To say that COVID-19 has negatively impacted people and businesses across the world is the understatement of 2020. In a time that has felt hopeless for many, it’s been encouraging to see people come together and support one another. Despite all the bad news associated with the global pandemic, it’s also brought about positive changes for businesses and workers that could be here to stay.
The ability to work from home has been a lifeline for many workers during the pandemic, and it’s likely that telecommuting will continue indefinitely for some of us. Without being restricted to a specific geographic area, businesses can expand their talent pool, opening up career opportunities to a more diverse group of people, including more people of color. Consider businesses in Asheville, NC. As of July 2019, Asheville’s population was predominantly white with African Americans making up 11.7 percent of the population and Hispanics or Latinos making up 6 percent. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that people of color in the Asheville community have access to high-quality jobs. However, a work-from-home model does allow businesses who have made it a priority to hire people of color to expand their audience and attract workers from larger communities of color.
Separating your work life from your personal life always seemed like a good approach, but did anyone ever truly achieve the “work-life balance”? The pandemic has made it nearly impossible. And a lot of people are okay with that. We’ve seen the insides of our co-workers’ homes, we’ve had Zoom calls with kids whizzing through the background, and we’ve truly missed the people we work with. Workers are no longer just employees with a specific set of tasks to complete—they are human beings with real lives outside the workplace. This blurring of work and life has created a level of acceptance and empathy that many workplaces were lacking before. Certainly, as we adjust to our new lives, now dominated by telecommuting, we’ll need to reestablish our own personal boundaries. But until then, the last several months have reinforced for many of us that we crave the comfort we find in one another––and we’ll need to find new and innovative ways to achieve that.
Forced to Innovate
Small, local businesses who traditionally didn’t rely on online sales were quickly forced to pivot their businesses into the online space as mandatory closures swept the nation. The transition hasn’t been easy for everyone, but the work that has been put in over the last few months could bear lasting fruit. These smaller businesses who have expanded their web presence now have the opportunity to sell their products on a larger scale to a national audience with the help of social media and online advertising.
Other small businesses such as restaurants and gyms have also been forced to innovate their business models to meet their customers’ needs. For example, most restaurants quickly moved to takeout only, an obvious move, but many have also reinvented themselves as specialty grocers, curating hard-to-find ingredients and delivering them straight to customers’ doors. Local gyms have temporarily loaned equipment to their members and transitioned to an online, personal training model that works for their customers and justifies membership fees.
This type of innovation could lead to lasting, positive changes in a variety of industries.
For the Greater Good
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our nation’s flaws in a way we desperately needed. While many of us were aware of the disjointed healthcare system, the fragility of low-wage jobs, and racial disparities in health, income, etc., this pandemic has made these issues personal for many Americans. And that has ignited action. Many people will not be okay with returning to “normal” when it comes to these issues. What has been brought into the light will be forced to be addressed on a local and national level.