Rethinking mobility in times of Corona #1

Anna Sigrist
April 8, 2020
Digitalisation, Innovation
How do we experience mobility in the future against the background of the current corona crisis? Anna Sigrist, Innovation Manager at Baloise, explains in the latest article of our Innovation Blog why mobility needs to be rethought.

Commuter line Zurich – Basel, any Wednesday

Commuter line Zurich – Basel, some Wednesday morning last year. The 7:02 train is already very full. I look for my usual seat. In the compartment sits, as every morning, the likeable older gentleman. Like every morning, we nod briefly, then each one immerses himself in his commuting activities. He with the headphones on his ears, me at the laptop. On arrival we say goodbye briefly, wish each other a good day and each goes his own way.

Commuter line Zurich – Basel, last Wednesday

There are only a few people on the 7:02 train to Basel. I find my usual seat. The compartment is empty. The atmosphere is quiet in a subdued way – like on a winter day when a lot of snow has fallen. Until I arrive in Basel, I have time to think. About how natural this trip has always been for me – as part of my everyday life - like having coffee in the morning or turning off the lights before going to sleep. Something that you do every day without giving it much thought. This self-evident thing is gone. When will I go to Basel next?

Strongly decelerated

For many of us, (physical) mobility has recently been drastically reduced. We work from home, do not visit fitness centres or anyone else at all, private travel plans have been cancelled. Restricted in our freedom of movement, we get the opportunity to think about our mobility, which is otherwise taken for granted.

What has changed?

I don't commute anymore. I'm staying at the home office. As Baloise Innovation Manager in the Group Strategy & Digital Transformation Team, I have often attended workshops or events in Germany, Luxembourg or Belgium. These trips are now a thing of the past. Just the thought of boarding a plane at the moment seems absurd to me. What's new, however, is a walk over lunchtime or a jog in the morning. Physical contact with people is no longer necessary, but I feel a greater need to communicate with colleagues, friends and family. Cohesion in the immediate environment becomes stronger. However, maintaining social contacts in this exceptional situation requires creativity, almost forces it: yoga classes via livestream, family reunions in Skype, after-work beer by phone.

Portrait Anna Sigrist

«Digital solutions, virtual rooms, all this makes it unnecessary to move from A to B for the job.»

Anna Sigrist, Innovation Manager

We also have to be creative at work

We test online tools while working, we experiment together, brainstorming in the group is also possible virtually. I knew many tools before Corona, but now they show me their true value. Of course, sessions are different when you no longer sit opposite each other but share screens, but I'm discovering to what extent technology in the workplace can compensate for real interaction. All this leads me finally to the question: How much and what kind of mobility is really necessary?

How do we experience mobility in the future?

The future of mobility concerns me not only because of the current situation, but also in my role as innovation manager. How will we move in the future and what role can we as a company play in this mobility landscape? In the Mobility @ Baloise project, we have been discussing precisely such questions in recent months. When we last drew up our trend study, we were still joking about whether mobility in a professional context will even exist in the future. Digital solutions, virtual rooms, all this makes it unnecessary to move from A to B for the job. And now this is exactly the reality and I'm sure that in the long run a big change has been initiated here. Will we soon be travelling mainly privately? And how will we move around in the future? Our environmental awareness is growing strongly and, in addition, recent experiences with Corona are influencing our willingness to travel on public transport with many others. It is difficult to make predictions about this, but opportunities for completely new considerations and solutions are opening up.

The future seems more uncertain than before

The development in China after Corona gives us a few clues as to how mobility could change. There it is evident that individual mobility has increased significantly. Proximity to others is actually being avoided to a greater extent there at present. Services such as UBER, where you ride with strangers, are therefore having a hard time at the moment. Much more popular because it is less harmful to health are currently car rental companies whose vehicles can be driven by anyone. The public transport system is losing users, people prefer to get on their bikes. Bike and e-scooter sharing services are also booming. These are all topics that also occupy our Mobility @ Baloise team: always with a view to climate change, which – admittedly – has largely disappeared from our attention.

Living more consciously, rethinking mobility

Whether there will be fundamental changes in our mobility behaviour or whether we will return to old patterns, nobody can currently judge. But I am certain that I will experience my next train journey from Zurich to Basel very consciously, consciously enjoy interpersonal contact, consciously nod at this nice old man and consciously seek to talk to him.

Rethinking mobility #2

What the colleagues from Belgium have to say

The future of mobility

Imagining the world in 2040