How COVID is Shaping Our Lives
By: Liam Toews
In March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and what we thought of as normal changed drastically right before our eyes. Before that time, we all thought COVID was just a novel thing, that it would come and go quickly, that it was just another strain of the flu or something like that. Most of us could never have expected what was soon to come. The virus has had an enormous impact on our lives and indeed the world. Your columnist was just moving to Ottawa at the start of the pandemic, and it seemed as if the city had been abandoned. The pandemic forced changes in the way we work, socialize, and in many ways, experience the world. Some of these changes are temporary, but others seem to be here to stay, for the better or the worse.
One of the fundamental changes was the introduction of a purely digital workspace. When lockdowns and quarantine were implemented to control the spread of the virus, employees were unable to continue working, or at least unable to continue in-person work. This was a problem for corporations because if they had no employees working, how were they supposed to make a profit? For many employers, the solution was virtual. Apps like Zoom and Google Meets surged in popularity as more and more work was done completely online. As we slowly return to normal, with the help of the vaccine, it seems that many professions will remain online. Could the morning commute become a thing of the past? Possibly. According to a study by Stanford, working from home increased productivity by 16%. Many large firms, such as Microsoft, have abandoned their scheduled back-to-office dates and said they would continue online work indefinitely. But is this a good thing? According to the Washington Post, while it’s true that online work does increase productivity, in-person work fosters innovation and long-term gains that online work does not provide things like friendships with co-workers and more engagement in the office will have a greater effect on productivity than short-term gains from online work.
COVID has not only affected work, but also our personal lives. According to Pew Research Center, 79% of people said that changes brought about by the pandemic had affected their lives positively, while 89% percent said some changes affected them negatively. The pandemic separated us from each other through lockdowns, travel restrictions, and quarantine. Many relationships have been put on hold and a lack of social interaction has caused stress or social awkwardness among many people. Despite all this, COVID has brought about various changes for the better. While stuck in quarantine, and with nothing else to do, people have found new hobbies, adopted pets, or even learned new languages. Despite challenges, the human spirit will always find a way to persevere.
It is unlikely that the remnants of COVID will fade away completely, but it is up to you, dear reader, to judge whether that is for the better or for the worse.