As social distancing measures persist across the country, corporations are setting in a “new normal” where most people are safely squirreled away in their homes, with paradigm-shifting implications for the working classes.
In a disturbing trend foreshadowed by suddenly ubiquitous multi-screen video chatting applications like Zoom and now Google Meet, a soup-to-nuts restructuring of corporate policies and procedures designed around a “new normal” where people are conditioned to avoid social contact and remain in their homes or cars, is being pushed by global consulting giants like McKinsey & Company, which yesterday published a “90-day plan” to initiate “rapid migration to digital technologies driven by the pandemic.”
McKinsey, an American management consulting firm founded in 1926 with over 120 offices worldwide, has cultivated great influence in both the public and private sectors with alumni staffing the C-level offices of massive concerns like Boeing, Google, Facebook, and IBM. McKinsey has been described as the Jesuits of capitalism as a result of their penchant for secrecy but also widespread influence at the highest levels of power.
The 90-day plan
In the 90-day plan, McKinsey expounds on four basic initiatives that they say must underpin the new reality for corporations in a post-COVID-19 universe, assuring us that we are at the threshold of a “historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain.”
Divided into 30-day tranches, the firm recommends overhauling “customer expectations” and moving to a remote-first corporate structure, accelerating digital channel adoption across sectors. In layman’s terms, corporations are being advised to leave the familiar concept of office space behind and move towards a work-from-home model, creating a remote-work support staff to make the transition and management of the new digital paradigm as seamless as possible.
Other recommendations include “selective modernization of technology capabilities”, meaning ad hoc implementation of cloud-based computing technology guided by assessments of the “cyber risks” associated with a fully-digital operation. Artificial Intelligence is another component in the avalanche of structural changes that are in store for Americans in a reopened economy.
Assessing the Implications
Should this or similar plans move forward – and there is no indication they won’t – the implications for regular people are significant and life-altering. McKinsey claims that the measures taken to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus have catapulted us “five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.” Their gleeful assertion is followed by a list of all the different kinds of changes we can expect to see in the sectors of banking, schooling, healthcare, and the service industry as they all move towards a digitized economy.
The consulting firm warns that “consumption patterns” are unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels for some time, if ever, and suggests that companies prepare to deal with endemic “structural overcapacity” as they navigate the “new normal”. Overcapacity, a term that simply denotes when industrial capacity exceeds production levels, is a symptom of instability that is usually resolved in the normal course of regular business cycles. However, by referring to structural overcapacity, McKinsey is alerting businesses to the fact that a digitized economy will take some time to establish and that they better be ready to batten down the hatches.
Many businesses, of course, do not have the necessary resources to survive endemic overcapacity and even McKinsey concedes that it will take at least 12 to 18 months to completely switch over. Most companies will also be hard-pressed to carry out the complete rebuild of their “analytical models… to steer operational decisions”, which McKinsey considers essential for a business’ success in this brave new world.
They don’t really care about us
For the vast majority of us, the move to a completely digital economy represents an even more unfair deal than we already have as low-level participants in a billionaires’ economy. When Elon Musk tweeted that he was going to sell off “most” of his earthly possessions, many cheered the Tesla CEO for taking what appeared to be such an ‘enlightened’ step. But, what isn’t readily apparent to most people is that in this post-COVID-19 economy that McKinsey is promoting, Elon and all his friends will be moving into your house.
With the so-called “remote-first” organizational model for corporations, our homes will become their new office space. Companies all over the United States can then enrich themselves further by selling off or renting out their real estate assets, while your living room becomes your boss’ new conference room. Some employees are even already making the calculation and looking for cheaper rent to subsidize their employer’s office space.
The “reopening” of the economy is beginning to look more and more like a closure of society as we are forced indoors over fears of contagion and access to food becomes conditioned on adherence to top-down policies. With a large part of American society tacitly accepting of digital forms of social interaction, further steps taken in that direction like fan-less sporting events and worse are not far off.
Feature photo | Francy Sandoval looks outside from her home in Melrose Park, Ill., April 23, 2020. Nam Y. Huh | AP
Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.