By Samiha Ahmed
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we all quickly shifted to a new lifestyle and routine in lockdown at home. Many of us are stuck wondering if this is our new normal and how much of this we need to get used to.
Schools and colleges have all shifted to online classes, also known as distance learning. This change in learning style has put many students without internet access or computers at a disadvantage, exposing the prominent digital divide in America. Also, although professors and teachers are putting in a lot of time and effort into online classes, many students are facing difficulties with absorbing the material due to the change in their learning environment. Additionally, group projects and other assignments that require student interactions are tougher to complete virtually.
Similarly, professional businesses have shut down their offices, ordering their employees to work from home. Though businesses have not stalled their operations, the transition to complete remote work impacts the productivity of employees and the benefits of employee interactions. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Slate reported: remote workers may be “utterly inaccessible or unproductive, while their managers either don’t notice or won’t address it.” Also, the lack of social interactions with co-workers can hurt employees’ professionalism and work ethic.
Companies have also changed their hiring and recruiting methods to all virtual interactions. Recruiters are now using video interviews and phone calls to continue with their hiring processes. This inhibits the recruiters from making a personal connection with candidates and new employees. Some companies have used video interviews and phone calls in their hiring practices before, but there were opportunities to allow candidates to come into the office and meet other employees. This recent shift to complete virtual hiring eliminates this part of the hiring process. Furthermore, college students are missing out on career fairs and on-campus event opportunities to meet and network with recruiters for future job or internship opportunities.
How much of these changes are we going to have to get used to after the brunt of Coronavirus passes?
One aspect of work culture and networking that may change forever is handshakes. Social distancing guidelines may be lifted soon, but people may not return to the traditional greeting of a handshake. This pandemic has instilled people with fear. We are now trained to assume that this invisible virus can be anywhere, so people take extra precautions when meeting and interacting with others. This mindset will prevent many people from avoiding any unnecessary physical contact.
Another significant change we may see in work culture is more people working from home. This pandemic has proven many office jobs that, typically, were not given the option to work from home are, in fact, able to be performed virtually. This change in working style can save businesses a lot of money in terms of overhead costs and office supplies. However, there will be downsides, like the lack of bonds between co-workers. According to the president of Global Workplace Analytics, Kate Lister, says, “there has been pent-up demand by employees for greater work-life flexibility, and that the coronavirus has made their employers see the light, especially as they themselves have had to work from home.”
Similarly, this remote working lifestyle that everyone is living now may teach employers and recruiters to be more open-minded and accepting of individuals that request to work from home. Many single parents, disabled individuals, family caretakers and employees that live too far from the office often request to work from home and are shut down or ridiculed for it. Our current situation proves that employees can work from home, while taking care of their other responsibilities, just as well as they work in the office.
Moreover, we may see changes in academic expectations for students as the digital and economic divide between students is revealed across the country. The transition to online learning and all students being home at one time is exposing the assumption that many schools have been operating on: all students have computers and access to the internet. State and school officials are, only now, scrambling to mend this divide by providing computers and other resources to underprivileged students. Once in-person classes resume, we may see schools providing more resources to students.
Also, teachers and professors may be more mindful when assigning work that requires internet access. Governor Andrew Cuomo, said, “When we do reopen our schools, let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that, we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.” This signals that, although these gaps in access to resources exist, the academic environment may change forever, forcing educators and administrators to adapt and think of all that needs to change.
Lastly, this pandemic has made many people feel very uncertain of their lives and their future, teaching us that nothing is guaranteed in the future. Thus, people may begin to only plan for the short term. The COVID-19 shutdown has caused many conferences, school events, weddings, graduations and concerts to be cancelled this year. There is still a lot of doubt and unpredictability regarding the country’s containment of the virus and when everything will reopen. Because of this, many people may only plan and focus on events and tasks for the week or the month ahead.
The quarantine and lockdown due to the pandemic will leave lasting effects on society. The quick changes we have made prove how adaptable we are as a society. As we return to a new type of normalcy, we hope things change for the better.