Life before the pandemic… remember that?
We’d go to clubs, bars, festivals and parties, squeezed up and sweating on people we’d never met. We’d go to the gym and jump onto a new piece of equipment, or lie on a just-used mat, and feel no way about it. Personal space in the gym… what was that? Germs? Never heard of them.
People could go from room to room, building to building, place to place with hands that had last tasted water during a shower several hours prior. A greeting with a firm hand shake or in continental Europe – a kiss on the cheek (2 of those, mind you), just the standard. People would even dine at certain restaurants like Wagamama and Busaba sat next to complete strangers from different households. On public transport, our hands would be all up and down anything that could keep us from falling, and we didn’t even question who might have touched that same surface before us.
Things have changed a lot since this pandemic started. This time last year, COVID-19 had started to pick up some whispers, but it was still very much a virus that seemed confined to China. I remember I had just come back from a ski trip, and was soon to go on two more trips to Sweden and Finland for work over the month of February/early March, before work trips slowly started to get cancelled. The last trip I went on, I remember chatting to client as we discussed the fact that multiple people were impacted by the common flu yearly – surely, COVID-19 was just another common flu? By the time we got to mid March, my birthday, the situation was feeling a little more urgent. Many European countries has started to announce lockdowns, but the UK was still trailing far behind at the time in numbers. I slipped a big birthday celebration through the net in March, and I told people that it might be our last proper “night out” for a while. Nearing a year later… it seems I was eerily correct.
Sometimes I wonder how life will be permanently different post the pandemic. How will many people who have spent the entire year only socialising through phone calls and text messages potentially integrate back into a world where there are 100 different households in one big hall party? Will wearing masks will become a long term norm? Will we go back to a world where people don’t wipe down their gym equipment or where we’re butting elbows with a stranger and we pour into our pad Thai from Wagamama. How many years will it take for us to feel comfortable with the little things in life like concerts, festivals (and accompanying mosh pits), or greeting people with a kiss on the cheek? Or will some of these things become only strange actions 10 years down the line.
Well, here are a few ways I think life will change for good post the pandemic:
Reduced travelling for meetings
I was travelling quite a bit for meetings (and conferences) before the pandemic, and that was only a fraction of the amount that senior people I knew were travelling. Calls instead of face to face meetings felt a lot less personable, and meeting clients face to face and building relationships in that way was just the standard within my industry.
When the world shut down, all of our meetings were primarily conference calls, which is still the case now mostly, but we also have introduced videos calls a lot more now which certainly gives the meeting a more personal touch. We’ve gotten used to this new format.
Whilst I think we will still travel for meetings post pandemic, I wouldn’t be surprised if this will be less so. Maybe you slice 4 trips abroad per month and take 2 in a conference room where you can see your client on video. That is where technology is leading us, and quite frankly, less flying around is a lot better for the environment. I do however still think conferences will mostly be in person – part of the purpose of conferences is to network and you really can’t do that as efficiently from home. However, perhaps there will be hybrid conferences going forward – you can join via the internet, or pay a premium for the in-person pass.
I have to say, this whole “hand washing” and “hand sanitizing” thing was not a foreign concept to me as it was how I was brought up. My parents would make us all wash our hands thoroughly before dinner for example, I’m talking up to our elbows (especially because some of the dinners we eat in Nigeria we eat with our hands), and if we ever had a day out where we’d stop off for some McDs, my dad would find a way to make sure we washed our hands before we ate. I can’t say I was washing my hands religiously every time I stepped into a new building pre pandemic. But I always carried hand sanitizer with me, especially because I didn’t want to eat with unclean hands, meaning that when all hand sanitizers started to sell out at the start of the pandemic, I was already sorted.
That said, in the gym I’d never clean down my equipment and I would use mats that had literally just been used because I was too lazy to go and get a new mat for myself (which to be honest, probably hadn’t been washed anyway). I’d have my hands all up and down rails on public transport and not even have it in mind to for e.g. not touch my face until I had cleaned my hands.
Overall, it’s a positive if we all come out of this pandemic with cleaner habits. Sometimes, I look at some of the changes that have been implemented and I think – this should have been the case before. Why wasn’t there a limit to the number of people in the gym at one time? And why weren’t you sanitizing your hands before touching up my face as you threaded my eyebrows? Or why didn’t you sanitize your hands before touching my hands for the purpose of a manicure?
Working from home to become a norm
I only ever worked from home on two occasions: (i) I worked from home if I needed to log in on the weekend, and usually my set up was so crappy and the WFH system so slow and I’d just go into the office anyway and (ii) I worked from home during a cold December day in 2019 – after I had a work Christmas party, followed by an early flight to Stockholm, followed by meetings, followed by a Christmas party in Stockholm, followed by a flight back to the UK, followed by going out in the rain immediately after to vote in the elections, followed by me saying f it, I’m exhausted, I cannot make it back to the office. Call that exceptional circumstances.
Working from home was otherwise seemingly reserved mostly for senior people who had earned their work stripes or parents who had living human beings to take care of. Certainly not for a girl not even 5 years into her career who lived a 15 minute walk from the office.
Actually, when I first heard we might be working from home, I was a bit apprehensive. I was used to the aforementioned slow systems, and my finger hurting as I attempted to get anything sufficient done on my laptop. Indeed, when the WFH season started – it was weird. By now, I had a good set up with a screen, mouse et al. But the systems were slow and just didn’t even work sometimes, and it took a while for the team to fine tune how to properly communicate with each other.
However… 11 months on – I way prefer it! I mean, I don’t have to commute – I literally wake up, roll out of bed and log in, at some point in the morning getting up to make breakfast. I qKim Hill uite frankly stay bummy in my headwrap and clothes I wore to bed until it gets to the start of the afternoon (unless I have a morning meeting where I need to be on video). I also don’t have to “get ready” – I don’t even wear makeup most days anymore, unless I have a video call, and even then its a fraction of what I used to wear on a daily. I get to eat my own lunch which is (i) cheaper and (ii) healthier – because who really knows what these food places are putting in our food. And finally – (iii) it’s more flexible. If I want to stop work at 8pm to make dinner and log back in at 10pm to finish off for the day, I very easily can. Whereas previously, I’d be in the office at my desk until every last drip of work was finished – up until the very final hour. Also, I can also sing and dance to my music really loudly at home… on my headphones or on Fridays, blasting through the speaker. I also have Levi here if I really feel like I’m in need of some social interaction.
That said, the good thing about the office I’d say is the ease of speaking to your colleagues. Instead of having to e-mail / message them or call them, you just rotate your head slightly to the right or left, and, ya know… speak. Plus you can hear what others are up to so there’s more knowledge sharing.
I feel like I could WFH forever. But, that’s not how life works. I do hope though that once we go back, WFH becomes integrated into how we work in general in this 21st century.
Entire industries have transformed
I currently have a gel manicure kit, including the UV lamp, sat in my basket from BeautyBay. If it happens to be that I use it and it doesn’t chip easily (the reason I don’t bother to ever paint my nails), well then, I definitely won’t be getting monthly £20-30 acrylic infills when life goes back to normal. I’ve also started doing my hair myself at times, instead of always have to rely on a hairdresser. These are two examples of industries I think could be impacted for good post the pandemic, and there are surely many more I could name. In a way, the pandemic has likely accelerated a few trends that we would have seen over the long term anyway.
Hopefully, governments are better informed for the future
Finally, what I do hope will change for good after this pandemic is how the government responds to a pandemic. For many years a few of the most intelligent people around warned that a pandemic could be the biggest threat to mankind. A silent killer, really. But instead, it seems that most focus and investment is always in relation to an arms race vs. even considering a pandemic.
Viruses have come and gone over the years seemingly causing very little harm. In my lifetime, what I’ve typically experienced is that something like a swine flu pops up, but after a few short months everything dies down and suddenly you forget about it until another virus hits headlines. These viruses have never caused schools to close, borders closes, and definitely no mask wearing. But COVID-19 has turned out to be way more serious and akin to the Spanish flu of the 1900s – which infected 1/3rd of the population at the time – than the swine flu which had catchy “catch it, bin it, kill it” song to go with it.
It’s without a doubt that many of us in our lifetimes will face another pandemic – potentially less severe or even worse than the one we are currently going through. Whilst this one has been somewhat unprecedented – fingers crossed, next time, the government (at least here in the UK), is better organised and prepared for what is to come. And I don’t wanna see no damn eat out to help out, an incubator for the second peak.
What are some ways you think life as we know it will change after the pandemic?
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