The next wave of infection is rolling into Germany. Many countries are increasingly affected by Covid-19. We are realising more and more that the pandemic will occupy us for much longer than expected. Longer means: years! Perhaps in a few months, scientists will find a remedy to at least partially alleviate the symptoms of Covid-19. Nevertheless, the virus remains dangerous, for older people and also some younger ones. There will be regional lockdowns, quarantine and the mandatory use of masks. 1.5 metres distance and restricted social contacts will become standard. What does this mean for us? What are the consequences? How will we build our future together, the new reality of life? What changes can we already anticipate? Let’s look at the basic functions of existence: living, working, providing for oneself (food, clothing, etc.), educating oneself, recreating, participating in traffic.
Homes are becoming private fortresses with limited access for selected people. Those who can afford it upgrade them with high-end networked electronic devices for entertainment, communications, surveillance and work. Mobility is decreasing. Moving is becoming more difficult as residents fear outside contacts. Nevertheless, the need for larger flats is increasing as space for home offices is required. The need for office buildings is decreasing. Many offices are being converted into flats. This eases the housing market. Rents will rise more slowly or stagnate, perhaps even fall.
In addition, cities will lose importance again. The new home office options mean that proximity to the workplace will become less relevant and living in the countryside will become acceptable again. This will have consequences: for the housing market in the cities (vacancies, lower rents) and for the countryside (increasing urban sprawl).
A flexible mix of working from the office as well as from at home will become the standard. Most meetings take place virtually. This increases the need for broadband internet and mobile phone networks. And there is increasing social and political pressure on providers to deliver. Leadership becomes a new challenge. There is more focus on the personal competencies, the willingness to learn, greater networking, higher personal responsibility and work discipline of employees. The non-verbal forms of self-presentation are declining. The electronic image, on the other hand, is becoming more important.
This permanent change causes difficulties for many companies, especially if there is no culture of change. In a typical German company there are some people who are up to strike, who push the company and some who try to re-shape it, many who just follow the existing path and those who don’t want any change but want to keep that what is already there. They try to defend to death the existing structures and they are very hesitant to any change. Professional internal communications and communications tools will become key factors of corporate success.
Anybody who is working in production will have to adapt to the mandatory use of masks, social distancing and radical hygiene. Canteens, offices, machines – they all have to obey the rules of the pandemic. As a result, many old customs will be cut, group work forms in confined spaces will be banned, machines will be redesigned, assembly lines will be changed, and so on. Many companies are now facing the challenge of a) mentally detaching themselves from the old, b) understanding the new needs of customers and users and implementing this accordingly. Pressure to innovate and competition are increasing. Inflexible companies will disappear from the market.
Shops, malls and supermarkets have to adapt to the new hygiene rules. Above all, the issue of distance in the aisles is often not sufficiently solved. Customers will pay more and more attention to this. In addition, they will have to develop new forms of entertainment: “How can shopping be fun again despite hygiene rules?”
Online shopping will continue to increase. That is why many shops will invest in online presences and offers. It will also be essential for them to finally communicate with their customers, to understand their needs and expectations and to develop tailored offers. The internet offers the best opportunities for this. Many shops will close down or give up because they do not have an adequate online presence, because it is no longer profitable for them or because they have lost contact with their customers. This and the expected closing down of restaurants will change our cities dramatically. “How do our cities stay or become attractive?” is a question that will be rethought as we build our future together.
Electronic payment will become commonplace because no one wants to touch dirty money anymore. Shops that do not offer this service will die faster.
Whether schools, universities, technical colleges, academies or adult education institutions – they all can no longer carry on as before. Strict hygiene regulations, classrooms that are too small, cramped reading rooms, too few staff – our education system needs a general overhaul. Teaching has to go digital, more office space has to be rented to meet the increased space requirements and more teachers with digital skills have to be taken on board. The number of new requirements reveals that nothing has happened for many years. There is a lack of digital equipment, good digital textbooks and materials, reasonable infrastructure, pedagogical concepts for digital learning as well as trained teachers. It’s a disaster and there are only civil servant teachers who would rather flee into denial than take the reins.
Instead, the authorities have been concerned with only one thing: data protection. As a result, the most absurd rules have been implemented, programmes are being used that one can hardly work with reasonably. As a consequence, teachers don’t have an individual approach to classes and students anymore because they are stuck in how the programme actually works. Civil service has completely failed in the education sector and should be abolished. This is one of the biggest problems in our country.
Whether swimming pools, cinemas, restaurants, zoos, etc., for all of them hygiene regulations are an almost insurmountable barrier to future-proof business. Too few paying visitors, too small rooms, too high a risk of infection, too much staff, often disastrously run-down and too small sanitary facilities, entrance halls that are far too small – without radically new concepts, failure of all these entertainment venues is unstoppable. And these concepts should be implemented in close cooperation together with the customer because it is important that we build our future together.
Outdoor activities (beach, outdoor pools, lakes, mountains, etc.) seem to be less dangerous than indoor activities – as long as you are not laying in each other’s arms and in close proximity to other people for a longer time. Football matches were super spreader events, but full beaches as well as quite a few demonstrations were not, but can be if you are unlucky.
But would you want to be on a plane for business or pleasure with somebody who is infected by Covid-19 sitting behind you? Do you really think that the air conditioning on planes is enough to suck away all the viruses? Do you feel comfortable when the planes are as full as they were before the pandemic?
The airlines will not be able to continue like this in the long run. Either they rebuild the planes or they greatly reduce the number of passengers per plane. It only needs to be proven once that people have been infected on the plane, then the whole system will burst. There will also be far fewer people who want to fly for work. Because online meetings work, too. In any case, this will mean fewer flights, passengers and planes. Fares for tickets will have to rise significantly, because flights cannot be financed in any other way in the future. So flying will become something special again. In future, holidays will again take place more where travellers can get to by car. Long-distance travel and travel to islands will inevitably decline.
Hotels, on the other hand, can solve the whole problem relatively easily: Breakfast, wellness, fitness, bar, dinner have to be booked separately with agreement on time slots. The lifts are only allowed to transport one person or family at a time. So if you book a hotel or guesthouse, you only get the room for the time being. But there will be fewer overnight stays overall: Business trips will be replaced by online meetings. Guests from foreign countries who have to fly will stay away, trade fairs will have less visitors staying shorter. The number of hotels will decrease in the long run.
People in cities need space as pedestrians, as cyclists, for electric scooters, etc. On many pavements, a distance of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained. People can only get this space from the streets and car parks. So there will be fewer cars in the cities in the future. And as long as public transport does not implement sensible hygiene measures (fewer passengers, strict control of the mandatory use of masks, clean, disinfected toilets, regular disinfection of carriages, etc.), it cannot function as alternative to cars. That is why those who live in cities are now increasingly relying on bicycles.
Thus we have a problem. People from the suburbs do not know how to get into the city without a car. Public transport is unhygienic and runs far too infrequently in the suburbs. Cycling is great, but the paths for cycling are too narrow, too unkempt, too dangerous as well as there are not enough available. Moreover, the paths are not up to the standards which are required in these times when they are used more frequently than before. And when the weather is bad, people still take the car or, with great reluctance and fear, public transport (“viral”).
Currently, there are only two winners: the car in the countryside and the bicycle in the city. But unfortunately the whole system doesn’t work. Of course there are solutions, other cities are showing the way. But it can’t be done overnight. It should have been started years ago. Now we are facing new tasks such as::
- Reconstruction of cities,
- Radical modernisation of public transport (hygiene, more space, high frequency),
- Building large car parks or parking areas on the outskirts of cities,
- Creating a systems so that all sorts of public transportation are integrated into a well functioning network,
- Simplification of the ticketing system,
- Introduction of nationwide or even Germany-wide ticket systems (ticket in Hamburg also works in Munich).
BUILDING OUR FUTURE TOGETHER
The changes will be huge. In 10 years we will be rubbing our eyes in amazement. But it will only work if we build our future together: In close cooperation with the citizens, on the basis of intensive communication, with intelligent marketing and with concepts that can convince. We will have to rebuild our country, no question. But we should make sure that something good comes out of it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, because cities abroad, such as Copenhagen, have long since implemented solutions that work. Copying is enough! Here, too, the rule is: building our future together.