“It’s a dinner role,” my mom said to me pulling out the beige ball wrapped in plastic from my grandparent’s freezer. “She has labeled it with the restaurant she got it from and the date.” We were helping clean my grandparent’s kitchen as my grandma was sick in the hospital and my granddad was suffering from dementia. “Grandma kept that?” I asked “Like the free bread they give you at the restaurant?” I made a twisted face with the attitude of an early twenty year-old. “They lived through the depression when they were children then endured a world war by the time they were your age,” my mom said with a somber face, ignoring my ignorant attitude. “They remember what it is like to have very little. They have lived their lives by a creed of Waste Not, Want Not. Look around you, even though they had the means, they did not replace plates or furniture just because they wanted to. They used everything as much and for as long as possible.” Although young and naive, I had read enough about the Great Depression and World War II to know these global upheavals changed people. They changed entire generations.
Is coronavirus our World War? As the situation continues to worsen, and self-isolation persists, we will be forever changed and molded by this time in our lives. There are a lot of sad and horrible things happening right now. What I hope for, is to see our global society emerge from the ashes of the pandemic with some positive changes.
Our work world and our personal world will be more virtual than ever before. White-collar bosses and corporations will incorporate flexible working arrangements that will continue after the pandemic. Social distancing has catapulted the adoption of teleworking ahead where it may have taken us a generation to achieve otherwise. Businesses will have the infrastructure and policies in place to support teleworking. They will have spent the money and resources to ensure the technology is set up for their employees. Bosses will finally come to terms with the idea of working from home as a viable option. Their skepticism will melt away once they see continued productivity over a long period of time. They will also get accustomed to virtual meetings. Online learning from grade-school to university will make leaps and bounds. They could continue to offer distance education options for children as needed. Retailers and service providers have already begun to adapt and provide everything online. Our lives will be amazon-ed; from groceries to our kid’s art class. We will get used to ordering goods and services online we never thought of doing previously. As a result, people will have more options to stay home if not feeling well, protecting others' health while continuing to be productive.
People could choose to live in places where proximity is less of a priority, and where there are lower costs of living. This would provide them with more disposable income. It would decrease or eliminate commuting times, giving them more time to themselves, to exercise or spend time with their families. The change in commuting patterns would offer a significant positive environmental impact from car emissions.
As my grandmother continued to keep dinner rolls even though there was no imminent threat of hunger; we too may continue to be contagion-aware in our day-to-day lives post-coronavirus. We should adopt the use of wearing a mask if sick and out in public. Also, everyone is likely to carry sanitizer gels and wipes in their bags and actually use it. We will buy and keep a stock of disinfectants including soap, bleach, gloves, masks and sanitizer in our house at all time. Although irrational, perhaps even more toilet paper. Cancelling dinner plans due to a cough will be received with sincere gratitude instead of annoyance.
This is a reminder that we are in it together. All of us, in this world. Unlike the wars of the past, we have a common enemy. We are connected. Deeply connected. I hope we remember that what happens in other countries is our problem too. We must continue to make the world a better place, not just our own backyard.
Our generation is notoriously awful at spending everything we don’t have and not saving for a rainy day. Nearly a million Canadians applied for Employment Insurance in one week after being laid off. In the US, during that same week, three million. Many of these workers cannot look for new employment because their entire industry is shut down. Most of us are not financially prepared to manage a couple months without a paycheck. Will this finally be the event that shakes us into being more fiscally responsible?
We will learn from this and get better. Our airports will be prepared to implement new controls. Our health care system will create new protocols to deal with epidemics and increase operations when needed. Our governments will learn when and how to implement policies that will prevent and protect its citizens. Harvard Business will create a business case to teach the next generation. We are likely to see increased food safety and sanitation requirements. We could also see health-based protocols and procedures for any large gathering of people from concerts to sporting events. Perhaps, our temperatures will be taken every time we open a restaurant door.
I am Canadian, we have universal health care. To the rest of the world: Please join us. It’s awesome.
Childcare is an essential service. This is why we did not close them during a pandemic. It is time we treat them like the important service they are. They should be publicly funded and managed. If day cares were an extension of our school system when coronavirus hit, we would have been in a much better situation. Administrators could have quickly mobilized school age and younger children of essential services and provided them with child care that also practiced social distancing. This would provide benefits to parents because as is with schools, you would be guaranteed a spot. Parents could afford to return to work, boosting our economy and increasing gender equality. Childcare workers would have better, standardized pay and a more robust system to work within (to cover sick-leave, vacations etc.). The facilities would have set standards of care from learning objectives to sanitation protocols.
Given, the changes expected above, what will travel be like in the future? We humans do not like the idea of going backwards. When possible we adapt, change, and do it in a different way. I therefore believe we will travel again. However, how and when we do this may change.
Security As 9-11 changed our airport security procedures forever, coronavirus could change the health security. Maybe we get our temperature checked as we get our tickets scanned and get into the security line. Then, perhaps we get ‘randomly selected’ for virus swabs, and if you look suspiciously sick you will be turned away at the border or before you even board the plane. If these protocols are put into place, then airlines would be wise to relax their rules around canceling flights, re-booking flights and flying standby. Also, since so many of us will be able to work from home anyway, we may feel less pressure to be in a certain geographical location at a specific time making it easier for us to make the right call and not travel when we are unwell. Who Flies & When Currently, in America and in Europe, a small percentage of the population makes up a large percentage of the flyers. In October of 2019, the New York Times reported that 12 percent of Americans (who take over six round trips by air a year) are responsible for two-thirds of all air travel. Those frequent flyers may not continue to travel at the same rate after this forced grounding. Although we all know face-to-face is better than online, perhaps there is a balance that needs to be struck. Also, it may take some time for the economy to recover. For occasional tourists who had to cancel vacations, they are likely to be more reluctant to book again. It may take time to re-build their confidence, especially if we expect tighter border controls and increased safety and health measures. In addition, it may take the tourism sector time to recover. The infrastructure we rely on may take some time to re-build. However, it will and it will need some early adopters to do so, at a discounted rate. Travel & Work Too many of us work exhausting 40-60 hour weeks until we hit a breaking point. We then take a vacation to relax on a beach, go on a yoga retreat, drink ourselves silly at an all-inclusive, try to find some meaning in our lives by doing volunteer work abroad or escape our world with an adventure. This is not a healthy, sustainable cycle. We need a better balance. We’ve known that for years, however we don’t know how to change it. Now is the time. If white-collar workers continued to work from home, then they could work from anywhere that has reliable Internet services. In a Harvard Business Review they indicated productivity increased from a Work From Anywhere program. Why? To start, there is better mental health among employees and fewer sick leaves. What if instead of flying in and out of a hot destination for a week, you could swap houses with someone for two months and continue to work. If my employer offered that, I would work my butt off to ensure I never, ever lost that job. I would also stay in that job for a longer period of time. I would also fly less, which would be easier on the environment. Instead of taking 4 micro-flights a year to visit family or get a quick one-week getaway I would pick one place a year and stay for longer. This would offer a better balance.
I appreciate what we are going through is difficult, horrific even. I would never wish this upon us, despite the potentially positive outcomes. There are a lot of articles and news informing you about this bleak state-of-affairs. This is not to minimize that. I simply want to offer another perspective, a silver lining.
I would like to thank all those currently working to keep us healthy and safe. We are forever grateful.
Please stay safe and take care of each other.
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