Reflecting on the Pandemic – How COVID-19 Has Impacted Our Lives So Far
We’re more than ten weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic now, and in some areas, things are slowly beginning to open back up. As we move into a new phase of the pandemic recovery and start to find a new “new normal,” I thought this would be an interesting time to reflect on the pandemic and some its negative and positive impacts to date.
As we reflect on the pandemic, I think most of us would agree that it has certainly not been a positive experience overall. We’ve experienced overwhelming levels of COVID related sicknesses and death, increases in mental health issues, and major hits to the economy.
Overwhelming Sickness and Death. There have been more than 5.4 million documented COVID-19 cases and more than 345.6 thousand confirmed COVID-19 deaths. And even though things are beginning to open back up, we’re certainly not out of the water yet. Currently, there are still more than 2.7 million documented active cases, with 53,208 of those cases classified as serious or critical (click herefor up-to-date statistics).
Increases in Mental Health Issues. Beyond the direct health impacts, COVID and resulting shelter in place measures have seen upticks in mental health issues, including depression. According to Healthline, 49% of the US population has shown levels of depression as compared to norms of 37%. Of this percentage, 21% of those showing levels of depression were moderate or severe, as compared to norms of 7% with these same classifications. Further, for fear of catching COVID, many individuals are postponing or foregoing routine health examinations, including cancer screenings and more.
Hits to the Economy. Beyond all of these negative health impacts, the economy has taken a major hit. The 11-year bull market ended abruptly as the Dow fell from record highs to bear-market numbers in a matter of weeks. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that the global economy will shrink by 3% this year, and Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US are all expected to enter recessions. What’s more, oil prices are at a 21-year low. On top of all this, more than thirty million Americans have filed for Bankruptcy. The economic outlook is certainly grim.
However, despite all these negatives, we have seen some positive outcomes from the pandemic. Since lockdown measures have been implemented, the world has seen major improvements in the air quality, companies have recognized improved productivity from remote workers, and people have found a renewed appreciation for daily luxuries that have been restricted during lockdown.
Air Quality is Improving. Because of lockdowns and shelter-in-place initiatives, schools and non-essential businesses have closed. We’ve also seen minimal activity from industrial sites, factories, and construction sectors. Travel bans have restricted international flights, and canceled conferences, festivals, concerts, and other large events have significantly slowed tourism-related travel. In the UK, traffic has dropped by 73%, which are levels the country hasn’t seen since 1955. In the US, passenger traffic has dropped by nearly 40%, and road congestion has been eliminated, which has a huge positive environmental impact since idling vehicles emit more pollution than non-idling vehicles. Studies also show that energy use is down worldwide, which could cut carbon emissions by an estimated 5% of the 2019 global total. Studies have also shown significant reductions in nitrogen dioxide levels globally, including a 40% reduction over urban areas in China, 20% reduction in areas over Belgium and Germany, and a 19–40% reduction in different areas of the US.
Companies are Realizing that Productivity Can Actually Improve with Remote Work. Another hugely positive outcome of the pandemic is that large organizations are realizing that employees are typically more productive when they work remotely. As lockdown measures have forced many companies to allow employees to work from home, employers are realizing noticeable improvements in productivity. This is backed by recent studies—one recent study has shown a 47% increase in productivity among employees working from home. Another recent study shows that remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts. Seeing these major increases in productivity, and further calculating the added savings in real-estate costs, many companies are planning to extend opportunities for remote work beyond the pandemic crisis. Some of these companies include Twitter, Mondelez, Nationwide, Barclays, and Facebook. This is an exciting trend that will potentially contribute to continued positive impacts to the air quality.
People Have Gained a Renewed Appreciation for Daily Luxuries we Previously Took for Granted. And finally, with so many luxuries taken away from us so suddenly, people have re-recognized the value of human interaction, the joys of interacting face-to-face with friends and loved ones, and the joys of sharing a meal out with people they care about. I have been thankful for the technologies that have enabled me to stay in touch with colleagues, friends, and loved ones—phones, messaging aps, Zoom, Teams, and others. But while we schedule regular video happy hours, it’s just not the same as real human interaction. Those of us who are a bit more affectionate feel the impacts of 6 feet hugely—so used to hugs and warm embraces, we are forced to simply wave from afar.
With its hugely negative effects, including deaths and terrible, long-lasting illness, as well as negative effects to mental health and the economy—the pandemic has certainly left some lasting negative impacts. However, despite all these negatives, we have still seen some positive outcomes from the pandemic. Lockdown measures have decreased road and air travel significantly, which has had a hugely positive impact on the air quality. Lockdown measures have also forced many companies to allow employees to work remotely—and these companies are now seeing that remote workers actually tend to be more productive. With these impressive outcomes, many companies are planning to extend opportunities for remote work beyond the pandemic crisis—a move that will contribute to continued positive impacts to the air quality. And finally, with so many luxuries taken away from us so suddenly, people have re-recognized the value of human interaction. This is perhaps the most positive outcome of the pandemic—a renewed appreciation for those “little” things we formerly took for granted—those little things that many of us have discovered are not quite so “little” at all.
Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)LinkedIn