While it’s not a Federal requirement yet, many cities and states across the U.S. have put out recommendations for citizens to stay home in a quarantine to fight the spread of COVID-19, aka the novel coronavirus. Many people have been working from home for the past week or more already in an attempt to contain the virus or #FlattenTheCurve, but cities are taking greater action to keep people from congregating in large groups. This has meant shuttering restaurants and bars, and banning concerts or other performances. Movie theaters have closed their doors. Many educational facilities have closed for the year or postponed commencement ceremonies. Suffice it to say: most of America is staying home for at least the next few weeks.
This has not been something localities are taking lightly, as the virus has already turned thousands of people who work in restaurants, hospitality, or entertainment out of work. People are hoarding groceries and supplies across the country, even though grocery stores and pharmacies are remaining open. The stock market keeps going into cardiac arrest, and no one can agree on what the best route forward is.
At the same time, some of the news coming out of the quarantine isn’t bad at all. We’ve gathered a list of the silver lining of the dark cloud that is a global pandemic and its effects on America and the world.
Less traffic and less pollution
If you’re one of the minority of Americans who is still going into an office right now, you may have noticed that there are fewer cars on the streets than before. Rush hour is lighter and faster, and there’s more parking. It ends up you’re not imagining things. Because most people are being told to stay home, people aren’t driving as much. They’re also not using public transit as much, and cities are working on cutting schedules to make up for it. Fewer people are flying, too, which is having a scary impact on the travel industry.
But there are some major positives to all these people staying home. Beyond lessening the burden on our infrastructure and giving people a better chance to get to work on time, the quarantine has apparently had a big effect on pollution levels. Countries that quarantined earlier this year, including China, South Korea, and Italy, are seeing big reductions in their carbon output. For the first time in recent memory, the canals in Venice are running clear and the fish and swans are thriving. This is great news for the environment!
People are learning how to be productive from working at home and maintaining their household
Many spouses and children are now learning how to work from home, while also managing their household, simultaneously. Humans are creatures of habit. Morning coffee, breakfast, shower, preparing lunches, getting kids ready, loading up the car, off to carpool and work. Many married couples and families may be having a hard time with this because dynamics are different because the work attire, schedule, and structure is more self-driven with less structure. Let’s face it: it’s now acceptable to take a conference call in sweatpants and a t-shirt across the board. This is especially hard for those that are extreme extroverts and used to morning social exchanges with coworkers or colleagues at the watercooler. Kids are also creatures of habit and love structure, especially when it comes to their schedules.
As remote work professionals, we’ve found ways to be effective when managing both home and work merged into the same setting. Put together a set schedule for the week ahead of time, just as you would an agenda or calendar if you’re going into the office. Try to maintain the same level of structure and consistency with your kids and work tasks including weekly chores such as meal prep and laundry on Sundays.
As you build your schedule, be sure to add in time for breaks, including exercise, and self-care time. If you have to have frequent breaks, try the Pomodoro technique as a focus booster, laying out 25-minute sprints of time within the workday. This helps break things up and maximizes productivity while also letting your brain have a break. It needs to have a balance that is practical and fuels productivity for when your mind is firing on all cylinders. Go through this schedule with your significant other and kids. Make sure there’s enough coverage across the board to get the household items done, while also reporting to your boss on your upcoming report progress and making sure your child has what he or she needs to maintain his or her schoolwork. And if extra learning tools are needed to keep kids busy, National School Choice week recently released 42 online learning tools offered for free.
When scheduling breaks or telecons, do so with the intention of being able to take the call or host the meeting outside. According to Forbes, this practice increases focus, happiness, reduces inflammation and works as a stress reliever as your brain takes in the fresh air and sunlight.
People are going outside more
Without the option to attend many indoor events, local parks and hiking trails are getting a lot of love during this time. Getting outdoors is a great way to leave the house and do an activity while still practicing social distancing. Apart from recreation, the outdoors is also a potential workspace to try while you have to work from home. All you need is wifi that reaches your yard or a phone as a hotspot and you can be productive, all while listening to birds chirp and feeling the breeze!
With Spring approaching, it’s the ideal time to try working from your backyard, go on that hike you’ve always talked about, or take the kids to a park they’ve never been to. Not only can being outside lead to more exercise and increased physical health, but according to research spending just 20 minutes at a park per day can lead to higher life-satisfaction and overall happiness. While it can be disheartening to miss out on social events during this time, take advantage of this unique opportunity to explore nature in your corner of the world!
We’re seeing businesses’ true colors
It’s a time that businesses can show leadership and promote people to continue to support their communities and stay productive from their homes. Forbes released a list of 50 companies attempting to do their part during this difficult time. Microsoft has announced they will still be paying their hourly employees, such as janitors and facility managers, who can’t work from home. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is trying to support the local businesses that are affected by announcing that he will “reimburse any lunch and coffee purchase from a local, independent business.” LinkedIn is opening up some of their business classes online to empower everyone to further themselves and stay productive. Uber Eats and DoorDash have waived their commision fees for their partners to promote compliance with the quarantine rules and limit the spread of the virus.
These are just a few of the hundreds of businesses rising to the challenge and attempting to make a difference during the pandemic. While all businesses have not chosen (or do not have the means) to respond in such inspiring ways, it’s important that we all do our part to positively impact our communities and recognize the businesses that are doing so as well.
People are making and consuming art
Yes, this has been a great moment for our poor, neglected Netflix queues, as everyone binge-watches their way through the catalog. But the TV isn’t the only device in our home getting our attention. Being stuck at home with no bars and restaurants to escape to has also given us more time to focus on doing cool hobbies in our newly found free time. All kinds of people are baking more, writing stories, and making crafts.
Famous performers are also sharing their art online, including musicians, comedians, and entertainers of all stripes. Since no one can go to theaters, the Metropolitan Opera has put operas on streaming and Universal has released their movies that were due for theatrical release on streaming. Museums like the Louvre in Paris are putting artworks online for people to enjoy, and many museums like the Smithsonian are offering virtual tours. And who can forget the live stream of the jellyfish from the Monterey Bay Aquarium? We have unprecedented access to creating and sharing art right now, and that’s a great thing.
We may be seeing permanent cultural changes… for the better
No one is hoping that quarantine will go on forever, although many people fear it may be months before we can return to “normal”. Still, that “normal” may have been changed forever. Social institutions may be aimed toward more compassion, working from home (and the positives that come with it) may be more widespread, and people may be more tuned in to their neighbors and their own hobbies than they were previously. We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s possible the positives from the viral pandemic may be here to stay.