Social distancing

In Extraordinary Times, Simple Things Matter

March 26, 2020
It's time to take a collective deep breath and refocus.

These are extraordinary days. I don’t think that is an understatement. The global coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live, work and gather together. Conferences and events throughout the world have been cancelled, borders have been closed and even casual meetings now take place at a distance.

What comes next will be a test of ourselves and our resolve to find new ways to approach each other and our world. One lesson that we should take away is the understanding that if a virus can travel around the world, we are all connected in ways that transcend the traditional national boundaries. Perhaps this has been a lesson that isolation doesn’t work because we are bound together. We require interaction and relationships. We’re only human.

How we choose to interact certainly will change. The handshake is the most fundamental business and social interaction. It is a sign of greeting, of kinship and of agreement—and its future is in jeopardy. The trade shows and other gatherings we saw in March are conducted under a “No Handshake” policy. We are forced to regard each other at arm’s length. That distance lengthened with a series of trade event cancellations through the spring, and more may be coming.

That doesn’t mean our relationships should come to an end, however. I think this is time to assess what we truly want and need from each other in business relationships and among our co-workers. If a handshake always has been a formality, maybe our first greeting is with words of understanding. We have talked via email and video conferences for years, and those tools have become more useful and more sophisticated. We can use them to our mutual advantage.

This is a time to be cautious, but not fearful. There is work to be done. We have customers to help, families to support and a business to run. The near-term future is hazy, but as we have seen in every global crisis of my lifetime, there is clarity ahead. We just have to fight through the fog to find it. And if it needs to be a slightly different world, history shows we have adapted to that difference when required.

We need to keep reaching out to our partners. In this shared experience, each of the people in our personal and our business lives have something to offer us, and we have much to offer in return. It’s not a simple, straight-line path. But in those situations, it’s good to have someone along as you set out on the journey.

I see Hydraulics & Pneumatics as part of that journey. Many of you who stopped by the H&P booth at the recent IFPE Show in Las Vegas may have come for the ice cream, but you stuck around for the opportunity to chat with our team about how valuable our content is as you meet the day-to-day challenges of your facilities.

We’ll continue to be here, in print, online and in our newsletters, to keep you informed on how our industry addresses this crisis and—just as importantly—how we can prepare now for the recovery that will come in due course.

This has been a historic moment in time, and very often those are the ones that remind us what is truly valuable. What we have been through has been painful, expensive and disheartening. Yet there has been something strangely cathartic about our shared experience during the coronavirus outbreak. We have had to simplify our lives in order to survive this challenge. In doing so, we have come to appreciate the simple, daily contact with our fellow humans.

We know at some point we will get back together in the same place at the same time. We will overcome the coronavirus, and we will repair the damage we have done to our economy and our world. We’ll shake hands, have a drink and exist within six feet of one another.

Perhaps this shared crisis will remind us how much we have in common, how much we truly rely on one another not just for business success or personal glory, but for our mutual existence on this planet. Maybe we will better understand again that we are all in this together.

In the meantime, it’s time to start behaving like a 5-year-old: Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and use a little common sense. And be kind to one another. It’s all the same things we learned in kindergarten.

About the Author

Bob Vavra | Senior Content Director, Power & Motion and Machine Design

Bob Vavra is the Senior Content Director of Power & Motion and its sister publication Machine Design. Vavra has had a long career in publishing, media and events. He has covered all aspects of manufacturing for the past 20 years and is a regular attendee at events such as IMTS and Hannover Messe. Vavra is also a sought-after webcast moderator and event emcee, and has presided over events in the U.S., Germany and China. 

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