The Impact of Global Trauma

By Barry Money, CEO, The Real Estate Institute of South Australia

It has been a tough two years.

The trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world irrevocably.

Our frontline and healthcare workers have endured extraordinary circumstances, some business sectors have been devastated, families have been separated and lives have sadly been lost, leaving loved ones overwhelmed with sorrow and grief.

Most of us in our lifetimes have never experienced anything even remotely close to a global pandemic.

In his book, ‘The Tipping Point,’ Malcolm Gladwell speaks of a tipping point in sociological or behavioural trends in everyday life. While Gladwell was referring to “ideas and products and messages and behaviours” spreading like “viruses do,” ironically the tipping point we are experiencing today, is because of a virus.

COVID has affected our communal psyches. The sobering reality of how fragile human life can be has caused us to question what we truly value. Proximity to our loved ones, flexibility and ownership of our own time and career have now come to the forefront of many of our minds. It is no surprise that the recent months have seen a tidal wave of resignations globally.

Yet while we all struggle with the daily frustrations and confusion that have accompanied this pandemic, we need to rise above the constant twittering of discontent and division.

If history has taught us anything, it is that the world has always had disruptions and the human race has always been able to overcome them, often rebuilding and thriving even better than before.

To put things into perspective, the 1918 “Spanish” Flu resulted in more than fifty million deaths worldwide.

Nevertheless, by 1923, after the 1918 Flu pandemic, an unprecedented economic boom started in the western world that produced the Roaring Twenties, which lasted for six years until the 1929 stock market crash.

Similarly, COVID-19 produced its own boom of which the real estate industry has been the beneficiary.

COVID-19 has also spurred on advances in technology, which have helped us to navigate disruptions with agility and ingenuity. The rise of digital and online platforms facilitating the work from home culture is one such distinctive change. While pre-COVID corporations were lambasting employees for chasing the freedom and flexibility to work from their own home, now it is encouraged and even considered the way of the future. Several well-respected technology giants such as Twitter and Shopify have announced that their employees can continue working from home indefinitely.

With such arrangements comes a seismic shift in trust between the employer and the employee, which we may never have achieved had we not needed to confront the effects of the pandemic.

Society has overcome trauma before. Human beings have proven to be innovative and resilient since the dawn of time.

We are not out of the woods yet, but society has pivoted before our very eyes, and - I believe - we still have a lot to look forward to in the coming years as we embrace the inevitable changes this global trauma has wrought.


World Economic Forum: A science journalist explains how the Spanish flu changed the world

National Bureau of Economic Research: Social and Economic Impacts of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

Atlantic Council: Economic recovery from coronavirus: Lessons from 1918-1923

Harvard Business Review: Who Is Driving the Great Resignation?

Forbes: Here Are the Companies Leading the Work-From-Home Revolution