When an event comes along that has people talking about everything preceding it as “the before times,” it’s not a brilliant insight to say it changed everything. Still, the ripple effect of this pandemic is fascinating and worth acknowledging.
For many, this pandemic has meant the loss of loved ones and possibly their job. This is not intended to minimize in any way COVID’s real impact, which has proven devastating, horrific and tragic, but rather serve as a reflection on all the little ways everyday life has been (forever?) altered.
• Remote work — While many have had to maintain a physical presence at work, thousands of Oklahomans have been working remotely through the pandemic. This period has ignited a sea change in how we think about working from home. With the technology available today, it’s not just possible, but quite feasible. It will be interesting to see where things go from here, but Pandora’s box has been thrown wide open. What does this mean for business travel, commuting, etc. and even the job market itself? If you can work from home, you can work anywhere, so the implications are potentially revolutionary, particularly for a state with a low cost of living like Oklahoma.
Imagine, for instance, professionals working from home while pulling in a West Coast paycheck and living the high life on the high plains. Again, anything is possible.
• Snow days — The other side of the figurative coin above is the unceremonious end of the snow day. It’s a lamentable loss, but an understandable one. Maybe we should be willing to make exceptions in the event that Oklahoma is ever among the coldest places on the planet (as it was this week), or if parents need to care for children who are home from school due to closures.
• Child care — For many, the joys of working from home have been tempered by the challenge of home child care. Women are disproportionately burdened in this arena and working parents who have managed to juggle careers and child rearing / virtual school deserve recognition (and a break). An optimistic outlook would suggest employers have embraced the reality many employees face balancing commitments at work and home and have adjusted accordingly with grace and understanding. Here’s hoping.
• Revelry and customs — Handshakes, sporting events, dating, blowing out candles on birthday cakes … the list goes on and on. For many of us, eating in a restaurant again will feel completely novel when it becomes safer again. When that feels normal again is a good indicator of how close we’ve come to going “back to normal,” but some customs may never return, or at least not to the same extent. Really, think about it … when’s the last time you shook someone’s hand? While skeptical that U.S. business culture will ever do away with the handshake, some things are just unimaginably goofy going forward. Bobbing for apples comes to mind. And what about buffets? Will they ever recover?
• Delivery and curbside — Restaurants have had an extremely difficult time during the pandemic. Delivery and curbside takeout service have been lifelines, but expanded dining options may be here to stay. For the sake of convenience, that feels like a positive development. We just hope it allows restaurants the opportunity to do more business, not less on the other side.
Certainly there are many other examples, some which we won’t know or understand until many years in the future – like post COVID birth rates, long-term business recovery trends, etc. If you have one we’ve missed – any small way the DNA of everyday life has been altered – please share. It’s a conversation we’ll probably be having many times over as we look back on “the before times.”