The coming plague, most likely an influenza like the coronavirus now walloping China, will affect your business and your life.
Just as the coronavirus has upset Wall Street gains and created chaos in global markets. For the next epidemic, or if this one goes pandemic, it is likely that the many intersections of commerce, distribution, prices, human health, and culture will result in many an unexpected collision
Nevertheless, here we will endeavor to follow some expected ones.
With the present coronavirus, several different types of industry and commerce are affected. Many of these have been warned about for years, because air travel, commerce, climate warming, and epidemiology, have studied the past, present, and predicted outbreaks of the future.
We are hearing about decreases in airline travel, (and the air ships themselves) hotel, restaurant, entertainment — from films, to casinos, to public shows — and tourism.
There is a great impact in all transportation, including automobiles.
For example, Starbucks has closed hundreds of outlets in China. Then there are the tech industries, the shopping decreases, and banks and lenders. Investment outlets, being dependent upon all manner of money flow, are of course, impacted as well.
When an even larger pandemic erupts, the same types of industry could see catastrophic loss.
The most important aspect is to keep people safe.
That said, there are disruptions to any business dependent upon wellness, too, of course.
Loss of productivity occurs when people cannot show up for work. There is also the problem of presentism, which is when people are present, and still functioning, but not able to focus, or be at their best.
They may be in the incubation phase of an illness and not realize it. They may be just feeling “run down.”
There is the issue of losses not only due to their lost productivity, but also their input, guidance, resourcefulness and access.
There are the issues of when a manager, or team leader is among these employees. Lost confidence and general anxiety are also problematic.
Besides the obvious lost hours on any given project when people are unavailable, there is the time lost to find others to replace them, to training, and to new personality adjustments.
The bigger picture
Today, the world is experiencing longer flu seasons. This is due to disruptions of warmer winters, and summers, novel animal migrations, and the always mutating virus. There is also more bacteria or fungus, that thrives in warmer conditions, or thrives among indoor populations in longer flu seasons.
To put it in the most straightforward way, it’s a warmer world, people must prepare.
Another sad reality is that we are so numerous (over seven billion) we are invading and disrupting ecosystems better left alone, such as bat and palm civet habitats, from which the coronavirus, and SARS, among others emerged.
Don’t eat exotic animals, especially those cruelly confined in public markets.
How to prepare your body
First, I will tell you what you have already heard before for personal care.
Wash your hands. It may sound overly simplistic, yet hand washing remains the most important way to reduce transfer of bacteria and virus.
Stay at home. It’s not all bad news for every industry. Telecommuting and using hand held communications is even better than having to wash your hands every ten minutes. If you are not exposed to germs, you won’t receive, or spread germs.
At the first sign of cough, fever, or respiratory impact, call in sick. It is better to inconvenience your boss than to bankrupt him or her. The same goes with your co-workers, in the age of epidemic, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you do cough or sneeze, cover your mouth or cough into your elbow.
Should you invest in face masks, at work, at home, in public?
Face masks, according to the experts, are the prevention of last resort. Again, wash your hands, and if you do wear a mask, make sure you keep it in place when taking a call, or any other task. They are not designed to filter out air around the mouth and nose — our most vulnerable areas — and with an airborne disease, keep distance between yourself and potentially ill people. A mask could lend a (foul) air of false confidence.
How to prepare your business
Make sure your place of work has continual access to soap and water.
Some business habits can help combat epidemics. Those industries, as mentioned above that use telecommunication help in many ways. One obvious one is staying out of the public commute, but another is encouraging eating at home rather than dining out with the masses.
Businesses that thrive will be those that use safe delivery methods, such as mass delivery, indirect delivery (germs can die off at the doorstep) and best of all virtual delivery.
A business model that innovates to decontaminate, such as water purification, tree and planting of carbon sinks, industry to reduce waste, garbage, and tech to create cultured (lab) food will be in demand in the near future.
Industries that can actually benefit when illness hits are drug companies who treat symptoms and innovate cures, industries that promote electronic meetings, types of job that can be home-based, manufacturers of non-exotic, familiar and reliable foods and staples, and any industry that decreases unnecessary public contact.
Things such as self- driving cars and automated transport sidewalks, or more sterile compartmentalized rides could arise as winners.
Unseen opportunities will also arise, how example can you use technology or startup to provide safe barricades, alternatives to them, or convenience to a potential customer?
Lock up your body and business?
This does not mean we should stop being a social species.
On the contrary, we need human contact, but it must be kept as uncontaminated as possible. In other words, find ways to share face time, but not vector time.
Nor does this mean that we should lock ourselves indoors. Indoors, in fact, is where the germs are.