Food for thought

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t yet over, but it’s clear that some of its effects may be with us forever, and how COVID-19 might impact our world over the next 5 years and beyond.  

Economy

Back to work? Not necessarily
No big surprise here: The pandemic forced many companies to modernize quickly and allow employees to work from home. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — right?

The truth is many people are realizing that we don’t need to be in the office all the time. In fact, workers shifting to a hybrid model, sometimes working remotely and sometimes reporting into an office.

In many ways the pandemic showed us the importance of being together and a lot of people are really anxious to be together because we’re social beings.

Don’t stress about the 1%
Generally speaking this pandemic has been an accelerant and a polarizer. People in the top 5%-10%, those who were able to keep their jobs, have actually seen increased savings over the past year. The bottom quarter, on the other hand, has seen mounting debt and job insecurity.

There’s a percentage of the workforce that hasn’t been affected at all. In fact they’ve done really well and they have increased their savings. So we don’t need to worry about that. It’s the rest of the working population that we have to be concerned about.

Small businesses still struggle
One of, if not, the biggest economic hurdles in years to come will be for small businesses.

It’s really difficult to go back to normal once you didn’t have business for a long time. Without increased support, we see even more small businesses close even after the pandemic is over.

Education


Distance learning — but for real this time
There is a difference between online learning that’s designed to be online and scrambling to make something work on the fly. Chances are, we’ll see more online learning tools used to teach kids even as they return to the classroom.

We will most likely going to see a lot more hybrid learning environments and hopefully better ones that actually provide education and not just deliver content.

Effects on Universities
Whether the pandemic has been a boon or a burden depends on the type of college or university.

We’re seeing a trend towards applications to top colleges go up because people feel like this is a time they can get in.

Changing Workplace


Overworked and underpaid
Many people are no longer working 9 to 5 jobs. Unfortunately most people are patching together pieces of work and tasks to make a living. So maybe you’re working 20 or 23 hours at an actual job, and then you’re delivering pizza, or maybe you’re doing deliveries or some other things.

Flexibility is often praised as an asset of the gig economy, but for many workers, it’s translating into serious economic uncertainty.

Just imagine working in an environment where you don’t know your salary or your wages. Every day, every minute, what you make can change based on algorithm or demand.

These issues existed before the pandemic, but the crisis has only exacerbated the inequities.

If we continue on the path that we’ve been on before, we’re going to see more contingent, more insecure, more fragmented work, lower pay — which is not a desirable condition.

Public policy that gives workers a broader social safety net that isn’t dependent on their employer can mitigate some of these negative effects of a changing economy.

The normal wasn’t good. The challenge is that we don’t go back to normal.

Health


Telehealth is here to stay
Telehealth or telemedicine has been touted for decades as a way to get health care to remote and underserved communities. Now, it’s the new normal.

We may not go back to necessarily doing all the visits in person. The notion of telehealth is really going to be increasingly taken up.  There are new technologies coming up that will make that easier and thus, that will become an option for a lot more people which may actually be a great thing.

Uncertain future for long-haulers
Dealing with a novel virus, we’re still learning a lot about how COVID-19 affects people in the long-term.
We don’t fully understand how this is going to impact them coming out, how long this is going to last and what this all means. Not to mention, the trauma of the past year could take a mental toll on frontline workers, survivors, children and anyone who has lived through it.

Health care heroes
Applications to medical schools have gone up over the past year, as doctors and nurses have been held up as essential heroes in the COVID-19 fight.
We are in need of more health care professionals so that’s a really positive trend.

Race and Social Justice


Look at any domain of our lives, whether it’s health, or wealth or education… there are huge inequalities related to race in all of those areas of our lives. We haven’t paid enough attention to that, but it’s impossible not to pay attention to that now.

The past year has brought issues of systemic racism and inequalities into the collective consciousness. COVID-19 has only amplified inequities that existed beforehand. Experiencing a pandemic together has also made some people more community-minded.

You’re only as healthy as the homeless person down the street from you. So you can’t isolate yourself and say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to be in great shape while all these other people are suffering.  Improving health outcomes in your community improves everybody.

The same lens needs to be applied to other areas of life. Improving conditions for those who have been marginalized, improving their economic wellbeing actually benefits everybody.

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