MONICA KAYOMBO, Lusaka
SINCE Covid-19 came to the fore in 2020, it has managed to change lives of many people across the globe; the pandemic has thus compelled many people to make adjustments in life. As we start 2022 in a few days, we expect to see more changes because of the pandemic whose duration on mother earth is unknown. Marian Salzman, a globally recognised trendsetter and communicator recently had a virtual meeting dubbed: ‘What we thought we knew, where she predicted 22 trends for the year 2022. She highlighted some of the changes expected to take place in 2022 due to Covid-19 and shared some ideas on how best to cope with the fresh challenges. She said 2021 definitely made many people question lots of things they had taken for granted before Covid-19 stormed. The population has remained divided on economic and political lines while conspiracy theories have become the order of the day. Ms Salzman said in 2020, the pandemic sparked a great research in which the countries were headed and people started re-setting their priorities as they were presented to adjust with the new environment. Without listing all the 22 trends for 2022 as predicted by Ms Salzman, I will restrict myself to the following topics: mental health and wellness, the skills squad, the roaring 2020’s post Covid-19 muted hedonism, change agents, meet cohesion cultivators and social inequalities. On mental health and wellness, she said as the world gets used to mental illness, time is ripe for widespread adoption of programmes, tools, technologies that tackle anxiety and depression. She said rates of substance abuse, alcohol dependency, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors now known as “diseases of despair” made headlines. Of course, the local and international media has reported on how the pandemic has brought about anxiety, un ease and un certainty among citizens of various countries across the world. Ms Salzman recommends that people need to accept the complexities and new norms. She said some multi-national companies such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Philip Morris International (PMI), and Whirlpool Corporation had put in place support systems for their workers, including employee resource groups (ERGs) that foster diverse and inclusive workplaces and create a closer feeling of community. This innovation by the above named companies reminded me of our Zambian scenario where most people lost their jobs and no companies put in place support systems such as ERGs. Hope some Zambian companies will soon consider some of these innovations. On the skills squad, Ms Salzman said people all over the world have been investing in formal education to get ahead. Of course, this is also the case with many Zambians that have decided to go back to school to advance their studies in various disciplines. The question Ms Salzman asked is: how many tertiary institutions equip students with up-to-the-minute skills they can apply right away at work, how many people are finding that the skills they do have are outdated or not in demand, how many are facing the prospect of being replaced by robots or artificial intelligence? The answer she gave is that virtually, all information is now available to anybody with an internet connection, knowledge about will become less valuable, while knowing how they will become more highly prized and priced. On hedonism, she simply stated that the last time the entire planet was hit by a deadly virus was a century ago when the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people. The doom and gloom of that pandemic gave way to a period known as the Roaring’ 20s when exciting new technologies such as cars, radios, gramophones went mainstream and seeded a new economy and a new culture full of exuberant energy. Equally, the world is shaping up to emerge from the dreary lockdowns and restrictions of COVID-19. New technologies are going mainstream like zoom, augmented virtual reality, crypto currencies among others giving rise to new fortunes and cultures. On change agents, she said they will still have a role in the post-pandemic world. “These people are no less valuable but another type of catalyst will also be in high demand. As organizations and employees experiment with infinite permutations of hybrid working, cohesion cultivators will bring the scattered parts together in new and fruitful ways either from within the organization or as external consultants,’’ she said. On social inequalities, Ms Salzman said after decades of just accepting “the way things are,” the public is getting increasingly more sensitized to inequities and less willing to tolerate them. This is going to shape political, social, and even corporate developments. Her statement reminded me of the topical issue where African countries have started lobbying for patent to locally manufacture their own Covid-19 vaccines and other essential drugs. Ms Salzman has also estimated that the future of schools will be hybrid, online and offline. With global education and training expenditure forecast to reach at least $10 trillion by 2030, there are plenty of incentives to find winning approaches. In conclusion, she said Covid-19 has helped her to gain back the four hours; she has more time with her family and the development has enabled her acquire more knowledge and hands-on skills. “I am operating in “my time”—a COVID-born phenomenon that has enabled many of us to work to our natural biorhythms throughout 24-hour cycles, at intervals when we are at our most productive, creative, and receptive,’’ she said. As we continue battling with Covid-19, let us learn one or two things from Ms Salzman’s catalogue of trends to adapt to the new environment.