7 Longer-Term Positives from the COVID-19 Pandemic

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We’re living through unprecedented times, and the loss and harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is irreversible. However, there are some meaningful positives that will come out of all of this if and when the world returns to normal again.

  1. Re-discovering the magic of 24 hours in a day!
    In our fast-paced lives, and the constant struggle to balance work and life, most of us never had enough time. That’s not really the case anymore. The fact that most of us have been confined largely to our homes for most of the year has meant that we have more time at our hands and less things to do. While we’re still doing as much or more with our days, working from home, managing household chores, and many other things, the flexibility at hand has meant most of us are able to do a lot more in a day than we did in a pre-COVID day.
  2. A New Hobby or a Rekindled Affair with an Old One!
    Weekends and vacations have been really hard to fill with quality enjoyment and relaxation, with “going out” not really an option anymore. For most of us this has meant actively finding hobbies or things to do. For some it has meant rekindling an old hobby – writing in my case, for others a chance to pick up that thing you’ve always wanted to do – my wife who’s picked up baking, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my share of cookies, cakes and breads! We’ve all had a chance to add that added dimension to our lives as a result of this.
  3. Realizing The Value of Relationships & Human Interaction
    While separating everyone physically and limiting most chances of social interaction, the pandemic has brought people closer together in many ways. Some of us are forced to spend more time with our immediate family (some like me have become better parents as a result) as we all remain home-bound together while others have had the chance to connect with old friends over endless Whatsapp and Zoom videocalls. I personally have made an effort to reconnect with old friends more in these past few months, than I did in the last 10 years! The forced physical distancing, has also made us long for that physical interaction so much more – the matches you find on Tinder, Bumble or Hinge don’t seem as interesting anymore when there is absolute no way to follow those up with a real physical date.
  4. A Real Shift towards Flexible Work Arrangements
    While many firms advocated and provided flexible work arrangements for their employees prior to the coronacrisis, the reality was that true flexible work arrangements were more an exception than the rule. However, most firms have now realized that work-from-home may not be just as efficient as working from an office, but might even show increased efficiencies in many cases, thanks to the feeling of freedom and flexibility that it provides. When all this also comes with significant cost-savings in terms of office rentals and related costs, daily commute, and other benefits, flexible work arrangements will probably be a norm going forward.
  5. Your Next Vacation will be Your BEST Yet
    The fact that most of us haven’t had a chance to get too far away from our homes in all these months, let alone crossing any borders, will mean that whenever you go on your next vacation, you’ll truly know to appreciate it. For many of us, getting on a flight, going to a different city or country, or anything related to travel, was such a regular occurrence that it had lost any and all excitement. That will surely change the next time you get a chance to really explore the world – and it will likely feel like your best holiday yet.
  6. The Exponential Acceleration of Technology Adoption
    Necessity is the mother of all invention. And we’ve seen this more than ever in the past 6-8 months than ever before. While the technology largely existed somewhere, the adoption of technologies of the “stay at home” economy has tremendously accelerated thanks to a lack of options. Online entertainment (Netflix), Remote working and interaction (Zoom), Food delivery (Foodpanda / Meituan / Swiggy), Online shopping (Amazon), Social networking (Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok) have all seen a huge surge in terms of adoption as well as metrics such as time and money spent over this period. While some of this may normalize, as we get back to a world of physical interactions, the convenience and ease of use will mean longer-term consumer behavior shifts.
  7. Climate and Environmental Detox
    The positive impact of nationwide lockdowns and the resultant reduction in traffic, industrial emissions, pollution and broader carbon emissions has been talked about widely. While this may be too short a pause for it to have massive and long-lasting impact, it will surely act as a detox for the climate and environment to regain some balance. Moreover, some behavioral shifts that are predicted as a result of the pandemic i.e. less global travel, increased focus on hygiene, more efficient resource allocation, are bound to create a more environment-friendly world post-COVID.

COVID-19, Racism, Hunger? Social Issues Through Maslow’s Lens

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As someone who aims to someday dedicate his life towards a social cause, without yet knowing what that cause will be and when that time might come, I continue to look at the social issues around me and wonder what moves me the most and if one problem can be attributed to be at the root of all others, if there is even such a thing. And as the world battled between the mayhem created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rousing anger in the global community fueled by the death of George Floyd, as yet another reminder of the racial discrimination that plagues our society, it felt to me that there is no way of calling one issue or problem greater than the other and it all boils down to each individual’s perspective.

I wondered however, how many such deaths occur in the “third world nations” (as much as I hate that term, as if describing aliens, and interestingly the origin of the term from the non-aligned nations during the Cold War had little to do with the “poor country” notion that it now represents) just about everyday at the hands of police brutality towards the economically weaker strata, or the lower caste or members of other parts of society whose lives seem to hold less value than others. Why then, is there no such revolution seen everyday, in just about every part of the world, to demand true equality and remind the world that each life matters equally? The answer I felt quite simply lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Physiological Needs – You need food, water, and air to survive.

In countries where a huge portion of population spends most of their time thinking about how they’ll earn their next meal, and where the “poverty line” is set at a little over a dollar a day, and still close to a 100 million people end up below it, it is quite clear where the priorities lie. The physiological needs of food, water, shelter and so on remain unfulfilled for an appallingly huge portion of the world.

Safety & Security Needs – Money, Health and Crime

For those that don’t have to worry about this, then comes the need for safety and security. And unfortunately again, rates of crime in most parts of the world are so high, that calling any place safe, isn’t quite safe anymore. And so there is that other huge chunk of population that struggles with ensuring their safety, and also their security whether it is financial, or health, and so the millions trying to stay at home and keep safe from the pandemic also fall under this category.

Social Needs – Love, Belonging and Freedom…

Once we go beyond this, just as the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy, we’re now getting into the minority of the world’s population, that is beyond these needs and can focus on the 3rd layer i.e. the need for love and belonging. Now this brings us to a couple of different very topical issues that concern people today – fight against discrimination and the focus on mental health. If you’re lucky enough to have met your physiological and safety needs, you crave for the social needs, and this is where you need love and acceptance to stay emotionally and mentally strong and sane, while you also need a sense of affiliation to a community or religious group or whatever it may be that you choose. And so a lot of the focus on mental health, resilience on one end and discrimination, diversity and equality on the other seems to be most talked about in a certain strata of the society that doesn’t need to worry about the first 2 bits. While this does not take anything away from the seriousness of these issues, it does tell me that you’re partly lucky if you got to the stage where these are the primary issues that concern you.

Esteem and Self-Actualization – I’ll reserve for another time…

Beyond this, I probably won’t spend too much time discussing, because if you’re beyond the first three, you’re probably in quite a good place, and are striving to be a better version of a already pretty darn lucky self (and that luck could absolutely be a combination of chance and your own hard work).

Conclusion?

And what did I learn from this pretty long rant? That in my mind there is probably a starting point if we are to change the world, and it probably starts at ensuring that each person in the world is well fed and has access to the bare essentials of life. And by this I in no way imply that all the other issues are irrelevant (in fact I do deeply care about them, as you’ll find here), but if some day I do fulfill my dream of starting work towards a social cause, I think I know where my priorities will lie.