The push towards normalcy began in earnest weeks and months ago, both in and outside of halls of power. Many government officials began eyeing a rollback of restrictions as soon as they were in place, and the interregnum in which life outside our homes was put on pause was enough to prompt protestors to gather together and demand the resumption of normal existence (and, unsurprisingly, contract the coronavirus.) At the heart of these desires was an urgency for the comfort normalcy provides, a belief that with the lifting of the strictures would come the return of the life we had prior to mid- to late-March.
It seems fairly obvious now that the lives any of us enjoyed prior to the emergence of the coronavirus are gone, perhaps forever. That’s not to say that those of us fortunate enough to survive unscathed won’t be able to have lives similar to those our prior ones, maybe even identical in material circumstances. But normal implies unaltered, and it’s hard to see how circumstances in the personal and professional realm won’t change drastically and permanently.
For businesses, that new reality may be something they’ve had to confront for some time. Reopening in many locales has come with stipulations and restrictions that have forced offices to reconfigure how they operate, keeping employees apart and sanitizing spaces at previously unconsidered levels. As much as other things may seem the same, there are constant reminders that we aren’t living in the same world that we operated in previously, and as hard as it might be to accept, that world won’t ever return.
What the virus leaves behind beyond the human toll is the knowledge and awareness imprinted on all of us, and it is that knowledge, even with mitigating efforts and even an eventual vaccine, that dictates we are beyond the point that we can return to what we thought of as normal. Those of us old enough to remember and understand will be aware of the sudden and catastrophic effects of a pandemic, and that will work its way into our thinking for the remainder of our days.
It’s less than ideal to always have to fear or consider a possible viral outbreak, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t adjust to our new circumstances, just as previous generations have had to adapt to the challenges thrown in their path. We’ve had to shift before in our businesses to survive, and while this has been a more dramatic adjustment for many, it’s what is necessary unless we choose to throw in the towel. We do what we have to in order to get through, and our current situation is no different.
That adjustment doesn’t insulate any business from reality; no small number of companies were dealt a fatal blow by the suddenness and sharpness of the economic downturn, with many more suffering the same fate in slow motion. And many consumers are skittish about both the potential of a further outbreak and further economic decline, meaning that any previous estimations or outlooks might not carry much weight at present. This new reality will have to be accepted by business owners as more prevalent.
All of us wish things were different, that our current circumstances weren’t what they are. None of that will alter our circumstances, however, so it’s on each of us as entrepreneurs to forge ahead with the work we’ve set out to do, as difficult as it may be at present. The ideal world for our companies to operate in never truly existed, and a more propitious one may take years to arrive if it ever again appears. Rather than pining for what was, or what we wish might be, we have to get to work in the environment today.
Normal feels idyllic in the face of what we’re currently going through, but normal was only ever an illusion embraced with time and familiarity, one that was always shifting anyway. Even if we weren’t as acutely aware of it, our businesses were and are subject to world-altering disasters; this is simply the one that happened to us. And so we have to accept, if not embrace, what’s in front of us and remember that we can only ever play the hand we’re dealt. As always, #onwards.