The past two years have changed our lives forever. We’ve become experts in public health and have spent countless hours working and socializing remotely via Zoom and virtual reality platforms.
As we approach our third year of life with Covid, it’s worth looking back to see just how much our lives have changed: we’ve overcome great challenges, and have found innovative solutions that have made difficult times that much easier.
Photo by Adam Nieścioruk
Working From Home
During the first lockdown, almost all businesses were ordered to close or continue their operations remotely. This led to eerie scenes of empty highways and abandoned offices that had all the trappings of a post-apocalypse movie.
Successful vaccination programs have allowed the majority of workers to return to work in physical locations. However, around 26% of all employees are still working remotely in 2022, which is an increase of 87% from pre-pandemic levels.
For some, working from home has been a nightmare — particularly if they haven’t had the space or resources to recreate a productive home working environment. But, for many, the chance to work remotely has cut down on commuting hours and has improved their quality of life.
Digital integration has helped us overcome many of the challenges posed by the pandemic. For example, when the service industry reopened last summer, restaurant owners needed to reduce the risk of spreading Covid in their establishments. This led many owners to replace physical menus with digital QR codes, which allow patrons to order their food and drinks with limited physical contact.
Digital integration also helps us manage our personal health. AI-driven developments like “wearables” (watches, rings, glasses) monitor health throughout the day. This gives users a better understanding of their vital signs and allows healthcare professionals to access the data they need to improve their quality of care.
Workplaces around the globe are also starting to see the value of digital integration. Supply chain managers can utilize AI programs to reduce risk in decision making, and sales managers can see trends sooner through the data collected by AI-powered CRMs. In the coming years, more of us can expect to start using digitally integrated technology to better our lives and careers.
Digital integration is interesting, but our national desire to start gaming is far more fun. In 2020, many of us were cut off from more traditional forms of recreation and relaxation. As a result, nearly 13 million Americans started playing video games, as they offered a fun and safe way to relax and play.
Life in the pandemic has also hastened the existence of the metaverse. The metaverse is an online network of virtual worlds which allow users to meet, socialize, work, and play. The metaverse is seen as the “next big thing” by many folks working in tech, as it allows users to interact with a vast array of programs that are supported by blockchain security.
Regardless of where the metaverse takes us, it’s likely that the games of tomorrow will be more immersive, and will be driven by virtual reality and AI technology developed during the pandemic.
Life in the pandemic has forced us to become experts in public health. We’ve all learned about the value of masks and have seen how simple steps like handwashing can keep us safe from bacteria, viruses, and illnesses.
Hopefully, we will not forget this useful experience when the pandemic ends. Instead, we can learn to improve public health by wearing masks when we suspect we have a cold and can shield vulnerable populations during annual winter flu seasons.
In the meantime, we need to continue to follow CDC guidelines and should take proactive measures to slow the spread of variants like Omicron. We can do this by cautiously planning reunions with families and friends. This involves a few more steps than it used to, as everyone should test before joining a large gathering, and outdoor events should still be seen as a healthier alternative to indoor gatherings.
As we enter the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must use the experience we have gained to protect vulnerable populations and stop the spread of flu and Covid-19 variants.
The pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. In the US, 4 in 10 adults report symptoms of anxiety or depression, and millions have faced financial insecurity and uncertainty about their future due to the pandemic.
In response, healthcare providers have found ways to use telehealth to connect patients with doctors and therapists remotely. This means that patients can get the advice and treatment they need without having to visit a clinic or doctor’s office. It also gives healthcare professionals greater access to their patients, as doctors can use Zoom to check up on rural patients who live far from their closest hospital.
Slowing the spread of Covid meant we had to spend more time at home than ever before. For many folks, spending more time at home puts a strain on familial relationships. To overcome this, we’ve learned how to enforce clear boundaries. These boundaries help us maintain healthy relationships during a difficult time, and give us the best opportunity to protect our mental health.
Empty shelves and panic buyers dominated headlines during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, since those early days, a new trend has emerged: we’re eating healthier groceries.
Eating healthier foods is, of course, a good thing. But we should also be cautious of marketing campaigns that make a product look healthy, while, in reality, it isn’t. The key to ensuring you aren’t deceived by clever marketers is simple: read the nutritional information. If a package is covered in healthy slogans but contains massive amounts of sugar, you should probably still avoid it.
It’s hard to tell if this trend towards healthier eating will last — but let’s keep our fingers crossed and our carts full of fruits, veggies, and real ingredients.
The Covid-19 pandemic was intersected by other social movements which gained major traction following the murder of George Floyd. These social movements have largely been driven by effective community leaders who have emerged in towns and cities across America.
These community leaders are well-equipped to champion anti-racist causes and understand the need to provide leadership to underrepresented communities who have been traditionally marginalized. These community leaders are effective because they know how to navigate both physical and digital spaces. This allows them to reach wide audiences through social media campaigns, and they can mobilize thousands of like-minded people to attend in-person rallies.
In the coming years, look to see some of these community leaders enter the mainstream political spectrum. Unlike traditional politicians, they will be able to leverage a dedicated following and capture votes that have been lost by candidates who do not understand the value of community leadership.
The pandemic put a massive strain on educators, schools, and students. Many younger students struggled when they were removed from in-person classrooms, and teachers across the nation had to adapt their lesson plans and syllabi to create effective remote classrooms.
However, remote learning has given students and educators greater flexibility around how they learn and teach. Students who prefer to learn from home are now able to do so, and teachers can choose to take their trade online and begin working for online schools that operate remotely.
Widespread Covid skepticism has also underlined the need to improve public education standards. Recent OECD findings show that students from the US perform below average in mathematics compared to their international peers. This is troubling, as combatting public health crises like Covid-19 requires a good understanding of statistics, quantitative reasoning, and logical thinking — all of which are taught in the mathematics classroom.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the way people live across the globe. The pandemic has hastened digital integration services like Zoom, and we’ve discovered the value of community leaders who understand the challenges their communities face. We’ve also found new ways to unwind, as millions now regularly play video games, and advancements in the metaverse promise to improve the way we work, live, and play.