At the beginning of the pandemic, which working style — in person or digital — would prevail after the pandemic was much debated. Now, hybrid appears to be the winner, or at least according to Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria.
Recently, Zakaria sat down for an interview on PBS’s Washington Week
to discuss his latest book, “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World.” In the interview, Zakaria provided historical context to the pandemic, discussed Covid-19’s lasting impact, and shared why he thinks hybrid working/living might be here to stay.
While comparisons between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 are natural, today’s ability to create a digital life is a key differentiator. And while acknowledging a certain “pent-up demand” for activities outside the house, Zakaria believes that this digital life won’t simply go away when the pandemic is over because we’ve become so accustomed to it.
This hybrid work/life structure will also have a profound impact on cities, Zakaria said. The 19th century industrial model of many people living in the suburbs and commuting into the city for work has clearly changed because of COVID-19, and that might influence urban planning, Zakaria said. He discussed the possibility of the 15-minute city
, a concept designed by French professor Carlos Moreno for an urban neighborhood design that allows residents to meet all their living, working, and entertainment needs within 15 minutes of their home.
While the 15-minute city might be one solution, some pundits have been less optimistic on the future of the city, citing migration patterns away from large cities. But Zakaria dismissed any idea that the city will simply “hollow out.” He noted the clear trend towards urbanization over the last 300 years and how cities have managed through previous crises (Spanish Flu, the Great Recession, etc.). Zakaria also pointed to one key reason why workers aren’t just going to abandon the city entirely: money. Companies in the city have historically paid higher salaries, which will incentivize many workers to journey back into the city, he added.
At the crux of post-pandemic life/work is the idea that despite everything we’ve gone through in 2020, we will want to gather again in person for both work and comradery. Zakaria drove this home by quoting Aristotle: “Man is by nature a social animal.”