Before the coronavirus, the world was a different place; many of us don’t like to think that, as we try to stay optimistic for a full recovery from this pandemic. However, if you stop and think about how much some people’s lives have changed due to social distancing, it’s no wonder the big question right now is: what will be the new “normal”? As we’re sure you’re aware, there are drastic implications for every sector of our daily lives, extending into the next generation through greater economic debt and insecurity (especially if COVID-19 makes a return each year until we’ve reached herd immunity levels).
Impact on the Workforce
When it comes to the American workforce, perhaps the most interesting shift has been observed, regardless of company niche. With such extreme social distancing measures having been recommended by government and health agencies, an overwhelming majority of employers rallied work-from-home infrastructure in a few short weeks. The demand was high for low-contact work environments due to a severe lack of testing capacity and personal protection gear inventory; naturally, it was safer to stay home amidst rising positive case numbers.
Physical vs. Virtual Services
What determined a company’s willingness to shift towards work-from-home employment was mainly whether the business services were physical or non-physical. For those who had physical items to sell, perhaps they were able to build an on-the-go order system for delivery or curbside pickup. In a way, American consumers were already starting to ask for more services like these from companies pre-corona. One might argue that this pandemic has simply accelerated the willingness of businesses to consider new and innovative ideas; we’ve stumbled upon a sort of necessary innovation when faced with becoming irrelevant to the times.
The Question: What Will Stick?
It’s irrefutable that online sales for goods and services will continue to rise. As more of us realize how simple it is to search, add to cart, and click to purchase, surely the demand for retail goods will continue to decline – coronavirus simply will have been a catalyst in its demise. On the other hand, there will always be services that require in-person meetings: hair salons, nail salons, fine dining, medical and surgical offices, and so on.
The most concrete change seems to be in the realization that a company’s workers can work from home at an efficient and large-scale level. Unfortunately, thought and care must be given to the overall effect on mental health for those who work from home too consistently. At what point should a company be able to enforce in-office work for those employees who are at-risk for depressed mood. Will we only ask employees to work from home if C-19 makes a comeback?
Too Soon to Tell
At this point in time, as federal government restrictions are being lifted and left to the local level, it’s all a matter of how optimistic or pessimistic your local government chooses to be. Furthermore, now that the infrastructure is in place for remote work, the company you work for is ultimately in charge of how the office will be handled. There likely is no one-size-fits-all for this situation, neither will there ever be. It seems that we’ll all be playing it by ear, month by month until some sort of sense of “normalcy” has returned.