From pandemic to endemic: adjusting to life with Covid-19

This WORKTECH Academy briefing looks at the prospect of Covid-19 as a permanent fixture of working life, and at the world’s first sustainable floating city

However much as the workplace industry would like to wish away the constant disruptions and shifts in policy of the global pandemic, that looks increasingly unlikely. New variants of the virus are again playing havoc with everything from government guidelines to business travel and returning to the office.

People ask, when will it end? But there is now a dawning realisation that we must prepare to live with Covid-19 in its various forms well into the foreseeable future. Experts are describing a sea-change in attitude ‘from pandemic to endemic’ as every sector of business faces up to the reality that there won’t be any fast way out of the crisis – and there may not be a full stop either.

A report by McKinsey & Co, ‘Pandemic to Endemic: How the world can learn to live with Covid-19’, sums up the new mood. It explains how some diseases can be completely eliminated (such as Ebola) while others (such as tuberculosis) persist as part of the infectious-disease landscape and must be carefully managed.

‘The first step is to define the new normal and the implications for the economy…’

McKinsey advocates a complete approach to managing Covid-19 based on ‘consideration of four interwoven elements’. While its proposed framework is aimed broadly at society through a public health lens, its four elements will also resonate with those designing and managing the workplace.

The first step is to ‘define the new normal’ and the implications for the economy;  the second is to ‘track progress’ using predictive analysis to understand future scenarios; the third is to limit the impact of the pandemic by providing high standards of care; and the fourth is to slow transmission by ‘making environmental and workplace modifications to enable safer interactions’.

Architectural firm Gensler, meanwhile, has been exploring what an ‘endemic’ state of Covid-19 might mean for city planning and design. In a new paper, it predicts the growth of ‘affinity hubs’ to give knowledge workers a new place to work between home and office; a switch to active travel such as biking or walking as people commute less; and the use of data to drive neighbourhood place-making and empower local groups.

Floating sustainable city

If the global pandemic is not enough to worry about, the climate emergency isn’t going away either. But at least it is bringing out the best innovative minds to address the challenge. Hot on the heels of COP26 comes news of a landmark agreement to build the world’s first prototype sustainable floating city in South Korea.

The Busan Metropolitan City of the Republic of Korea will work with UN-Habitat – the United Nations programme for sustainable urban development – and blue tech company Oceanix to innovate solutions for coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels.

Two-fifths of the world’s population live within 100 kilometres of the coast, and 90 per cent of megacities  worldwide are vulnerable to rising sea levels. The floating city is envisaged as a flood-resistant infrastructure that rises with the sea and produces its own food, energy and fresh water with fully integrated zero-waste closed-loop systems.

It has been designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and consists of a number of modular hexagonal platforms that float on the water. It will be able to accommodate 10,000 people initially and will also help the city withstand natural disasters, including tsunamis, hurricanes and flooding. Can we now envisage the waterborne workplace?

Smart Buildings

If you want to catch up on how office buildings can stay abreast of the dual threats of Covid-19 and climate change, join us at WORKTECH’s Smart Buildings 21 London conference, which takes place on Tuesday 7 December 2021 at Southworks, recently named ‘The World’s Smartest Building’.

A line-up of expert speakers from Accenture, Edge, Digital BCG, Cisco and MiddleCap will present alongside case studies on the world’s newest smart buildings and innovations. Ulrich Blum of Zaha Hadid Architects and Jeremy Myerson, director of WORKTECH Academy, will be adding perspectives on why the next generation of smart buildings has got to be really smart.

View the Smart Buildings conference programme here. Take advantage of our special delegate offer here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 1 December 2021.
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