After 2 years of COVID-19, we are getting pretty fatigue by the different variants. This is the longest pandemic since SARS, MERS, and H1N1. The challenging part of transmission is the asymptomatic symptoms and the rate it can spread quickly, silently and sometimes deadly. This is what I hope to see and do for working during 2022.
A Relook on Mask
It makes no sense to mask on in office cubicle. This is one reason of comfort to work from home. Working environment should be comfortable and masks required only for high touch and high density crowd. I hope to see better mask design for front-liners who mask throughout the day. After all, we should invest in mask sustainability for a pandemic that is here to stay.
Hybrid working model will be the future. It will be hard to go back to before on crowded desk space and office areas. We should see the emergence of shared spaces and flexible hybrid model. Not all teams are the same and working should be flexible to the team discretion. It will be effective to converge for meetings rather being in office during alternate fixed periods. Thus, working in person is driven by needs rather than wants. I need to be in office for meetings. It should not be I want you to be in office!
Working in 2022 will continue to be challenging due to ongoing COVID-19 variants. Organisations must be flexible to maximise benefits of being in office rather than working in office to be seen. Office space should also be reconfigured for spacing. It must also be safe to remove masks so that I can work in the comfort of my own cubicle!
The great divide is here again. This comes in the form of COVID-19 pandemic. We are divided between vaccinated vs unvaccinated. Traveling becomes a hassle unless you are in VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lane). We also have frontliners jobs which bear the risk from pandemic. How will this great divide impact IT?
IT model closely to the reality. This is usually translated to data model. There is already emerging data to understand and mitigate the impact of the pandemic to economic data. This comes in the form of prolonged lockdown and the need to normalise with the pandemic. Thus, our existing data model will start to include differentiating factors with regards to the pandemic variables.
IT resource retention becomes challenging because work boundaries are fluid. Hybrid model will allows ease of acquiring skills across boundaries. Off site becomes easier because of the pandemic. Collaboration tools becomes sophisticated enough to manage off short resources. Subsequently, this allows IT resources to move around with ease.
The great divide from COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities and challenges for IT. There are distinct differences for industries impacted by COVID-19. Data must be readily be available to help normalise living with the pandemic. On the other hand, it is a challenge to retain IT resource due to demand and ease of hybrid working model. Regardless of the impact, the pandemic has accelerated IT opportunities beyond the physical world.
2021 Covid-19 is ending with Omicron variant in the limelight. Omicron is expected the grace the opening of 2022. Unlike the gate crashing Delta in 2021, we have been getting used to these variants. Economies will be opening despite the risks. After all, lockdown are counter productive to trade. Physically and psychological, we are immune to Covid-19. Many changes have been accelerated and adopted to suit the a world of Covid.
Covid is a reality check to Maslow Needs theory. The lockdown have jolted us to realise that simple things like eggs or rice are dependent on trade in Singapore. The acute mad rush to stock up even for toilet rolls are a reminder that needs will alway comes first. The prolonged Covid-19 situation have changed on how we managed our needs against this pandemic. Once we cross these needs, it is time to follow our wants.
Press on for Omicron
Omicron impact will not be severe as the rest of Covid-19. This is because we are now adept to handle the different kinds of variants. Variants are expected to keep coming as we develop resistance to Covid-19. We may still look forward to our days of “not wearing masks” and “no ART”. A hybrid model will become normal as organisations adopt a standard COVID org chart. Trade and crowds will resume in the tolerance for COVID risks.
As we are welcoming 2022, the fear of omicron will be lesser and normalise. Many have accepted on how our needs are achieved in the post pandemic world. However, we know that these will not sustain for long because wants will push our acceptance towards COVID. It will be a busy 2022!
Many questions why fairness of differentiation vs lockdown. These messages only make it hard for people to live with COVID-19 normally. The new normal are slowly evolving into the following:
Frequent COVID-19 testing
Ban for unvaccinated
Despite these normals, cases remains high. One reason could be due to home recovery. This is because one family members got COVID-19, it is likely entire family will get it as well.
Cat and Mouse
The measures will need to go at some point because it is a cat and mouse game of COVID-19 and the vaccines. Israel surge is a case study for all as this is a never ending game. We should either go all in or brake slowly. This will avoid unnecessary U-turn measures that only adds fear to public. Lesson learnt shows that healthcare system will face the brunt if the rate of reopening is too soon.
As we comes into the phase of differentiation by vaccination as predicted, certain measures are now tune to relief the healthcare system. It is now clear that gradual reopening should be done and we must not be complacent about being vaccinated. The fight must goes on but “more haste, less speed”!
In Singapore, Covid cases continues to rise as we are advised to stay indoors or avoid crowded places as part of COVID-19 measures. Work from Home is also a default to stem the increase. Elderly are advised to stay indoors as they are high risk group in contracting COVID-19. This comes not as a surprise as fatalities remain high for elderly!
Self Service ART
Taking national exam requires self service ART (Antigen Rapid Test) test. Even going back office will need ART test as well. This totally does not sounds like what we do for flu. The test adds to fuel as we divided and segregated vaccinated or ART tested people in daily lives. The new norm we crave is now littered with tests and Covid vaccination proof. Now, it seems we will be moving in ambiguity amid the various proof to be provided.
Advisory is Ineffective for Elderly
In ambiguous world, giving an advisory is not effective for the elderly. You cannot expect elderly to stay indoors or conduct daily ART. Staying indoors will be bored for them as they need social interactions. Taking ART is unrealistic unless this test is free or simplified. Thus, It is always recommended to take a firm message instead of issuing advisory.
The current measures have a similar effect with lockdown as we stay indoors and avoid risk. However, a constant stream of population will continue outdoors because this is not a lockdown to them. The confused measures will continue to contribute to increase cases as we balance acceptance of COVID-19. At this rate, it is unlikely we can move towards a maskless and testless endemic for the next few months.
Finally, Singapore cave in to reality checks of COVID-19 when measures are tightened again with work from home as default. This is largely due to the confusion on how the entire population should view this as an endemic. These messages create a false sense of security as some organisations are quick to resume work in office. Subsequently, these activities created clusters at workplaces as the rising cases strain on the medical resource. How should this be improved as we want to adopt an endemic approach?
Guidelines must be Clear on the Risk and Consequences
The typical decision markers in some organisations are quick to follow guidelines blindly. These are traditional views where some organisations or public trusted the guidelines without proper self evaluation of their risk managment and staffs profiles. There are risks when staffs have family with small kids. Of course, it is unfair to blame this on the guidelines. After, guidelines are not rules but to be taken with correct understanding of risks appetite. By now, we seen that these guidelines should highlight the risks and consequences that organisations must undertake if they choose to follow it to the tee.
COVID cannot be treatedlike Flu
By now, we know that COVID-19 cannot be treated like a common flu. It is a new set of policies, guidelines, risk management or even communication to be educated with the general public. After all, we are still learning how to manage Covid-19 like an endemic. These hard lessons should reflected and not to be treated lightly (pun intended)! It is recommended that organisations must setup these new set of guidelines if they want to adopt an endemic view to Covid-19.
The past few weeks of trying COVID-19 as an endemic is creating a state of confusion. This is largely due to the need of new management approach on how to consider Covid-19 as an endemic. It is obvious that a clear articulated communication plan must be thought out for the “blindsided”. In the meantime, it is better for majority to be conservative as safety comes first for kids and high risks groups.
Singapore approach to treat COVID-19 as an endemic like flu is still plagued with confusion and risks. The general public grappled with this thoughts as Singapore cases continue to rise steadily. The latest measure is HBL (Home Based Learning) for Primary 1 to Primary 5 from 27 Sep to 6 Oct 2021. This shows the risks that existed if we want to consider COVID-19 as flu or endemic. Is the public ready to view Covid-19 as endemic?
No more Qurantine
As long quarantines exist, it is difficult to imagine an endemic environment. As Singapore reach above a high rate of vaccination, we will have to accept the high rate of transmission as a norm. Very soon, there should not be a need for quarantine. This is because quarantine provides a contradiction to endemic approach. Instead, it is a matter of time where vaccinations will be mandatory. These view will be spur when vaccination are approved for kids below 12.
A Future by Vaccination
The return to endemic will lead us to view COVID-19 differently from other endemic illness like flu. For once, vaccination becomes a condition to many places or even jobs. If you have COVID-19, you can also be at home recovery if vaccinated under Home Recovery scheme. It may even be possible that vaccinated will not require quarantine in future.
COVID-19 is a perfect case study for future on how to transition a pandemic to endemic. In this transition, vaccination becomes a condition and nearly mandatory. It is interesting to see how things continue to unfold in Singapore as we move to a endemic Covid-19.
A key aspect of working in office is socialising. Of course, these are exceptions for essential workers. Gatherings, coffee breaks and pantries are ways of informal exchange of information. These are often not replaceable by group chat because many of these encounters are as ad hoc in nature. Restricting these exchanges will defeat the purpose of working in office. Literally, it is telling you to be physically in office but socially removed.
Bring your Own Risk
The messages conveyed are confusing to organisation and individuals. If there is no further lockdowns, why are Quarantine Orders (QO) or LOA (Leave of Absence) still being issued? This means risk are in your own hands. Yes, you can go out or work in office. If there is QO or LOA, it is yours to bear. This means that teams should determine the importance level of working in office or risk exposure by blind compliance.
The endemic is shaping the risk and mindset for many of us. This is why guidelines are set instead of rules. We must be allowed to determine our own risk appetite towards COVID-19 at our discretion.
The reality to endemic seems confusing these days in Singapore. After all, trade and borders opening is the priority for the economy. Endemic mindset remains fuzzy as COVID-19 variants persisted. Many questions the rationale of what endemic means. Will we be mask free? Are we going to penalise and segregate vaccinated and non vaccinated?
What is Endemic?
Flu and cold are known illnesses that we taken for granted in a society we called endemic. Will we treat COVID-19 like a common cold? Or will we treated common cold illnesses like COVID-19 in future? When we murked our ways through the endemic or “new normal”, who should get their feet muddy first.
Time to be Clear
This is a time to be firm and decide to be endemic or “new normal”. There will have to a clear line between what will be a rule or guideline. If there is benefit of doubt, it means risk at your own discretion. Will we be penalise for being cautious? For each relaxation, clusters will be normal. An endemic will not consider these clusters as critical. How should we react if these are reported?
The long drawn war with COVID-19 is taking a deep toll with economy and trade. Perhaps this is a time to send a message that we will only need to wear masks if we felt sick. After all, this is how endemic society should be.
Singapore plans for COVID-19endemic seems to be on a balancing act because many have yet to envision how this will be. It will take a few weeks of observations before anyone will know what to do with endemic mindset. Some organisations are quick to restore working in office once the restrictions are relaxed. As usual, the interpretation are subjective as many have learnt to work from home.
Blind Men and Elephant
If your teams are able to function with wfh, there is really no rush to go back to office. This needs are for those who require the office space and equipment. These are the people who have moved their equipments home to enable wfh. If you are to ease into an alternate week arrangement, you will end up being counter productive! Do not be the blind men feeling an elephant. You must have clear view of what you wanted to achieve being in the office.
A clear indication of endemic COVID-19 is the need to wear mask continuously. Guidelines must be clear and should be reviewed by your team needs. If the guidelines are unclear, adopt a conservative approach for safety. This is true for family with kids less than 12 years old because they are not able to be vaccinated. Another scenarios will be restrictions for high risk people like elderly.
Moving to endemic COVID-19 will take time. Organisation must not be like blind men and the elephant in the haste to resume working in office. Do take a conservative approach for individual needs if you can still wfh. After all, safety first!