OBOT Perspective: Living with COVID
by Sueling Ching, President & CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade
“YOU’RE ON MUTE!” This is the business community catchphrase for 2020.
Countless video meetings and events, remote working, homeschooling, mask-wearing, delivery service – these are “the days of our lives”. And with the exception of the summer patio break, pandemic fatigue set in early, continues to plague us, and has the potential to keep us from our end game – to return to life as we know it.
The last few months of controlling the spread of COVID and mitigating the countermeasures have been wrought with uncertainty, blurred lines, financial and mental stress. And no one is spared from the impact. Our lives have become the ultimate balancing act of staying apart yet connected, accelerating while slowing down, and adapting daily as we plan. The stories of COVID are highly varied. There are many of us who had to work from home and those who could not. Some kept their jobs while others were laid off. Those with school-aged children were disproportionately burdened, as were women, and other marginalized populations. Our most vulnerable populations became even more exposed with virtually no way to help themselves including many in long-term care.
And then we have the tale of two businesses. Those who thrived and those who could not survive. The reasons are too diverse to name however some factors were financial and operational preparedness, sector and size of business and those impacted by restrictions. In general, small local businesses have borne the brunt of this pandemic and despite their ingenuity and resilience, they cannot go it alone. In all, there were many lessons learned, the most important of which is that community prosperity is a three-legged stool. And each leg must be equally strong; economic growth, physical health and safety and mental well-being. We cannot turn our attention to only one without impacting the others and potentially creating more issues than the ones we are trying to solve. A holistic approach is the order of the day.
Secondly, the most important priorities of our society have been clearly revealed and must be addressed as we contemplate recovery.
These include our education and health care systems, our environment, infrastructure and transportation strategies and the significant inequities in our communities. Now is the time to move from reactive tactics to proactive strategic planning.
Finally, everyone has a role to play in getting us to the other side of this pandemic. Government is our soft place to fall and they have a responsibility to use our collective resources to create a competitive business environment and support those who need it. Private enterprise will drive our economy – as they always do – by providing jobs, essential products and services and supporting community causes. Today, the key factor in our success relies on the individual. Every one of us – our attitude and behavior – matters in this fight against COVID. We must follow the public health recommendations, prioritize our personal health, engage in our economy, support local and encourage others to do the same.
We will be living with COVID for some time to come. That changes our lives, but it doesn’t have to destroy them. We can expedite our economic and health recovery with our every decision starting today – as long as we all act.
Our story will be defined by how we rise from this fall. Stronger together.