There is a lot to be pessimistic about today. It’s only May and 2020 has already cemented itself as a year of fear and uncertainty. As I write this article, the coronavirus outbreak has sickened more than 3,500,000 people and officially taken at least 245,000 lives. Economies are slumping. Companies are closing and may never recover. Domestic violence is surging. Essential employees are being overworked and underpaid.
For each individual, the changes brought on by this quarantine are varying. Some indispensable workers are experiencing workload increases, while some have the luxury of working from home. Others are completely out of work.
We are all feeling pains resulting from this pandemic, whether they stem from financial instability, health complications, daily inconveniences, or a combination of all of those.
If you are searching for a small hope to cling to, you may be wondering, “Is this enormous reversal of activity doing anything constructive for our society? What can we learn from it?”
An obvious advantage of the quarantine has been the mitigated air pollution in urban areas thanks to the reduction of travel and industrial activity. Seeing this tremendous improvement in air quality in such a short period of time has restored collective faith that something urgent can in fact be done about climate change.
In addition, a small slice of optimism amidst this crisis can be found in people that are actually enjoying their sudden abundance of time. For many of the lucky ones who can work from the safety of their homes, stepping away from the workplace has offered a much-needed chance to relish family, attend to mental health needs, and reignite forgotten passions.
On an even larger scale, communities are banding together and recognizing their power to protect their most vulnerable members, hardworking members of society are getting the recognition they deserve, and insights about the advantages of alternative workplaces are being revealed.
To learn more about some of the more positive side effects of the quarantine, I interviewed workers and students to ask them if they have experienced anything encouraging during their break from fast paced consumer society. Here is what I found:
For some, alleviating hectic working situations has yielded mental health improvements.
Aayesha, France: I’ve been dealing with depression for the past 13 years, and social anxiety for the last three. Quarantine has been great for me because now it is socially acceptable to video chat or call instead of meeting physically. Without that pressure, my depression and anxiety have basically disappeared because those external stressors aren’t really in my life right now.
Kourtany, U.S.: Working in a high-stress retail environment, I didn’t realize how much of a mental health break I needed until I got one. This quarantine has been a good breather for my body and mind. Thankfully, I’m financially stable right now so I have no stress and am enjoying every day like its vacation.
The quarantine has provided an occasion to treasure those we live with.
Mallory, U.S.: As a single mom, I have two jobs that demand a lot of my time. Since the quarantine, it has been really nice to see my kids so much more. I know when the quarantine is over, back to work I will go, so I’m cherishing this time while it lasts.
Gali, Israel: Passover is huge in my family; we usually invite about 30 guests. The quarantine obviously ruined that this year. We were disappointed at first, but it turned out special. This Passover was the first time in years that I spent quality time with both of my brothers and my parents. It was memorable and I’m so happy I had that experience.
Terri, U.S.: I didn’t realize how much fun it is to actually play outside with my kids. We’ve got three of them stuck in the house with us, so we have to wear everybody out every day. We’ve been playing tag, badminton, volleyball, hula hooping and running. In regular life, we’re all too busy and there are too many options for places to go or things to do, so we don’t spend as much time together. So, it feels weird to say it, but I’m kind of loving quarantine.
People are gaining a greater appreciation for the little things in life.
Annalisa, Italy: After a few weeks, I finally went to the supermarket for the first time. When I came back home, I felt so intensely happy. I think this quarantine is helping me, and people in general, realize that simple tasks like going to the supermarket are moments to enjoy.
Vicki, U.S.: I think what I’m getting out of all of this is I take too much for granted. A hug, a visit from a friend, going out to dinner, too many Birthday celebrations missed, seeing my guys, I take these things for granted. Not any more!
Thierry, U.S.: Being able to spend time in the garden, be outside and working on my home are simple pleasures that I often overlooked and underestimated before.
Society has been reminded of the power of community support.
Jacob, U.K.: There is a person in my neighborhood who walks around in a crazy Mickey Mouse outfit every day and waves at children as he goes by. It keeps the children entertained for 10 minutes of the day and they look forward to when he walks by. It’s cute!
Bella, U.K.: I think it’s wholesome how many people want to help. My village has a coronavirus community board that has evolved into a massive volunteer community. Volunteers have been assigned to every street and they send out little postcards offering help and giving their contact information. They run errands, offer emotional support, food, and to walk people’s dogs.
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Mark, U.S.: One of my local pubs’ regulars collaborated to host an online quiz last night as a fundraiser for the pub staff. Their staff has done a great job of taking care of us over the years and we wanted to try to help them out. We asked participants to donate what they might have spent if they had been playing in the bar. Over 230 people representing 61 teams participated in the quiz. Their incredibly generous contributions totaled $5,000! Not only will this help the employees and their families, but I think it also illustrates how supportive the community is toward each other.
This pandemic has highlighted our most hardworking and indispensable workers.
Tracey, U.S.: I hope that after the quarantine we will finally recognize who and what is important in our society: first responders, cops, nurses, doctors, farmers, store clerks, teachers. The selfless people in every sector are going to get us through this. We would be nothing without these workers, they deserve respect!
Maria, Spain: Thank god for doctors, nurses, and everyone in the medical field!
Emmy, Switzerland: I have a confession: I suck at helping my son with his schoolwork. I am by no means a teacher. Teaching him hasn’t been ideal for either of us. Some days we both want to cry. This whole quarantine has given me enormous respect for teachers. Let’s just say, in my household, we will be celebrating teacher appreciation day every year from here on out.
Our options regarding the future of employment have expanded.
Doug, U.S.: I work in IT Project Management and we have been developing platforms that allow employees to work remotely. Unfortunately, a lot of managers make excuses that their employees can’t be productive from home. Now that there is a quarantine, those managers have been proven wrong. My hope for the future is that some of these people will learn to trust their employees and allow them to work remotely when possible, so that they hopefully enjoy a more pleasant workplace.
Hans, Germany: I would really like more opportunities to work from home in the future. Instead of rushing to my one-hour commute to be packed in the metro like a sardine, I can actually spend that time enjoying my breakfast and taking some deep breaths. I think because of that, my productivity has never been better.
Michele, France: Before we wondered if anything could be done to help improve the air in Paris. Suddenly, our prayers were answered. It makes me wonder if we have accidentally stumbled on a solution to the pollution: employees should work from home when they can.
What can be gained from this?
Isolation has flipped the modern human experience upside-down. Many people are enduring anxiety, depression, and unprecedented financial burden; and those people desperately need life to return back to normal. Meanwhile, some are indulging in liberation from work-life and responsibilities that they haven’t witnessed since childhood. Many of us are experiencing some combination of both of these experiences simultaneously, and that is okay.
Whether we are floundering, flourishing, or a little of both, we must carry this newfound wisdom with us to build a better future. How can workers improve their work-life balance to protect their mental health and family time? How can communities uplift vulnerable members? Are our indispensable workers receiving the assistance and encouragement they need? Is working from home a viable solution employers can adopt to promote mental health and environmental prosperity?
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Father and child washing hands. — Featured Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention