Bill Gates has been the subject of plenty of criticism of late, but one thing is hard to argue against: He has made fighting infectious disease his life's work. His foundation has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the fight against Covid-19, and he has been vocal about the potential risk of a viral pandemic for years.
Just this week, he wrote about what we need to learn from this pandemic, and the steps that will help us get past it. Those steps include vaccines, testing, contact tracing, and opening up businesses across the country.
Then, Friday morning on the Today show, Gates shared his thoughts with host Savannah Guthrie on what it will take to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and I think it's worth taking a look at a few of the things he had to say. Here are three highlights that I think every business needs to consider.
Watch @BillGates' full interview with @savannahguthrie about how his foundation is putting its resources behind tests and vaccines for COVID-19, what he thinks the future looks like and his pandemic prediction years ago that he hoped would prepare us for what we're facing now. pic.twitter.com/KA4hOWU9bp-- TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 24, 2020
Normal Doesn't Happen Overnight
The first thing worth mentioning is Gates's observation that "it's going to be a while before we can get back to normal." I think you could extend that to include the reality that we're not exactly sure what "normal" even means.
Even while states begin to loosen restrictions over the next few months, we shouldn't expect that we'll immediately go back to our previous lives. In many cases, it's likely that people will be hesitant to go back to crowded spaces--at least until there's a vaccine.
Until then, the best thing you can do for yourself, and your business, is to think through how you can still meet the needs of your team, your customers, and your community. Those needs are different, and the way you serve each group should also be different.
Speaking of a vaccine, Gates shared his thoughts about what is currently under development. This is an area of particular interest to his foundation, which is literally funding the facilities to produce as many as seven different vaccines, though most of them won't end up yielding positive results.
"I'm hopeful, in fact, in the last few weeks, I've seen signs we might get to the optimistic side of that projection," Gates said about the amount of time it will take to see an effective vaccine. Currently, most experts predict it could be 12 to 18 months before anything is widely available. Gates's comment seems to indicate that things could be on track to see something effective at the shorter end of that timeframe.
Finally, Gates talked about how the current move to working remotely may be one of the lasting effects of the way our world has changed. Not every type of work can be done remotely, but even for the millions of Americans who may be struggling to adapt to the challenges of working from home, some of what we've learned in the last several weeks may be here to stay.
"Some of the digital approaches that were catching on has been accelerated," said Gates. "Doing these meetings digitally, for a lot of things, really works pretty well." That's actually true. Sure, it's not the same as being in person, and there are still plenty of circumstances when traditional meetings work better.
But many companies have started to figure out creative ways to keep their teams engaged and connective while getting work done. In fact, in many ways, reimagining what it means to be productive--and the way we work--could be one of the best outcomes from what can otherwise only be described as an extraordinarily challenging circumstance.
Ultimately, we need people like Bill Gates helping us navigate this crisis. But we also need you and your business, and your community, and your neighbors. After all, the only way we get through this is together.