Romania after the virus.
We have all “become aware” of the COVID 19 virus that has installed itself instantly in our lives, radically changing, overnight our perceptions and priorities. Let’s hope that this period will pass as soon as possible, with relatively minor damage to our health and economy.
I am convinced that, at the moment, everyone is facing unique difficulties and our responsibilities have increased significantly. Many of these difficulties are unresolved problems from the past, which are now felt strongly: local and county problems, or issues that come from the central institutions of the state. A large part of them has been accumulated in the last 30 years. At the same time, I am convinced that many of us are already concerned about the future and what will happen next after this unfortunate event.
The luckiest of us, and so far, I hope, most of us, are stuck into our homes, and we are trying to get used to this alternative. We work from home, we “meet” virtually with colleagues or friends, we pay for everything online, we do the shopping just the same – from food to sport attire, appliances, electronics, etc. – we exchange documents with the authorities, we do the same thing for our parents who do not master computers as we do, we often visit the “social places” online and, in general, we get most of our information from the online.
This “strange” period will not go unnoticed after the pandemic passes. Our perceptions of life and our habits will change forever. Many companies and the majority of the population will find out that work can be done without problems from home, supply and payments can be made almost entirely online, business meetings can be scheduled on Skype, Webex, Zoom, or other apps, and the relationship with the state and its institutions can be carried out precisely in the same way. Not only that. A good part of Romania’s citizens will even claim that public services of any kind will also be automated and performed online. Here we can list the plethora of documents and social interactions, from building permits, changing one’s identity card, paying taxes, registering a company, or changing its headquarters.
After all, what has changed COVID 19 so profoundly? The answer is the perception of one’s own time. We all acutely realized that from one day to the other, we could become perishable. As a result, we reevaluate and replace (in order of importance) the scale of values we guide our lives. What we inevitably lose every second becomes our most precious asset: time. The hours spent in traffic to work and come back, or the endless trips to various institutions and counters, thus become a lost good. And in these times of forced isolation, they become a good gained. Many of us will want to keep this gain even after the pandemic is over. Why? To dedicate more to the essential aspects of life: family, hobbies, friends, housekeeping, cooking or, why not, half an hour of sleep after lunch. For most people, the “job” is just a means of providing a decent lifestyle, nothing else. Therefore it is a compromise made with the employer, in which there is an exchange between lost time, work, and the money one receives.
Managing all workers under one roof is child’s play, compared to 100 or more roofs. In the post-pandemic world, where remote working has become the new norm, leaders need to learn to lead remotely rather than face-to-face. And this will be a considerable challenge, but not as huge as staying in the old paradigm of work, which fewer and fewer people will desire. Most likely, employers and institutions that will remain in the old paradigm will face acute problems of staff shortages and low productivity – just like those people who still work in the same offices and counters. The aspect is valid both for employees in the private system and for those in the public system. What will matter in the end will be solving one’s work duties and not the place from where these duties are solved and, in general, managing to solve the daily-routine-type-of-problems in the most efficient way, in terms of time and energy consumption.
In Estonia, a citizen meets, face-to-face, with the authorities three times in their life when they need to obtain a birth, marriage, or death certificate. COVID-19 showed all of us that it is possible to live like this – and in many ways, it is much better. In psychological relaxation after the pandemic, our fellow citizens will have other demands from the relationship with any kind of state institution. One of the oldest wishes of the electorate is to get rid of the bureaucracy and the time spent unnecessarily with making copies of ID cards, files, the officials, and the “ladies” at the counters. However, the state in general – from the presidency to the registration service – has a bad reputation, and the confidence in its ability to manage the country’s affairs is shallow. Therefore, it’s an excellent time to take advantage of the opportunity and start repairing and rebuilding.
Times of crisis are also times when opportunities are being born. I think that for the vast majority of us (and I say this with all the responsibility needed), it is a unique moment of opportunity to start the modernization that everyone desires. Of course, modernization plans do not only affect the online environment and the simplification of bureaucratic relationships. Modernization and being closer to the 21st century of Romania involves much more, according to its potential and specificity: in tourism, organic agriculture, local products, clean environment, national and international image, administration reform, etc. Prioritization is most likely necessary because the potential funds to be allocated are certainly not enough to achieve these goals in the short term. However, you can still prioritize and get started. The pandemic will not last indefinitely, and people will want to leave their homes again, socialize at the restaurant, go sightseeing, eat as many natural products as possible, and so on.
I am convinced that an administration or a company that will now start a well-defined change plan, broken down by precise and well-communicated objectives, will be appreciated for a long time from now on, becoming a positive landmark, well-anchored in the collective mind.