What astonishment have you experienced during the Covid-19 crisis? Disruption? Pleasant surprises? Awkwardness?
The Covid-19 virus has without question caused a multitude of disruptions within our everyday lives. As people work from home we have seen drastic increases with the use of applications like Zoom video, Slack, and even social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. All of these sites and programs are struggling to keep up with demand as remote work has increased at least 10x over the past two weeks.
While use of remote work has increased exponentially, woefully there is also another huge swath of people who are no longer working at all. As the government shutdowns across the country linger on for unspecified periods of time, many people are going to begin having to drastically re-evaluate how they provide for themselves or their families. Is there opportunity in the marketplace? It appears that way. Locally, here in New Jersey, for example Target and other retailers are looking for staff urgently. CVS pharmacy is advertising wages up to $20 per hour. With adequate protections in place to ensure worker protection, this may provide much needed short term support for households. This coupled with a functioning and liberal economic stimulus plan may buy us all some time.
Ultimately I think there is potential for the societal good to outweigh the bad in the historical perspective of this event. I think employees and employers alike may realize the advantages of remote work both economically, socially, environmentally, and in people’s overall happiness. Economically it provides small cost savings advantages that add up over time.
As an employer, through the use of cloud computing and web-based applications, including software-as-a-service (SaaS), employers can re-imagine their workplace design recognizing savings in requiring employees or potential employees to provide their own hardware (computer) and peripherals (printer, scanner, etc.) as part of their employment offer, with the understanding that the employer will instead invest this money into applications, storage, and communication mediums which allow the firm to operate from a physically decentralized location, while drawing from a centralized bank of knowledge, tools, oversight, and review.
As employees, the ability to function from home frees up tremendous time in your day. This time savings is of tremendous value when you think of gasoline, tolls, subway passes, increased free time, likely positive climate impact, etc. Outside of time, gasoline, tolls, subway passes, or bus tickets also translate immediately into increased wages as you no longer incur these expenses. Additionally it allows an individual the opportunity to invest in their own residence, set up a home office, purchase the chair that is most comfortable, or even use a treadmill desk if preferred.
From a societal point of view. The slowdown appears beneficial. It may allow people to experience life at a more manageable pace and begin to dismantle the materialist view points we have all come to embrace, even if inadvertently. Quite frankly the house likely does not need to be that big. If the house is smaller the mortgage is smaller. If the mortgage is smaller, the demand on your time may likely be smaller. If the time demand is less, the availability of family time begins to rise. With family time on the rise, personal skills, children’s confidence, and likely personal development also increases. Assuming each of these increase the other by a factor the benefit of a more manageable pace is HUGE.
Environmentally, the substantial reduction in travel has already begun to be demonstrated. The NY Times recently published (March 22, 2020) an article titled, “Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus” by Blad Plumer and Nadja Popovich. Within the article the authors discuss the, “huge declines in pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.” This information is gathered from satellite imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite and shows an incredibly quick (in my opinion- I’m not a scientist, nor do I play one on the internet) reduction in nitrogen dioxide. The potential for cleaner air, more clearly defined seasons, historically attributable weather patterns and possibly many other noticeable benefits may be available from this reduction of traffic and transport.
All-in-all if these three potential benefits could be recognized, the historical recount of this pandemic may be more positive than negative. This is not to downplay the significance or tragedy of this event, however as time passes and events fade from living memory the review certainly tends to become more objective and less personal. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live through this crisis and maintain our health and financial security will likely never view this period fondly, but history is it’s own judge and hopefully future generations can look back on this and declare it the beginning of the happiness revolution.