Updated: Mar 5
Photo by Noah on Unsplash
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
Is virtual life in its many forms here to stay? It’s hard to predict if it will be, but it certainly has been the norm for most industries this past while -- primary health care, mental health care, food services, retail, community and social services, education, and much more. Let's take a moment to dive into some of these changes in more depth.
Pandemic-Based Lifestyle Changes
There are benefits and cons to a remote way of life, as there is with any major change. We’ve seen that people have had a chance to take on housing, education, and job opportunities in further locales now that many aspects of life have become remote and made long-distance education or work less of an issue.
Organizations and companies may begin to request that their staff return to the office full-time, part-time, or perhaps even one day per week as the pandemic eases. New lifestyles and family changes that evolved after covid-19 first surfaced in March 2020 may bring people to a crossroads if they are now asked to return to work on-site. They have to decide if their former workplace fits with their new housing, personal, and family situation.
Employees also have to figure out whether juggling work and child care and/or their child’s virtual learning responsibilities at home is balancing out well or whether a day care centre or in-school attendance could be necessary to make sure that both parents’ and children’s needs are being successfully met. Again, these decisions are not easy to make and could continue to change as government mandates change. Lifting restrictions will lead to more change and families can make an informed decision regarding what pathway best suits their and their family's needs.
An Online World
Other aspects of life -- such as online grocery, meal delivery, and retail services -- have exploded as less physical contact became crucial in a pandemic-ridden world. The convenience that online shopping and delivery have offered is so valuable for everyone’s busy lives that it’s hard to imagine this process not continuing into the future. What may have once started as an occasional online order has rapidly become a norm.
Some retailers have also included a rapid pick-up option where customers order online and go to the store to pick it up but, instead of going into the store, they remain parked and the customer service staff brings it out to the customer. This strategy is another creative way that retailers have been able to serve customers in an easy and convenient way.
Despite some of the perks that comes with online accessibility, it is also natural for people to have feelings of isolation and loneliness with less social interaction. This has made remote living, working, and learning challenging for many. Those individuals who find technology such as texting, social media, or video calls difficult are even more reliant on seeing people face-to-face.
As the pandemic improves, in-person gatherings will become more feasible again and this will be particularly important for those who are not as comfortable communicating via technology. In addition, those vulnerable individuals who live in a communal setting (e.g. retirement homes, nursing homes, etc.) are dependent on visitation restrictions lifting so that they can once again be reunited with their loved ones.
Changing Service and Business Models
Similarly, there are some work roles that require face-to-face interactions, such as complex health assessments or medical investigations, so it will be interesting to observe whether or not the health care system will retain a virtual care model with in-person assessments only being offered in complex circumstances, particularly if this allows for a more efficient and prioritization-based service.
Likewise, those businesses that have traditionally functioned in a brick-and-mortar space now have a chance to work in a more flexible arrangement- from home- and can observe their business expenses fall rapidly. Owners will see lower electricity, water, maintenance and other related office bills since those costs will be now redirected to the home setting. Remote work has also allowed some businesses to expand, hiring multiple team members who work from their own home, allowing for greater productivity. However, maintaining a sense of community, teamwork, and organizational culture for a company when all or the majority of the staff work remotely will be a challenge for business owners to overcome.
These businesses may nevertheless want to remain remote for purely financial reasons and also to allow for a greater work-life balance with reduced commute times so they have more time for family, friends, hobbies, and interests. For those businesses that have no choice but to operate in-person, like many service industries, the pandemic has hit them very hard. They are trying their best to be creative and adapt services, where possible, to be virtual -- including online consults and delivery services. With all of these new kinds of developments, it will be interesting to see how business and service models continue to change as the coronavirus pandemic improves.
One thing is for sure: this pandemic has had a major impact on people all over the world where all areas of their life -- school, work, health, social, and personal lives -- have all changed in such a radical way. No one can predict the future but it will be important to observe and monitor how the way we live, work, learn, communicate, relate, and play will continue to change as the pandemic evolves. Time will tell.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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