The pandemic has affected our lives in multifarious ways that we are still trying to ascertain, still trying to bounce back from, and ways that have left us wondering how we can transform our society for the better. Given the changed behaviours in response to a changed environment during the pandemic, various facets of life have also evolved including how we interact, how we work, how we move around, how we conduct our business, and, most of all, of how we view our health. Our health has suddenly become a key focus including our own and others perceptions of individual health. Try sneezing in a public place today and the heads that turn with ‘the look’ tell you just that! Alongside physical health, mental health and well-being has also now taken on a new dimension.
In a world where mental health always played second fiddle to priorities like work, physical health, aesthetics, etc., the COVID-19 pandemic served as a wake-up call to many. The pandemic pulled the speed brakes on many aspects of social life along with personal and professional life. It provided a forced break, albeit unwanted and unexpected, from overly-packed days with hours of commuting, working, and socialising in multiple physical spaces, and restricted us all to our personal confines. In these bounded personal spaces, our relationships with our own selves became ever more important and people began to be confronted by their mental health, or their continued negligence of it.
Physical spaces have up till now been silos for different activities social spots for friends, houses for families, offices for work. In this set-up, mental health could easily be dissociated from our being and personal needs could easily be made second to those two extra hours in the office on a Friday, or the drink with a friend at the newest bar etc. However, being continually cooped up in the same space made it harder for people to continue to ignore or repress their mental health. With the continued impact of the pandemic, people began or atleast attempted - to refocus their lives towards a greater balance for mental well-being. This moment provides an important pandemic pivot as well as a key moment in the 21st century lifestyle, and highlights the importance of mental health. This moment also led to a significant shift in people’s internal and external lives, interactions, and even consumer patterns.
Since this is so similar across the global communities, I choose to call this The ‘Mental Being’ of the whole humanity. And this has affected our environment, or, perhaps, vice versa! The fear of getting infected, the stigma that arises (yes even today) out of it, the fear of dying as has been exemplified by the sheer statistics of the spread of the disease by volume across the globe, has created different types of fears, frustrations, limitations, needs, lifestyles etc.
And it is this Mind that matters. This matters because it defines how we deal with everything around us as well as the environment, and in this particular context, the business environment, which needs to change to respond to the now differing consumer behaviours. One of the most major pivots arising out of the pandemic is in the way we need to do business now, how we evolve and adapt to the new ways of consumer behaviour. It is an equal challenge for the consumers as well as the service providers. All behaviours are driven by the Mind which finally minds all these matters!!
So, from a business perspective, we need to take stock of this new emerging ‘Mental Being’ with the changed the product and service user patterns, and given the stages of the pandemic, with those which are continuing to change. How do we establish a connect without a connect, engage without a physicality, touch lives without touching them? Or, how do we cater to those who choose these new behaviours and those who prefer the old ones? This is another critical pivot the pandemic has created.
In a way this Mental Being is also creating a more efficient way of living..
This evolution has impacted healthcare as much as all other businesses in general as well – in the way consumers now approach these as well as the ways the providers had to find to conduct these, given the new constraints.
Another critical pivot of the pandemic is going to be the further evolution of healthcare. In the medium we choose to consume the services – physical, digital / remote; as well as the different aspects of it – preventive as well as curative, mental as well as physical. The digitisation which was earlier being looked at as an efficiency tool, is today a need. The mental well-being today is beginning to be recognised as almost a precursor to the physical one as doctors and people in general are waking up to the effects as well as the convenience of this.
In a way this is emerging as another big business opportunity for healthcare players in the product as well as the services sector. Healthcare is at the cusp of change towards connected health with connected devices alongside telemedicine solutions. Connected devices offer monitoring for wellness and preventive / pre-emptive data for healthy life style solutions through specific devices or even through mobile phones. Some connected devices also offer remote disease specific monitoring so timely medical interventions can be done reducing emergency / critical hospitalisation episodes. Diagnostics is evolving to home self-screening options and point of care checks. Tele-medicine is showing how these dots can be connected for wellness, preventive or curative episodes. Thus healthcare is slowly changing for the providers as well as the consumers as the global communities wake up to the challenges of more such possible pandemics while dealing with the one ongoing.
The question is, how do we unmask – be it at a personal level as the protective layer we believe to be our saviour, or, at a conceptual level to wake up to a new reality – the need to upgrade our health as well as our economic status? And the only answer is by adapting and innovating!