We are already learning how to cope with social distancing, however, we will be seeking new ideas about how to reopen and carry on business in all sectors in what some are calling the ‘new normal’. As well as meeting the requirements of social distancing for medical reasons (now during this pandemic and health challenges in the future) we need to start using our infrastructure more efficiently.
Many of our institutional buildings are under-used, open only five days per week, and then for eight or nine hours per day. While not advocating for 24 /7 hours like a convenience store or gas bar, can we get more use from buildings like schools, municipal buildings, offices, and stores?
The utilities like cell phones, internet, water, electricity, and gas are available 24/7. Why not use them more efficiently? Police, fire, and ambulances are on standby or working 24/7 – so moving to 14 / 6 schedules should not be a logistical problem.
Social distancing in schools is an issue we are grappling with now. What if instead of just one session per day, we had two? Class sizes would be halved and every other desk empty. Say, for instance, if school started at 8 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.; allow an hour and a half for cleaning and sanitizing and begin the second session at 2:30 . . . What if we used those buildings 12 months of the year?
Teachers (and we might employ more of them) would no longer have to battle government about class sizes but they could raise the issue of afternoon and evening shift work if they needed a cause. Children would have to adapt to the hours as would daycare people and working parents, however as we have seen during the pandemic, we can cope. Internet learning at all grade levels from pre-K to post-graduate work will become part of the new normal, and that already works 24/7.
Public service buildings could also spread their work out over 14/6, freeing up space inside for social distancing and giving citizens more flexibility for obtaining service. Could we not better utilize government buildings and offices such as City Hall, the Correctional Buildings, Service Ontario outlets, and the Court House?
Could co-op doctors and health offices spread out their clients and work 14/6? Could department stores, malls, and hardware stores spread their hours and staff to 14/6 while their customers learned to shop at the expanded hours? Maybe the Beer Store and the LCBO outlets could stretch their hours as well. Cannabis outlets would be cool with longer hours. Parking ticket officers could work longer shifts, filling the coffers at City Hall.
Factories and shops could spread their workforce over 14/6, meeting shop social distancing requirements by splitting shifts, reducing rush hour traffic, and shortening drive-thru lines at Tims in the morning. Think of it: no more rush hour traffic on Lakeshore! Lunch hours would change. Patrons dining at different hours would automatically social distance in restaurants. Where is it written that we must eat at noon, or five o’clock? Can we not train ourselves to eat, sleep, and do our daily chores at different times?
Is it going to cost us more? You bet. It is already costing us as prices rise.
We will start paying decent wages for front line workers, cleaners, grocery store workers, the service industry workers, and the hairdresser whom we used to know. Somebody has to pay for all the relief money flowing out of Ottawa and Toronto. Perhaps there will be more work for manufacturing things we used to buy offshore. The new normal is going to unsettle us for a while.
New York City was called ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ but methinks the new normal will lend that title to many other cities and even towns like ours. In fact, let us go all-in and move to 24/7 for everything, including schools, churches, and City Halls.
Okay, that was a low blow, like City Hall threatening a 6% tax hike and coming in at 4.5% just to make us feel good. Nonetheless, Fourteen-Six maybe something to ponder as we work our way back to normal.