Sometimes it feels easier to focus on the negative, especially these days when it seems as though negativity is flying at you from multiple angles and sources. Our world has never seen anything like this and the media continues to do everything they can to remind us that we should be fearful of our neighbors, nervous to run to the grocery store, guilty for visiting with our family, and that there’s no clear end in sight. While caution is warranted, it is important to stay positive through it all and to find the silver lining.
Over the past month, I have noticed and enjoyed several positive changes in our daily lives as well as the many gaping holes that this virus has brought to light. There’s much for us to learn, a tremendous opportunity for growth, and it would be a waste if we did not take advantage of the momentum and positive changes we’ve made.
A few weeks ago, I started casually composing a list of positive changes that I believe will be necessary to keep in a post-COVID world. These likely only scratch the surface of what’s possible and I would love to hear your ideas as well. As we keep hearing, “We’re in this together”, so let’s push these important and positive changes forward together to turn this difficult time into a moment in history that was necessary for our collective growth as human beings.
- Wash. Your. Hands. Enough said? It truly amazed me that this was the message being spread around when the virus first broke. Do we truly not know this? Do we really not do it? There are many more illnesses to avoid just from a simple hand wash. This is a no-brainer.
- Grocery stores wiping down shopping carts for customer use or, at a minimum, offering cleaning wipes upon entering the store. See previous point. Germs are always abound and wiping down the cart handle can make us all a little healthier. I’ve always kept a mini bottle of hand sanitizer in my car as well and use it before pulling out of my parking spot after any shopping trip.
- Higher cleaning standards for modes of travel including airplanes, subways, trains, cruises. It’s actually embarrassing that we didn’t have these standards in place prior to the outbreak. Have you ever wiped an airplane seat, tray table, or armrests upon boarding? If so, it’s likely that your wipe turned black. I think having airline staff spend a few extra minutes to actually clean the plane rather than simply picking up trash and crossing seatbelts is worth it every time. And let’s get rid of that awful middle seat, too. Am I asking too much?
- On that note, let’s push for higher cleaning standards for public spaces in general, including retail stores, restaurants, schools and government buildings (DMV, I’m looking at you!). Back in early March, we all received emails from every single company we’d ever given our email address to informing us about their new standards and policies in response to COVID-19. While some of the emails felt very unnecessary, it was clear that companies wanted their customers to feel safe so why not continue to pursue this affirmation, even when we’re out of the woods with the current virus.
Building Community & Togetherness
- The beauty of Instagram Live. From tuning in to my favorite chefs hosting live cooking demos to virtual workout classes with fitness friends from around the world, I am so grateful for this technology tool! What was once merely a place for “influencers” has become a source of joy with these free community activities. I joined Christina Tosi’s daily Baking Club and worked out with ladies around the globe as part of the at-home fitness classes offered by Women’s Health Magazine and PopSugar Fitness. For a while now I have been someone who enjoys working out at home so this shift wasn’t tough on me but I have truly enjoyed attending a virtual group class each day and would love for this to continue.
- Talking with and getting to know your neighbors. With limited places to go these days, I’ve spent a lot of time walking around my neighborhood and, apparently, so have my neighbors. It’s been nice meeting “new” people and saying hello to those I’ve already met. Americans have moved away from getting to know their neighbors and have shifted into keeping more to themselves but lately, passing by a neighbor while on a walk around the block may be the only human interaction you’ve had all day so it’s no wonder you’re more willing to stop and talk. Turns out, they’re not so terrible (joke – I never thought they were) and worth chatting with. This seems like something we can easily maintain.
- Using technology to stay in touch. From virtual happy hours with fellow travelers from around the world to my cousins’ hosting a live DJ set from their basement, technology has allowed us to stay connected during this time in ways that we have never done before. We are more creative and more willing to make time for each other. The technology isn’t new but we’ve used it sparsely until recently. Instagram Live, FaceTime and Zoom have brought me a tremendous amount of joy lately and I do not ever want to let this go.
Improved Work-Life Balance
- Employers offering more remote working options. This last month has revealed a truth many of us have known all along – there are many jobs that CAN be done from home. I realize this is not the case for every job these days and that not everyone wants to work from home but, for those that can and want to, hopefully employers will be more likely to allow employees to #WFH. Working from home allows employees more flexibility, can potentially save the organization money, and certainly cuts down on the traffic and air pollution created by hundred of thousands commuting to and from work each day. If the work is getting done, who cares where you do it from??
- Sick pay for all + employers encouraging their employees to stay at home when they’re sick. This is vital. Americans are often filled with immense guilt when they miss work, even when they’re sick, but if there’s one thing this virus has taught us, it’s necessary for the health and safety of everyone to allow employees to stay home when they’re sick. For those who don’t have the choice, either from guilt or lack of pay, we must do better. Every employer must offer their employees sick pay and encourage, not just “allow”, their employees to stay home when they’re sick. Will the company survive without one person? Yes! Do the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term consequences? Absolutely! We can do this.
- Credit companies and utilities offering deferred payments when a customer loses their job. What a gift this has been for many recently! This empathy and generosity has been appreciated and important in our current climate and one that should extend beyond today. There are often situations outside of our control that lead us to be in difficult financial situations and, if companies are willing to make exceptions now, they can continue to do so when unemployment returns to a more normal rate as well.
- Increased amount of money for unemployment and allowing freelancers to qualify for unemployment. This is one of those glaring holes I mentioned earlier. How were we only paying people $250 a week for unemployment?? And now we can suddenly pay the millions of people filing for unemployment $600 a week?? Hmmm… Also, how about those who freelance? They finally qualify for unemployment benefits. If we can do this now, when there are millions more people in need, we can do this all the time.
- Grace for parents with young children. This point equally aligns with employers providing sick leave. In our current times, we have simply laughed when a child is running around in the background of the Zoom call or pops in to the room while their parent is leading a meeting. It’s okay! We have all extended extra empathy for parents trying to juggle working, parenting, and homeschooling their children 24-7 these days, so surely we can continue this in the days ahead. Hopefully we won’t need to homeschool beyond the current school year but, regardless, the empathy and grace we’ve extended to parents should always exist. Period.
New Societal Norms
- Appreciating teachers, healthcare workers, and first responders. These are the real heroes. We’ve survived just fine without wasting our time with the latest celebrity update or worshiping of our athletes. We are finally focusing on the people who are truly important, making them stars, and thanking them for what they do. Now, let’s talk about their pay…
- Incremental preparedness to avoid panic purchasing, including food, toiletries and ammo purchases. Did you get sucked in to the panic buying and hoarding that occurred in early March? If so, it’s time to start making incremental bulk purchases to avoid a similar grocery store rush again. There was no reason for toilet paper to go flying off the shelves and there remains no reason for it being nearly impossible to purchase flour, canned goods, eggs, and cleaning products. If we continue to purchase what we need when we need it and have a back up supply prepared in the absence of chaos, we can avoid these situations altogether. Additionally, if you’re someone who would want to be prepared with firearms and ammunition in the midst of a national or worldwide emergency, take the time to build up the supply before everyone shifts into panic mode and demand outpaces supply.
While there are many aspects of this pandemic that are difficult, frustrating and even confusing, one thing for certain is that we must take advantage of this unique opportunity to make lasting positive changes. We cannot allow our weeks of social distancing and self-quarantining to be in vain. Now is where we truly “do our part” by continuing to identify what’s positive and push for these changes to become a permanent part of our lives.