As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel we can start to reflect on its lasting effects on our lives.
We cannot forget the more than half a million Americans that have been taken from us too soon, or the families that lost them. We cannot minimize or ignore the pain, physical, emotional, and economic, that it has caused to so many around the world.
However, along with the negative, a few positives will emerge.
We have learned that many activities we traditionally did in person can just as easily be done just as well remotely. Even before the pandemic, companies were starting to realize that some employees could do their jobs just as effectively from home as they could from their office. COVID forced many more to look at this option.
If companies continue this practice in a post-pandemic world, it will make life easier for many people to join the workforce that previously had difficulty doing so.
A parent with children at home, or someone who needs to serve as a caregiver for a loved one that previously couldn’t work because they had to either stay home or spend most, or all, of what they earned on care, can now possibly take a job if they can do it from home.
People with disabilities who might have transportation issues will have that barrier removed from a job search. Transportation is often a huge barrier to people with disabilities as public transit is lacking in many areas and many disabilities make driving difficult or impossible.
Another barrier that could be removed from both employee with a disability and employer is if an employee with a disability needs their workstation set up with particular accommodations. They may well already have a place at home set up to meet their needs. This could take a burden off the employer while, at the same time, empowering the employee.
The expanded use of telemedicine during the pandemic is a trend that, if continued, can have many benefits going forward.
The transportation issues solved by telecommuting would also be addressed by telemedicine. This is especially true in rural areas where medical care can be a substantial distance away. There is a real lack of doctors and hospitals in our rural communities right now and telemedicine is a great equalizer.
The growth of home delivery during the pandemic has again benefited people who have difficulty with transportation for whatever reason.
We are used to calling for delivery from our favorite restaurant, but the growth of Uber Eats and DoorDash has increased our choices and it is likely to stick around. Home delivery of groceries and other items has seen an increase and will likely continue.
If these trends do continue, substantial structural changes will be needed to accommodate them.
The improvement of broadband services, especially in rural communities is essential. Although we knew this was an issue pre-COVID, the pandemic shined a huge spotlight on it. It was most evident with regards to digital learning disparities.
Government and internet providers will need to work together to address this problem and they need to do it soon. It is to everyone’s benefit that all Americans have access to quality high speed internet.
There will also need to be structural economic changes.
There will be an increase in “gig” workers with the increase of deliveries. We need to see to it that these workers are treated fairly and earn wages that are fair. Gig work offers some benefits to employees. They can frequently have flexible hours that work around other time commitments they might have, but they are often subject to low wages and no benefits.
It is clear that the long-term ramifications of the COVID crisis will be more than just health related. There will be lasting economic changes that will force us to rethink how we do many things and will require people, government, and business rethink many policies and practices. It won’t always be easy but I believe it can be for the better, if we want it to be.