Much of what we are implementing to survive this pandemic was long overdue, say many experts, and will remain with us as terrific improvements to society, culture, and work, from now on.
Just as other crises challenged us to make improvements for our own safety and health, such as the security precautions instituted after 9/11, or the sanitation improvements made after the 1918 Spanish Flu, the COVID-19 pandemic is making us change our priorities, and many aspects of our world will be better for it.
Here are some of the major health, business, societal and workplace lessons and changes that futurists are now saying will stick around long after 2022, after a vaccine is discovered and administered to most of the world's population, and COVID-19 is finally in our collective rear view mirrors.
We are truly all in this together. As this crisis proved, none of us are any safer than the weakest and poorest among us. It does us no good to be an island of prosperity but have no ICU bed or ventilator available because U.S. citizens from more vulnerable neighborhoods are crowding alongside us in our hospitals.
Health care and science education for all is a lot less expensive than what happens when all of society must shut down.
Living wages are not handouts. They provide millions of hard working people a deserved pay so they can afford healthier living situations.
What we pay those who clean our hospitals, stores and homes, care for our toddlers and seniors, and teach our children, will increase because we have finally acknowledged their true value, and that these workers are actually properly considered skilled labor.
We don't need to house ourselves on top of each other in densely populated areas. A little elbow room and fresh air to breathe are quite literally better for us.
Pandemics have never and will never respect international borders.
Hand washing is in.
Masks are in.
Handshakes are out.
All along we should have been expecting and meeting diligent levels of disinfection of our homes, places of worship, shopping venues, restaurants, offices, doctor's offices, hospitals and nursing homes.
We never needed to touch all the items we were touching before, like keys, pens, credit cards, door handles, elevator buttons and our own faces. Technology to eliminate all this has existed for decades, and we are finally investing in it now: in hand-wave sensors, foot pedals and contactless sales, for our stores, buildings, hotels, hospitals, and eventually our homes.
We did not need to be going to our doctor's office every time we needed to see and consult with her. Telemedicine is here to stay for many types of visits. Sales of health gadgets for home use, like a pulse oximeter, are going to see a huge increase, as people buy them to track their own readings.
Working remotely is actually a very good thing for many jobs. It was long thought to cost an employer in worker productivity. But now we see that in many cases, productivity has increased with work at home requirements in place especially for so many office workers. It saves time that used to be spent commuting, saving the costs of business travel, and saving the cost to have and maintain vast office space to house all those workers during the work day.
Office spaces have to be redesigned. Single headquarters for large companies may morph into several regional hubs.
Office buildings will become largely used as open conferences spaces, although many futurists predict fewer in person meetings. Some estimate 90% of the office space we currently have is no longer going to be necessary.
Employers are affording telecommuting staff work-from-home stipends to adapt parts of their homes to be more efficient workspaces.
Flexible hours will overtake a strict work day, leading to better family and gender parity among workers, as everyone will have the opportunity to do better at caring for other family members.
Demand for middle-management will falter and may not make a resurgence.
Automation is happening.
The digital divide is a crisis. Availability of high speed internet and basic devices to access it need to be considered like any other public utility.
The ultimate in luxury and design will be buildings and homes with sleek, durable floors and surfaces that can withstand bleach, disinfectant cleaners, and UV light disinfectant.
The ultimate in customer service will be providing proof of super-clean environments and delivery of sanitized products and services. Hilton and Lysol, working with the Mayo Clinic, have just partnered to offer the ultimate in hotel sanitation called, "The Clean Stay". It includes elimination of magazines, telephones, and the mini-bar from rooms, among many other changes, has extra disinfection of all touch points, items provided are sealed and certified for cleanliness, and they eliminated keys and the need for front desk transactions. We can expect other smart businesses to focus on delivery of similarly branded "clean" services.
"On average, employers that allow employees to work from home part-time save about $11,000 per year for each employee working remotely."