As countries across the globe slowly emerge from lockdown it’s clear COVID-19 will continue to test our optimism for some time yet. The longer the pandemic plays out the more bruised and battered the world will be once it emerges in the virus’ wake.
But while nothing will ever be the same again, a new global survey has revealed most people expect the crisis will be the catalyst for necessary positive change.
Conducted by the Melbourne-based Centre for Optimism, The Better Normal survey has already attracted more than 650 respondents across 17 countries in the week since its launch asking for their thoughts on a post-COVID world.
The overwhelming response from contributors was a rejection of corporate and government rhetoric on the “return to normal”.
More than 70 per cent expressed a strong desire to incorporate the work-life lessons learned under the pandemic to live a “better normal”.
Interestingly, more than half (57 per cent) anticipated a better normal would be a reality, not just a hope.
Centre founder Victor Perton said the results of the survey showed companies and governments needed to rethink their return-to-work plans and communications.
“People don’t want a return to old ways or nebulous ‘new normal’; they have experienced better in the crisis and they want to benefit from change,” he said.
“People want more.”
“The old normal was no longer working for most people with diminishing productivity and wage growth.”
The former parliamentarian, Australian G20 presidency advisor and The Case for Optimism: The Optimists’ Voices author said having weathered the COVID-19 crisis with better community spirit and optimism, people wanted better for their own and their children’s future.
“It’s now time for the public and private sectors to deliver more, engage more and include more people and communities in all their planning if they want to build on the goodwill they have achieved from their communities and customers,” he said.
Authoritarian state-of-emergency rule is wearing thin.
The survey delved deeper to uncover the reasons behind contributors’ optimism, with the top three answers given as: “mindset”, “life experience” and “most people are trying to do the right thing”.
When given multiple choices to indicate how they had maintained their optimism during lockdown, the top answer was: “regular positive conversations” followed by “expressing gratitude” and then “keeping the company of optimists”.
Respondents were then given a set of adjectives to describe their optimism style. Most described their style as: “resilient”, followed by “realistic”, and then “natural optimism”.
Conspicuously lower on the list was the positive, yet passive, adjective often used by leaders to describe their COVID-19 outlook — “cautious optimism”, which attracted less than nine per cent of selections.
The old plans and thinking need to change.
In line with respondents, Centre chair Robert Masters said leaders should build a “better normal” with realistic optimism and rethink the language surrounding the transition from pre- through to post-pandemic.
“Crisis management planners need to ‘rethink’ the phase ‘back to normal’ or ‘business as usual’ and develop their strategies around how they can do better in their services, processes and procedures,” he said.
“This has now become the ‘trust building’ phase of crisis management. The old plans and thinking need to change.
“If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lessons.”
The results of the Better Normal survey build on the Centre for Optimism’s recent global study on Strategy and Optimism, which found 90 per cent of strategy professionals surveyed saw strategy as an optimistic process, but only 60 per cent had experienced an optimistic strategy process and only 20 per cent of corporations measure optimism in stakeholders and staff.