I noticed something the other day when our team returned to working from the office. The café in our building has always offered loyalty cards to its patrons and I noticed over the first few days back, no one was using their loyalty cards when ordering coffees. I asked the guys behind the counter about it and they said that since businesses started to work from home, people stopped using the cards as an act to show support to local business and help them in any little way they could.
It got me thinking of some of the positive macro changes that have occurred in the midst of this pandemic, when it feels like at times we are constantly being bombarded with negativity and bad news.
Exercise/More Free Time
In the first few weeks of Covid-19, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people who were out walking/running/cycling. While there can be an argument that this many people out isn’t a good thing, it was amazing to see so many people making the most of the extra free time with their families due to no travel times, more flexible working arrangements, or just a desire to get some fresh air. I couldn’t go for a run without having to navigate past hoards of cycling families or kids walking to the basketball courts.
I think this will be a change that will stick, and it will be more common practice for parks to be full with people picnicking, and bike paths busier than they’ve ever been.
Cleanliness and Health
Coming into flu season, I think this macro change could be massively beneficial during the winter period. People are washing and sanitising their hands on a more regular basis, maintaining better coughing and sneezing behaviours, and most importantly are staying home from work when they are sick. Prior to COVID-19, there was never a movement toward handwashing and sanitation as there is now.
In our office, we have sanitiser at the bottom of the elevator, at our reception, and everyone has a bottle at their desk. This is also the case at most grocery stores, retail shops, and other areas in public, and will be a trend which will continue for a long time. If these improved hand hygiene behaviours remain in place post-pandemic, it would be sensical to see a reduction in other bacterial and viral infections.
Improved Air Quality
There has been increased discussion lately about how drastically air quality has improved since lockdowns were implemented across the globe. Measurements released from one of the European Space Agency’s satellites show that levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere have decreased by up to 40% in industrial areas in Asia and Europe. The UK also reportedly dropped by 60%. Ironically, this lockdown and the consequent improved air quality may actually save more lives in the long term not related to Covid-19. The World Health Organisation estimates 3 million deaths per year due to air pollution, so who knows how many lives will be saved this year due to improved air quality.
While I think this change will be temporary, as cities come out of lockdown and planes take back to the skies, it does give us a glimpse of how the future could be with less air pollution.
In a new world where negative changes are overwhelmingly prevalent, it’s interesting to think of some of the positive macro-changes that may stick around once things return to a new normal.