As we continue to suffer from the emotional and financial impact of the dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is useful to take a moment to consider some of the silver linings we have realized from this experience. Even as we try to recover from the devastating loss of many lives and the current economic instability, it makes sense to take whatever lessons we can from the crisis to improve our living and working conditions in the future.
In this article, we will look at some of the lessons learned and the positive things that we have experienced as a result of confronting the challenges of COVID-19.
Reduced Air Pollution and Traffic
People around the world, especially in urban settings, have been stunned by the positive impact of lockdowns on air pollution and traffic. The air quality has improved dramatically, and skies everywhere have been clear and bright. Professional and amateur photographers have delighted in sharing images of dazzling blue skies and once obscured mountain ranges and other natural wonders near large cities around the world. These photos are particularly striking in frequently smog-plagued cities such as Beijing, Delhi, Seoul, and Los Angeles. Stories also abound of the increased wildlife activity in natural parks and non-protected areas as a result of the decreased human presence.
When people have ventured out to do errands or essential work, they have been pleasantly shocked by the ease of getting around their respective areas while driving in light traffic. The work commute has never been less stressful, and the time needed to do errands has fallen dramatically.
Having experienced the benefits of reduced air pollution and traffic, there is hope that the majority of people will be supportive of reasonable policies and regulations that will work to eventually achieve similar results when lockdowns are lifted, and commercial activities resume at full speed.
Improved Trust in Telehealth by Patients and Providers
The healthcare industry accounts for nearly 18% or $3.5 trillion of US GDP; however, particularly among healthcare providers, it has been slow to embrace the opportunities offered by telehealth. As a result of the current crisis with its stay-at-home orders, the industry has moved more of its focus toward “virtual care.” This broad term includes all the ways that healthcare providers remotely interact with their patients. In addition to treating their patients remotely in what is referred to as “telemedicine,” healthcare providers also increasingly have the ability to use digital tools including live video, audio, and instant messaging to communicate with their patients in real-time. Some other interesting remote medicine developments include chatbots that can make initial diagnoses based on the symptoms relayed by patients as well as wearable IoT devices that can monitor a patient’s vital signs.
Healthcare providers who had been skeptical of using this virtual technology are now adapting their methods toward a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual care. Patients are likewise becoming increasingly comfortable with telehealth as revealed in a survey of more than 30,000 Americans by the consumer insight group Piplsay. This survey found that an impressive 42% of patients who used telehealth found it “very effective,” and 55% believed it was “safer than conventional medicine.”
During the crisis, physicians have learned that video consultations give them an opportunity to look into their patients’ homes to gain a better insight into their medical challenges. Healthcare experts envision a future where the initial patient consult will be done with a physician via telemedicine and then a nurse or technician could visit the patient’s house to draw blood, give a shot, or perform other necessary services. Also, family members at the residence who might not have been at a normal office visit can easily participate in videoconferences and provide valuable information about their loved ones’ medical conditions and habits. Likewise, via telemedicine, patients and family members will get an opportunity to see their physicians in a less intimidating home setting that will strengthen the patient-provider bond.
Benefits of Self-Isolation and Remote Work
As we have discussed in previous articles, there are clear pros and cons to remote work for every organization, but there are also personal benefits that workers have recognized more than ever during this mandated telework and self-isolation period. One of the main positive things to come out of the stay-at-home orders has been the increase in telephone and video calls with friends and families as well as the many reunions of different groups. A recent poll by OnePoll of 2,000 Americans (with 1,200 parents among them) revealed the positive results experienced during self-isolation as listed below:
- 75% of parents witnessed a key moment in their child’s life
- 77% enjoyed spending more time with their household
- 70% of parents said this time had helped them realize their family’s unhealthy habits
- 66% said the pandemic had brought them closer to their family
The survey respondents also mentioned that benefits of being at home included making healthier meals, eating together with family, starting and maintaining exercise and diet routines, and learning and teaching new skills and hobbies.
Some of the top benefits of working remotely listed by survey respondents included:
- Enjoying a more flexible schedule and not having to commute
- Being more productive
- Saving money
- Not having to dress up
- Being able to work from the comfort of home
- Having fewer distractions than at the office
Companies and employees have learned a great deal about the importance of work flexibility and family time as a result of this pandemic. It makes sense for companies to process what they have learned and take the proper steps to offer a hybrid work environment of in-house and remote work that will keep their employees happier and more productive.
Improvement of Technologies
As a result of the requirements of living with COVID-19, there has been an improvement in some important technologies. The primary technology that has been utilized and improved on during this pandemic has been videoconferencing tools and products. Established and new communication companies have worked tirelessly throughout the crisis to meet the massive demand for business and personal video communication and teleconference needs. Companies have also improved the products that support this technology area such as ear buds, headphones, and ergonomic furniture. There has also been a focus on the development of the 5G network as well as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings in order to meet the connectivity demands of organizations.
In addition, supply chain issues and other problems have led to greater demand in products that can be created via 3-D printing. Companies have used this technology to assist in creating a variety of parts and products needed to help fight the virus in the healthcare area as well as in other essential industries.
Virtual Reality technology has also increased its capability because of the need for remote training as well as services such as virtual house and apartment visits and the virtual trying on of clothes and shoes. Drone technology and purpose-designed apps for police and emergency work, utilities, and logistical needs have also been tested out and improved upon at an accelerated pace because of the pandemic.
Companies have also improved their offerings of different products featuring contactless technology. These methods are especially important in the restaurant and hotel business to reduce contact during ordering or visits, while services are rendered, and when paying the bill. These technologies and methods, improved through the demands of protecting against this virus, will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other contagions in the future.
Your IT Support Partner Will Help You Overcome This Crisis
As you learn from your difficult experiences with this pandemic and slowly move toward returning to your offices and adapting to the new normal, please take the time to consult with a trusted IT Support partner, like Network Depot. They will help your company best navigate the significantly changed working landscape. Your IT partner will guide you on how to best overcome the challenges of COVID-19 as well as advise you on how to recognize and utilize the new products and services that have been developed to help companies and individuals during the pandemic. Working with your IT Support partner, you will be able to optimize your remote and in-office work environments and continue to achieve your organization’s unique objectives.