitations and abilities. We have developed our own systems to efficiently organize both professional and family life in the same space.
Looking back at the MCO, I can confidently say that I've become more disciplined than before.
I understood how I worked and under what conditions I had to work better, for example, and when I return to normal, I think I am now better equipped to deal with what gets in my way.
3rd The new normal work culture
From WFH to flexible working hours, companies are implementing all sorts of new policies to adapt to the newly discovered love of the workforce to work outside the office.
Many companies have also reported better productivity and employee efficiency at WFH and are changing internally in hopes of maintaining it.
COVID-19 also forced companies to become much leaner than before, and as a result, many inefficiencies in their operations were identified and eliminated.
For example, companies that have reduced their offices because they have realized that they can split teams or simply use the space as an occasional meeting point.
4th Companies find new opportunities
While some companies have since collapsed under the pandemic, many others have become more resilient. They have found ways to turn their businesses around quickly and tap new sources of income to keep themselves alive.
Orange Esports Cafe, a cybercafe that rotated during the MCO / Image Credit: Orange Esports Cafe to rent PCs
For example, car sharing startups that weren't able to work as usual used their fleets in a different way, dealing with logistics and grocery deliveries.
The ability to choose between panning or holding out during a crisis is an important lesson for companies, and one can say with certainty that COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of entrepreneurs' critical thinking skills.
5. Accelerated adoption of digital technology
With the new normal, more people came to opt for cashless solutions and appreciate the time-saving value of virtual meetings, if I could give some outstanding examples.
We were practically forced to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in line with Malaysia's agenda, which should further fuel the country's theoretical developments and innovations.
However, there are still gaps in society (like the B40 or the rural population) that this new technology cannot get into. As we continue, we need to make sure that we close these gaps so that no one is left behind in our new, highly technology-based world.
6. Better infrastructure and systems for healthcare
I don't think there was a single nation in the world that was fully prepared for the effects of COVID-19, but the speed and efficiency of certain countries' health systems played a big part in the slowdown.
Take South Korea, for example, where they were able to contain the virus in just three weeks without imposing extreme locks, and in a low-cost, high-tech approach.
Although their quick and successful measures in Malaysia may not be easy to repeat due to different systems, procedures and the level of health financing, among other things, I believe that we can still take a page out of your book in the future.
Malaysia has not done badly itself as our health facilities and systems are praised by foreign parties, but there is always room for improvement.
7. Increased hygiene practices
On a personal level, people everywhere wear masks and hand sanitizers, and (hopefully) more often their hands with soap.
It remains to be seen whether these practices will remain here or not, but I believe we will be more hygiene-conscious from now on.
At the public level, commercial companies such as shopping centers, cinemas, theme parks and F&B stores are implementing new SOPs that incorporate all kinds of hygiene practices, not only in terms of volume but also in terms of frequency.
Photo credit: Sunway Velocity Mall
For those of us who are clean geeks, this is music for our ears. Once the pandemic is over, these practices may go back slightly, but I believe that those parties that can afford it will adopt an approach that is "prevention is better than cure" and maintain better public health hygiene practices.
8th. More appreciation for our front liners
Before the MCO, who would have expected logistics drivers, grocery delivery drivers, pharmacists and more to become key workers that keep the country's economy and people moving?
These were jobs that people used to look down on and saw as last resort careers when you couldn't get a “real” office job or complete your apprenticeship.
To be honest, some people may still think that way, but those of us who have seen them in action and tirelessly face the challenges of the pandemic to complete their work appreciate them.
Healthcare workers have always received some form of respect, but the pandemic has shown how important they are in the fight against COVID-19.
They are constantly at risk of contracting the virus themselves in the course of their work, but they do it diligently and sacrifice the time they spend with the family to help the patient.
There is not much we ordinary people can do to help these frontliners except to prevent the virus from becoming infected and spreading, but during the pandemic there were also several parties to help them deal with PSA, food and even personal hygiene donations helped.
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Overall, this pandemic has pushed us beyond our borders to continue growing, and we've learned so much in such a short space of time.
Back in Malaysia, another positive effect of this pandemic is that I've seen Malaysians use the power of association and community to help each other.
For example, look at the #KitaJagaKita and #SupportLocal movements, which ordinary Malaysians keep stopping by to help each other, be it individuals or organizations.
Small or large, these efforts show that we have it in ourselves to come together and contribute our knowledge and skills to overcome this pandemic. And that's something I'm really grateful for.
- More articles on corona viruses can be found here.
Selected image source: AP / SESO Malaysia