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Considerations on the ‘new normal’ of bringing people back together again

LIVE LIFE – PROTECT YOUR FUTURE – STAY WELL

“This is why a powerfully different culture, evolved brand values and expanded consciousness will mean the difference between success and failure in post Covid recovery”.

Where is the ‘new normal’ to be found? Hidden in plain sight. The need for a focus on overall wellbeing, health and happiness of people has never been greater. In a recent piece that begins a conversation on what the future might look like, bio technology and very specifically, the optimisation and efficiency of our immune system, was highlighted. These aspects also sow the seed for what we might expect from the savviest event and hospitality companies. The domestic markets will lead but the guts of recalibration is relevant to both domestic and international alike. Many wellness industry folks and organisations have been beating the drum for years on the integration (woven through workplace and lifestyle) of human wellbeing …cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman), or in this case, cometh the most resonant formula.

Keep in mind;

• Safety and people feeling protected
• Health/bio metric testing as a norm
• Questions related to air circulation and hygiene practice in venues
• Social distancing management
• How staff are checked and monitored
• Revised employee sickness policies
• Virtual events have risen in response to lockdown but Zoom/Teams fatigue is now a thing!

Don’t be sucked into the complexity that Covid-19 presents

The ability to absorb, digest and process the overwhelming intricacy and domino effect of Covid-19 is an obstacle course of pitfalls and myriad challenge – remember we’re all still human beings and we relish connection and meaningful relationships with others, to truly thrive. Cue ‘Revenge Attending’, not to be underestimated. Will an encouraged common sense approach mean people choose to take their own measured risks. On the macro stage, the sheer volume of analysis, opinion, consumer mood, media pressure and procrastination around the right course of action means uncertainty but also, directional change. Political, scientific, social, economic, health and business priorities are already beginning to clash. Whilst talk of social distancing is being mooted to remain in some form until as late as 2022 , equally, the pressure to get society back to work, industries and the economy back on its feet are becoming equivalently (if not more) critical to saving lives. Watch out for a swift change in narrative, here’s why;

Mental Health – the health issues associated with home isolation and the underlying anxiety throughout society may yet prove worse than the threat of the virus itself. The existential fear is profound enough to mean that people are missing needed medical attention and or treatment for cancer, heart disease and inoculations to name but a few– an NHS report
from 2015 gives an outline of what that impact can mean “…nine longitudinal studies found that social isolation and loneliness are associated with 50% excess risk of coronary heart disease…”. The genuinely pressing instinctive and mental health need for people to be able to meet again is a profound one. The Events industry is one which has been decimated by the pandemic (along with hospitality and travel) but it is also poised to serve as a salve to reunite, connect and provide a ‘safe’ environment for people and business to simultaneously recover.

The Economy – the government led lockdown initiatives throughout the world mean that economic recovery will be the next focus. Countries and industry will want to salvage what they can – to do that will require a very different motivational narrative. In the UK ‘Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives’ has been effectively drummed into the entire population to optimise lockdown. A simple, powerful and understandable message that has worked well will need to turn on its heel to get people back to work and feel safe to socialise (and spend), the essence will eventually become ‘Live Life – Protect Your Future – Stay Well’, governments will be seeking to remove the created fear and discomfort and mobilise the population once again. Uncertainty reigns supreme but lets consider just how important it is for the population to reconnect again: there is evidence that lost lives within the ripple effect of Covid-19 will far outweigh those directly lost to the virus – a group of wellbeing economists have sought to outline what that balanced view could and arguably needs to look like in a >recent report;

When to release the lockdown: A wellbeing framework for analysing costs and benefits

“Abstract: In choosing when to end the lockdown, policy-makers have to balance the impact of the decision upon incomes, unemployment, mental health, public confidence and many other factors, as well as (of course) upon the number of deaths from COVID-19. To facilitate a decision, it is helpful to forecast each factor using a single metric. We use as our metric the number of Wellbeing-Years resulting from each date of ending the lockdown. This new metric makes it possible to compare the impact of each factor in a way that is relevant to all public policy decisions.”

Formula considerations and repackaged purpose

The removal of fear and anxiety at the prospect of being in close proximity with strangers or even work colleagues, will require an empathic and reassuring approach. Companies will want and need to motivate their teams after so long apart. Timings will be government led but they’re as keen to get businesses back on their feet as business itself. Aspects to consider;

1. Basic physical adjustments – air quality and circulation, socially distanced seating, styles of food consumption (buffets will be viewed with suspicion at the very least), testing prior to attendance, strict hygiene protocols and logistics previously unfaced.

2. Newly defined need – bringing people safely back together, through trust, credibility, care and nurture. Underestimating the fear that exists for people would be a mistake. What will matter most is that transparent precautions are being taken to ensure protection and optimised health of those returning to work – potentially bio metrics apps that prove (as far as can be proved), a ‘greenlight’ for personal health, ramped up hygiene and sanitisation, emphasis on ‘feeling better’, hydration, nourishment, emotional balance, mental wellbeing and space. The new normal requires a cultural shift; a fundamental sense of concern and compassion for all that not only prioritises physical health but also, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. You may think that it is already prevalent but it will need a turbo charge over the coming months at least.

3. Purpose – every event and office space from now on will be defined by this global pandemic experience. We will need to embrace the result and ensure that events not only provide the traditional motivation, inspiration and collaborative spirit, but also be a simultaneous hub for wellbeing whether that is the subject matter of the event or not. The ‘wellness woven in’ mantra is coming to life is as profound a way as could be imagined.

4. Market value and positioning – it is entirely conceivable that the events market (mass gatherings aside for now) could be positioned to get society and business back on its feet. From team building events to educational workshops, inspirational business collaboration and innovative meeting concepts – expect the human wellbeing related market to move up a gear, recognition of the importance of personal health is sky rocketing.

5. Food as nourishment, pro-active health, illness prevention, protective medicine – evidence is growing that poor diet and obesity is a significant factor for younger people (under 60) fighting coronavirus. This consultant cardiologist points to a 10 fold increase in mortality for those with obesity and or a poor diet. All roads point to ‘real’ wholesome nutrient rich food as being the baseline (this isn’t new!) for immune system health and the prevention of chronic inflammation.

6. Ostensible culture shift, building trust, feeling valued, loved and protected – the biggest issue will be flipping what has become a deep seated ‘feeling’ of anxiety around others. Even when facts indicate safety, it is well known that how people feel will be more powerful than undisputed truth. This is why a powerfully different culture (through language, imagery, music, behavioural traits, policies), evolved brand values and expanded consciousness will mean the difference between success and failure in post Covid recovery.

In conclusion, there remains significant opportunity to thrive in the hospitality and events space. Basic human need and aspiration will not change, what will have altered is the value more people, businesses and governments will place on human health and wellbeing. My belief is that the hospitality and events industries, hand in hand with government policy can be positioned as a valuable recovery asset but it needs to be messaged in a more progressive way, protective measures and pro-active health will be the new hallmark of every event, valuing wellbeing will be seen as valuing people and safeguarding a sustainable future of in-person community and gatherings of all numbers.

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