What if we learned some permanent lessons from the pandemic?
I recently went to Target – something I’ve done far less frequently in the time of COVID-19 – and as I waited in line, I noticed an associate sanitizing the shopping carts.
And it struck me: Why couldn’t this be a regular thing? Extra sanitation on carts and other frequently touched public items certainly wouldn’t hurt, especially during cold and flu season, and might even provide a few extra jobs or hours.
This got my mind meandering down the what-if path. What if we took some of what we’ve learned throughout the pandemic and put it to use going forward?
What if businesses kept remote work an option?
As COVID-19 spread, many businesses quickly shifted employees to remote work. Nearly six months later, many are still working remotely – some out of necessity, as their school-aged children are in fully remote or hybrid learning.
There will always be sick days and snow days. Now that so many parents have “made it work” from home, that flexibility could provide relief for companies and parents alike. Plus, raise your hand if you’re more productive at 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. The ability to work outside the 9-to-5 sphere might also help with the inevitable schedule-juggling parents face. Gotta get Susie to soccer at 4? Just finish the last part of that project at home after dinner.
What if we keep wearing masks?
I don’t know about you, but I think my daughter picks up every bug there is. And last winter was rough, even before COVID. There was a stretch where her class was missing at least one student; she missed several days herself.
Someone recently commented on Facebook, “Are we going to wear masks all flu season now?” Well, why not? Let’s be honest, we’ve all gone to work or sent our kids to school with sniffles or other fever-free maladies. We feel compelled to push through. So if we’re going to force our snotty selves to go to work or school, I vote we throw a mask on and try not to spread the ick.
What if the internet were a public utility?
I wrote the first part of this blog at my parents’ house, using their WiFi. My husband also needed the WiFi for work after burning through his 30GB hotspot for the month. Before all this, we were more than fine with a 10GB-per-month hotspot.
Our public school district is currently all-virtual, and I’ve heard plenty of students are struggling with connectivity. I also know a number of local businesses and organizations boosted their WiFi so people can get a signal in the parking lot, and some are offering socially distanced spaces for students to do their schoolwork.
The pandemic has shown us reliable internet access is not readily available to everyone and is absolutely a vital service. Chattanooga, Tenn., has offered fiber-optic internet service since 2010 through its municipal power company, and a number of municipalities have followed suit. This is something we need to explore, especially if many people will continue to work and learn from home.
What if we gave more grace?
In the spring, while we were all working and learning and living remotely, there was a sense of solidarity. Teachers understood if a student struggled with an assignment and offered more time or attention. Parents commiserated and tried to answer each other’s questions. Partners understood if the laundry wasn’t done because of the struggle to keep one child learning and the other occupied (quietly!).
As the pandemic dragged on, I feel we lost that solidarity. We argue over wearing a mask. We get angry with family members who aren’t yet comfortable with group gatherings. We criticize teachers for allegedly not being prepared for a new virtual school year. Whether we’re in the midst of a global pandemic or not, we don’t always know what’s going on below someone’s surface. We need to realize everyone is struggling in some way, and give more grace.
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