On Thursday of last week (3/12/2020) I was working but I was very distracted.  While trying to source candidates for one of my clients, I had CNN on in the background.  I had this eerie feeling just like I did in 2008.  Things were about to get bad.  I didn’t know (and still don’t) if this will lead to a recession, but for right now- things aren’t great.  The world is in a weird place right now.  I knew that the NBA season had been postponed already and SXSW had been cancelled.  If you aren’t a Texan you might not know that this huge music/film/interactive media/conference event in Austin brought in $300 million to the city in 2019 and thus the biggest economic impact to our city of the year.  After hearing the news of those cancellations, I was thinking “What’s Next”??  The “What’s Next” was far worse than I possibly imagined.

Last Thursday, The DOW had its biggest drop since 1987.  The NCAA basketball tournament was postponed.  The conference championships were cancelled.  The NHL, MLB, XFL had all been postponed.  One after another, things were getting cancelled.  In Texas the Houston rodeo, then the Austin rodeo, then church services were all cancelled!  The crowd restriction started out as any gathering of 2,500 people or more. By Saturday the recommendation was to cancel any gathering of 250 people or more.  It will be just a matter of time before that number is much, much smaller.  A friend in Germany reports that their current recommendations are no gatherings of 75 people or more. We also heard President Trump say that he has declared this pandemic as a national disaster.   It is unfathomable.  In fact, every morning I wake up I read something new about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the “What’s Next” gets more and more alarming.

I would have never thought that in my lifetime I would see something like this. The flu pandemic of 1968 killed 1 million people, the Asian flu of 1956-1958 took the lives of 2 million and the flu pandemic of 1918 had a staggering death rate of 20-50 million people globally. The knowledge we have about COVID-19 is ever evolving.  At this point, I know most of the world is in an understandable state of anxiety and fear. The panic is obvious in the emptiness of the essential items at the grocery store. Toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, disinfectants, hand soap are all in extremely short or rationed supply.

So…  What is next?  Truthfully everyone has their own opinion. The thing I can say about this is that this is unprecedented for most of us.  It is not unprecedented in the fact that we haven’t had health scares in the past.  No, that would the furthest thing from the truth.  What is unprecedented is how this will affect the workplace.  How will we go about going to work?   Businesses will have employees work remotely, but what about those industries where remote work is not an option? It is almost certain to temporarily paralyze small business owners and it is unforeseen how many will ultimately be forced to close up shop.  It has put life on pause.

Unemployment is still very low… for now.  Companies are still hiring…for now.  How do we go about our normal lives when we are instructed not to leave our houses?  Interviews are still going on…for now.  So, how do we continue “business as usual” as our children are at home from school and we are electing to have “social isolation” to protect ourselves from COVID-19?

Video interviewing will be the new norm as we, as a society, try to maintain some normalcy. No more hand shaking, fist bumps or high fives.  We are now bumping elbows (who knew that would be a thing?!) We are afraid to touch surfaces away from home and wash our hands vigorously once returning home.  Who knows what an infected person may have touched?  Bizarre right?  Apocalyptic?  I don’t know if I would go that far, but it is sure strange!

So, as we move forward in this “new normal” of social distancing we are learning along the way.  Not sure what the changes will be, but there will be changes.  Will this new work from home become the new normal of industries with capabilities to do so?  Dogs barking, kids interrupting phone calls, lack of face-to-face business encounters.  For the meantime, that will just have to be accepted rather than rejected.   After all, is it the end of the world if you have a dog barking in the background?  Will the 8-5 workday finally be over?  Will the work hours become “when available” while we are all still scrambling to take on life’s new challenges?

I don’t know.  As I said, it is unprecedented territory.

What IF things can’t get back on track and we dig into a recession?  Well, my view is we can only control what we can control.  For right now, we need to do our part by staying home, hoping his virus is contained and pray a vaccination will be found ASAP.  If a recession happens, it won’t be the first time in our history that it has happened, and we will survive!  In fact, if history repeats itself, which it often does, we will just become stronger as a nation.

I can say this as a final thought.  While we are forced into “social distancing” we can take this opportunity to really get back to what is important in life.  Family, neighbors, and all that God has given us in this beautiful earth to enjoy.  As a Christian, I would be remiss not to mention faith is essential during this time period of crisis.  Isaiah 41:10 says “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you: I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We can enjoy the simple things like evening bike rides, the good laughs with your neighbor and a game of Monopoly with the kids. In this crazy, hectic paced society we live in it has been awhile since some of us have taken the time to enjoy the small things that truly matter.  Let’s be grateful for what we have, not what we don’t have.

Life is precious.  Enjoy everyday as if it were your last.  Be safe, love your neighbor as yourself and help others where you can.

We are all along for this crazy ride.