Inside the Dystopian, Post-Lockdown World of Wuhan – Bloomberg Business Week, April 23 2020, Sharon Chen and Matthew Campbell, with Claire Che and Sarah Chen
Keeping Afloat Means Quality Makeover
Every workday at Lenovo’s tablet and phone factory on the outskirts of Wuhan, arriving employees report to a supervisor for the first of at least four temperature checks. The results are fed into a data collection system designed by staff. Anyone above 37.3C (99.1F) is automatically flagged, triggering an investigation by an in-house “anti-virus task force.”
Daily routines at the facility, which reopened on March 28 after stopping for over two months because of the coronavirus pandemic that began in this central Chinese city, have been entirely reengineered to minimize the risk of infection. Before returning to the site, staff members had to be tested both for the virus and for antibodies that indicate past illness, and they had to wait for their results in isolation at a dedicated dormitory. Once cleared, they returned to work to find the capacity of meeting rooms built for six reduced to three and the formerly communal cafeteria tables partitioned off by vertical barriers covered in reminders to avoid conversation. Signs everywhere indicate when areas were last disinfected, and robots are deployed wherever possible to transport supplies, so as to reduce the number of people moving from place to place. Elevators, too, are an artifact of the Before Times; everyone now has to take the stairs, keeping their distance from others all the way.
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Through the WI lens
Before Times and After Times. Is that how we’ll come to see the Covid-19 pandemic in the fullness of time? How life will be after lockdown is the topic on everybody’s minds right now, and this article offers a glimpse into the place that’s furthest ahead of the curve: where the virus started at Wuhan in Hubei province, China. Here, the workplace is characterised by repeated temperature checks, partitioned social spaces and meetings where people can sit in the same room but only spread out from each other. Outside, the streets and shopping malls are largely deserted because, although people are allowed to venture out, they’re too nervous to do so. Products that enable distancing – cars, PC tablets – are selling well; those that don’t, aren’t.
Apps, overseen by government, classify everyone by a traffic light system according to their Covid status – green, yellow and red. Your civil liberties, whether you can travel between cities or must self-isolate, depend on it, and funerals are still banned. Few expect western countries to adopt exactly the same measures as China, which has a much more authoritarian control and surveillance of its citizens. But what Wuhan shows is the level of adjustment to our lives required to stem the virus for now. We will have to find a kinder way to achieve the same ends. That will certainly require the willingness and complicity of the people; and an unprecedented level of sacrifice in our daily lives. It also suggests our core values may have to change: individualism and hedonism may become less important in our future; community and mindfulness somewhat more so.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”