COVID-19 legacy

By Roy Osing, IRIS

Every major event in the world ends up leaving a sustaining legacy long after it concludes.

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver left the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler along with many other game’s venues which stand ten years later and will likely be a reminder decades from now of the one-in-a-lifetime experience some of us witnessed.

And Steve Jobs gave us the iPhone.

COVID-19 didn’t intend to leave a legacy, but the deadly virus will.

Here are six remnants of COVID-19 that I believe (hope) will influence us as we move forward and will be indelibly etched in our society forever.

The frontline

COVID-19 demands that either the frontline get the recognition it deserves or the human species better be prepared to encounter the Armageddon.

In this crisis, frontline workers are finally getting the respect and adulation they rightly deserve.

I have been advocating the value the frontline contributes to organizations for decades, that they are the face of any enterprise and that they carry their brand at every customer contact moment.

Well, thanks to COVID-19, the world now recognizes the importance of frontline workers, but not to individual organizations, but to humanity.

Healthcare workers, truckers, first responders, food preparers and deliverers and elderly care home support staff have all been thrown into the spotlight because of the service they provide to others in the COVID-19 crisis.

They are now given the gratitude they have earned for the professions they have. Without frontline workers doing their job selfishly, leaders of organizations and of countries simply can’t succeed. And with their undying unselfish efforts, either will COVID-19.


COVID-19 has forever changed how we communicate with one another, and will fuel, I believe, greater use of technology generally.

“Let’s have a ZOOM meeting” is becoming part of our vocabulary just as “Google it” is. And the Boomers are discovering the fascination with FaceTiming or using Skype to see their grandchildren as the only way they can stay in touch.

I’m seeing a greater willingness for people generally to explore and learn new ways of doing day-to-day things with the help of technology; there is a greater motivation to “dip your toe” in new technology because of COVID-19 and I believe it’s a tipping point for technology use, particularly among the older demographic.

In addition, the need to shop online will forever change our consumption habits. People who never shopped online now do, and those that did it before are now doing more of it.

Bricks and Mortar operating businesses under pressure from online buying before will be even under more pressure post-COVID-19. The pressure to meet online needs of people will never relent; because of COVID-19 it will be the norm of customer behavior.

Personal space

COVID-19 demands that we NOT invade the personal space of others; that we refrain from contact closer than 2 meters or 6 feet in order to prevent the transmission of the virus. I believe that this fingerprint of the disease will in the future take on a deterministic role in how certain functions are performed.

Physical spacing will drive workplace layout and design and will also influence how herd demand in the airline and entertainment businesses for example will be met. Pressure will be applied to the economics of product and service topologies, but will force solutions that best balance the needs of safely separating people and delivering acceptable profit margins.

Innovation and creativity

COVID-19 stimulated innovation and creativity, as organizations had to figure out how to adapt to the new rules governing social distancing; it wasn’t a theoretical exercise on how to enhance innovation in their business, it was a matter of survival. And many didn’t make it.

Small businesses shifted from an in-house dining model to a takeout one; larger companies, in the face of reduced demand for their normal products and services, shifted their resources to produce the tools for fighting the virus such as masks and ventilators.

Customer service

The COVID-19 world reemphasized the critical importance of caring for others, and this has profound implications for getting back to business as unusual. My reader knows how passionate I am about serving leadership and customer service based on taking care of others. Well, COVID-19 has brought the importance of these attributes in people out into full display.

Under the banner of “we are all in this together” and “show kindness to your fellow humans”, the need to subordinate one’s own needs to the needs of others assumes a top priority.

I hope this attitude carries forward as a critical COVID-19 learning. I have been critical of organizations that are more in it for their shareholders and care less about their customers and employees.

Customer respect — as evidenced by their dumb rules and policies — has waned over the years and perhaps now we can get back to the basics of serving customers and delivering what they desire.

The environment

Efforts to contain COVID-19 by lockdown and isolation have resulted in a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions and other pollutants that contaminate the environment.

After many weeks of these measures, parts of the world are able to literally “see” the results of cleaner air.

The Himalayas, for example, after 30 years can finally be seen from the Punjab region of India due to the significant reduction of air pollution.

This is likely to be a stimulus for more climate change action and support from the population generally where people can actually feel what it’s like to have a more contaminant-free environment.

Every legacy is created by something truly remarkable, be it in the form of a great persona or an event with a powerful impact that changes the future course dramatically.

COVID-19 is such an event. It has the potential to leave a long lasting positive affect on all of us.

I hope we remember what it gave us and use it productively.


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