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Opinion: No more handshakes and other post-virus predictions

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Predictions make fools of us all.

The house, in gambling, wins most of the time. Horse racing has managed to exist for several hundred years because “that sure bet in the fifth at Belmont” finishes eighth.

What seems so obvious after it has been evident for a few years wasn’t so back when we first started considering it. Seemingly dumb ideas work wonders when coupled with motivated backers and the momentum of the times.

Let us cast our gaze forward to a better time, after the COVID-19 virus has receded from view, hopefully with the necessary vaccines in place to keep it in check. What does the business world, and the goods and services we receive from it, look like?

My carved-in-stone guesses follow.

Handshakes will go away, as will those hot air blowers in restrooms that simply leave you with damp, virus-covered digits as you reenter the hallway. Hand sanitation products will be fully installed.

Restaurants will have to get on board the delivery service bandwagon, as people will have grown quite accustomed to eating good food at home, without having to deal with the whole “get dressed, make polite chat with the waiter or waitress, get guilted into leaving a big tip for haphazard service and feel bad for ordering a big dessert” thing. If you had said five years ago people would pay to have McDonald’s combo meals delivered to their homes, people would have laughed you out of the room.

Sorry bartenders, barbacks and cocktail servers, along with the dramatic rise in food delivery services (many more competitors to Uber Eats and Grubhub will arise), booze manufacturers will figure out clever ways to package the most popular mixed drinks into mobile forms. Want a cosmopolitan, a dirty martini or a Long Island iced tea? Check the app on your phone and once we’ve verified your age, it’s at your door in a chilled, disposable shaker. No need to worry about a DUI arrest or having to pay for an Uber ride home in the wee hours.

That big, multiday trade show and conference you like to go to in St. Louis or Kansas City each year, consider it gone. Wave goodbye to those overpopulated conferences and meetings held at fancy resort hotels with golf courses and ballrooms. Those days of catching the opening keynote speaker in the morning and then heading out for a quick 18 holes are over. We’re all going to be living in Zoomland, Adobeville and GotoMeeting Acres. It’s all about distance learning now, and the celebrity or motivational speakers you see on the screen will be talking to you from their homes.

Cybersecurity will become a forefront issue, and tech firms will have to work harder and smarter to keep up with the hackers, thieves and ransomware plotters. Imagine six months ago telling someone using Zoom that their meeting, titled “4th Quarter Sales Projections,” could be crashed by an outsider?

The open office concept will disappear, as those employees who do have to visit the office on a quarterly basis will want cubicles to work in. Staring across your desk at five other co-workers was never a way to improve communication or brainstorming anyway.

Internet service providers will have to step up their 5G game and soon. Huge demands on bandwith and access, especially for rural parts of the country, will create a public sense that internet speeds had better be faster, more available and operating at full-use, no lag, no buffering capacity 24/7. People will shift from their online work screens to their entertainment screens the minute dinner is over. The demand for content from existing and oncoming media channels will increase tenfold. After you’ve binged the new stuff, you’ll want more new stuff, so Hollywood had better get busy.

Gyms and fitness centers will feel the burn, as fewer people will want to exercise in public. Get used to online bike rides, hikes and that weird $1,500 mirror installed in your bedroom where you can be yelled to do aerobics. Those invisible folks who paid for a package on Jan. 2 and never made it in the door are the lifeblood of most fitness centers. Those monthly debits will be stopping en masse.

Virtual churches will replace large buildings used for only a few hours on the weekend. Religious leaders will have to find creative ways to preach and nonintrusive ways to pass the plate electronically.

Lastly, watch how we become much less global and more American-centric. What we bought overseas and had shipped here – medicines, airplane parts, smartphones – will start to be made here.

When it comes to my predictions, I will follow the words of movie studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn, “I’m willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong.”

Steve Albrecht is a Springfield-based trainer, human resources consultant and employee coach. He can be reached at drsteve@drstevealbrecht.com.

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