In a few short months, the coronavirus (Covid-19) has wreaked havoc throughout the world. Sadly, thousands have fallen ill and passed away, hundreds of thousands have been temporarily displaced or permanently eliminated from their places of employment, and many businesses have shut down. We are living in unprecedented times.
Like many countries around the world, the United States is still in the early stages of trying to slow down the spread of the virus. Some coronavirus containment methods include maintaining a distance of six feet from other people (aka social distancing), refraining from congregating in groups of 10 or more people, and not touching your face. The last method seems obvious, but as human beings touching our face is often an unconscious action that we do hundreds of times every day.
Despite our shortcomings, I do believe in the resolve of the human race to solve the coronavirus problem. And if “solve” is not the right word, then I believe we will at least be able to determine a long-term solution to contain it. It’s still too early to tell.
I recognize that it’s premature to predict what will happen when we’ve successfully moved past the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are a few things I predict will change in the United States that could improve how we operate as a society and might help to prevent virulent viruses like Covid-19 from proliferating in the future.
#1: Shaking hands will be optional.
I’ll be frank – I don’t enjoy shaking hands. When I was younger I didn’t mind shaking hands. I believed it was an easy and quick way to convey confidence by the way I shook someone’s hand and looked them in the eye. Especially if that someone was a peer or someone I looked up to. Now, after being in the workforce for a number of years, I dread shaking hands, especially with people I’m meeting for the first time. Most of the dread comes from wondering where that other person’s hand has been just prior to coming in contact with mine.
On nearly EVERY business trip I take I see men, grown men, walk in and out of airport bathrooms immediately after using the stall or the toilet without washing their hands. And sadly, it’s not just airports. I see this happen in nearly every public restroom I visit no matter what part of the country I’m in. If I had to guess, roughly 25 to 30% of men I see leave the bathroom without washing their hands or washing their hands very quickly and very poorly. This is just unacceptable.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has explicitly stated that we should avoid shaking hands right now until the coronavirus is under control. A better solution would be that we just stop shaking hands altogether. Shaking hands is a common cultural tradition in many parts of the world, but there are also many places around the world where shaking hands (or touching people you don’t know) is not the social norm. I predict that after the coronavirus is under control in the United States it will be socially acceptable to opt out of shaking hands to greet one another.
#2: The option to work from home will be more widely practiced.
In the last few weeks, thousands of people who regularly work in an office have been forced to work from home. When I’m not traveling I work from home a lot. I find that it provides a good work/life balance especially if I’m gone on an overnight trip during the week. Yes, the company I work for has a corporate office and I go there when I need to, but it is not mandatory. However, for the thousands of people who are recently working at home for the first time, many are required to be in the office some or all of the time.
There are so many benefits to working at home. Productivity is way higher because there are far fewer distractions. If kids are sick, you can stay at home with them and not have to subject other kids to their ailment. If you’re sick, you don’t have to go into the office and get your coworkers sick. If you need to run a quick errand during the day, it’s way faster and easier to do so. If you’re an early riser you can begin working way ahead of when the office physically opens. You can also work later without having to worry about the office closing. I can go on, and on, and on.
What I think employers who don’t allow their employees to work from home will learn from this experience is that responsible working professionals can effectively do their jobs without constant supervision and oversight. Technology has changed and improved so much in the last decade that these days working from home is almost no different than working in the office. I predict that after the coronavirus is under control many U.S. employers will re-evaluate their work from home policies to give their employees more flexibility on when and where they work. At the end of the day, what matters most getting work done. Why should it matter where that happens?
#3: Eating establishments and public gathering locations will stay cleaner.
I was watching my local newscast and a reporter was interviewing a local restaurant owner about the measures the restaurant was taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (this was just before restaurants were limited to take-out only). The restaurant owner’s response kind of surprised me. She said that she has encouraged her staff to take extra measures to make sure they’re wiping down the tables, salt and pepper shakers, doorknobs, touchscreens, menus, seats and other items between each service. The whole time she was talking all I could think was, “Shouldn’t they be doing all of those things anyway?!”
Similar to the lack of hand washing I see in airport restrooms, I routinely see customers in restaurants (and sometimes even the restaurant staff) skip out on washing their hands or washing their hands poorly. I can’t help but think that the owner of a restaurant would also understand that this occurs and would require their staff to always wipe things down; coronavirus or not.
My general rule of thumb is that when you go to a new restaurant, always check out the restroom first. If the restroom is dirty, there’s a high probability that the dining tables and the kitchen are dirty too. This may or may not be true – it’s just something I do. Perhaps it’s prudent to bring your own sanitizing wipes to restaurants to wipe things down in the same way you would on an airplane. This may seem extreme, but given the current environment, taking the extra precaution never hurts. With that being said, I predict that after the coronavirus is under control restaurants in the United States will be held to a higher standard of cleanliness legally and that adjustments will be made to meet such standards. This is a win-win for everyone.
As with most predictions, some, all, or none may happen. My overarching message and concern is that we figure out a way to curb the spread of this terrible virus and that we alter our behavior now and in the future to help prevent something like this from happening again. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who’s been adversely affected by this outbreak. It may take a little while, but I’m confident we’ll get this under control if we all work together to do our part. Keep fighting.