There are lots of articles on the pandemic, I thought I pen down my thoughts on this with a Singapore context.
- Work From Home. In the past, I am back in the office about twice a week. Most of the time I would work from anywhere that has air-conditioning and power. My generous mobile plan removed me from that ball and chain of relying on WirelessSG. I have worked from the customer’s office, car park, cafeteria, office lobby etc. Now after the pandemic, if you can skip that face to face meeting, no one is going to blink.
- Personal space. If we are home most of the time, the line between personal and workspace is going to be blurred. The HDB flat is not designed for the family to be in most of the time on a long term basis. We will just get cabin fever. There is not enough space for additional display screens for the working parents and even the kids. Ergonomics and portability are important factors. Hmmm, this looks ripe for a tech-based solution.
- Retail shopping. Retail industry in Singapore has been slowly dying. The low cost of online shopping and soaring rent has chipped away at the profit margin of the retailers. As the shoppers wise up to slower delivery but much cheaper deals, the dollars keep going away. This is going to be a nail on the coffin.
- As the retail shops die off, the mall owners have countered this by focusing on food. With social distancing, keeping the restaurant packed is going to be a challenge. If you lose 30% of the seats, no matter many times you turn a table, it is never going to be enough to make a profit.
- Gig economy’s food delivery. For the longest time, I have always said a recession will kill food delivery. Looks like a pandemic is just what the doctor ordered. As people shy away from the crowds, especially for the elderly, this is going to stay, possibly for a long time until the all-clear is given.
- Transport. If more of us work from home, do we still need that 5 lanes of the expressway in land-scarce Singapore?
- Tourism. From Singapore, the rest of South East Asia is just a short flight away. Now it looks like the pandemic is here to stay, same as the restaurant owners, the airlines cannot pack the planes full. At the same time, there must be a way to prevent cross-infection. Empty seats, full-face shields, masks and possibly gloves will be the norm.
- Low-cost manufacturing. In the past, all low-cost manufacturing jobs get shipped to the factory of the world, China. As everyone has realized, that is not a great idea when in times of crises, China imposed an export ban on face masks and PPE. All these are going to be deeply diversified or simply locally made.
- Housing for foreign workers. The foreign workers from far away countries, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam are housed in dormitories. There need to be stiffer regulations to ensure that their accommodation is clean and hygienic. During the SARS period, the cleanliness of the hawker centres came under the spotlight. In the end, an enforced cleaning day every 6 months was enforced. Cleanliness and housekeeping is a team effort. Perhaps a legally mandatory cleaning day for each of the dormitory rooms?
- Workers in Singapore but living in Malaysia. Woodlands Causeway is one of the busiest land crossings in the world. In previous times, 350 000 people cross it every day. Malaysian workers reside in Johore Bahru but work in Singapore. The jobs range from the blue-collar to IT and senior management. Reducing the movement of people to slow the spread of any future virus is going to be extremely challenging.
These are the issues that have been nagging at me. What are your thoughts?
This article first appeared in Medium.com