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What Will Life Be Like After COVID?


We may feel that we are the same as ever but that the world has changed. Posted Mar 18, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

This pandemic will eventually come to an end. When that happens, we may feel that we are the same as ever but that the world around us has changed, whether for good or ill. As many people have been exposed to the virus and as many have also been vaccinated, herd immunity will eventually kick in allowing us to resume our normal lives. Can our lives ever return to something approaching what they were before? Do we even remember what normal life was? What has been changed irrevocably? Will the adjustment be as difficult and stressful as the pandemic itself? One of the clearest changes has been the transition to work from home. Profound Permanent Changes Many workers complain about endless Zoom meetings that tend to be chaotic and frustrating. Of course, new methods of conducting business will always have their teething pains. Nonetheless, a quiet transition to remote work has just occurred. The pandemic demonstrated that employees are just as productive working from home. Remote work is generally good for employers because it cuts office expenses. Remote work is popular with some employees because it saves them the hassle of slogging through city traffic, sometimes in appalling weather. This desperate battle against the clock turns out to have been completely pointless for many. Another key advantage is that employees spend more time with family. However, it means that they are constantly wrestling with work problems and domestic issues at the same time. This is stressful and unsatisfactory, especially for parents who are involved in helping children negotiate remote learning. This has been so disruptive that many people, particularly mothers, dropped out of the workforce to the detriment of their careers. Being unable to meet coworkers in person is socially impoverishing. Indeed, much of the social interaction at work had little to do with work being more of a loose friendship network of individuals who enjoy talking to each other. While the shift to working from home is probably going to stick, the biggest adjustment to Covid-19 has been reduced social contact. The social fallout has been substantial. Social Fallout During the pandemic, restrictions on travel, leisure activities, and the avoidance of close interpersonal contact produced a heavy toll, particularly for gregarious people, as described in an earlier post. While all age groups were negatively affected, children, teenagers, and young people – who were least vulnerable to the virus – may have been most vulnerable to the social damage. Distance education has proved frustrating for students as well as teachers. For some populations, particularly those with poor internet service, the past year has been one where little was accomplished in school. While this deficit could be made up, in theory, the prognosis is poor. Children who fall behind in the educational system are more likely to fall farther behind than they are to catch up. article continues after advertisement The fact that many third-level schools have switched entirely to distance learning means that some high school graduates are postponing college and have a hole in their resume that is hard to fill. Many recent graduates have trouble getting work during the pandemic. It is true that many people were hired to work remotely but candidates with a solid work history are strongly preferred in such jobs. Clinical psychologists worry that young people are experiencing an increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression. It does not help that, at an age when people are still finding themselves socially, many suffered enforced social isolation. Teen suicides were probably not increased systematically by Covid-19, however. Social isolation, depression, and increasing deaths may be predictable consequences of a pandemic but the more optimistic among us are looking forward to a more normal existence after the masks come off. We may find that adjustments to the pandemic have a lasting effect on social life as we anticipate the next pandemic, and possibly, more dangerous variants of this one. The Way Back Can we reconstitute our social lives? Perhaps, but we have lost a great deal and cannot replace more than half-a-million Americans who have perished and their links to large swaths of the population. No doubt, people will begin to entertain in their homes again. Many of the cherished spots where strangers become friends, such as coffee shops, bars, and restaurants have closed their doors for good. Others bear the marks of pestilence, whether it is roped-off sunbathing areas on beaches, improvised outdoor dining areas, or social distancing marks on the ground. The news is not all bad.

Many resourceful people have used the pandemic pause to cultivate pet projects, learn new skills, and hatch new businesses. We may be on the cusp of a creative explosion in new technologies concerning space, nanotechnology, drones, genomics, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality, among many others. In Japanese, the word for crisis also means opportunity.

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About the Author Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.

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© 2021 Sinead O’Donoghue, LCSW