Friday, December 11, 2020

Looking to the Future

The last nine months have been such a big disruption to our daily life, and I think we all know at this point that we may never be "back to normal" -- more likely, we'll have a new normal. I don't have any particular insight into the future, but I've thought about it a bit and listened to a lot of smart people talk about it. Some of these are big trends and some are more personal:

1) Work From Home: I know that my own company--which considers itself a tech company!--was previously reluctant to green-light work from home as a normal thing, but everything they've been saying is how employees have continued to be just as productive over the last nine months. I think a lot of companies where WFH is possible will have discovered this, meaning that this trend will get a big boost from the pandemic.

2) Remote learning: it's not as good as in-person learning, but presumably we're getting better at it. In any case, snow days may well be a thing of the past now that schools have figured out they can switch back and forth. Or, at the very least, schools may well substitute remote learning for tacking on stupid days in June. 

3) Grocery and food delivery: I'm wondering if these delivery services are going to go back to pre-pandemic levels or if we've gotten used to it? For a while there, we were really loving Instacart's grocery delivery services: with kids and 2 working parents, it is really nice to have the groceries just show up at our door, and we were willing to pay a bit of a premium for the convenience. However, one of our Costco deliveries accidentally gave us the receipt and we realized that not only were we not getting the benefit of cash-back from our Executive Membership (which we knew about), but the prices were also higher on most or all of the items. We decided we could buy our own groceries at that point, but we did appreciate the convenience. 

4) Connection with neighbors: It's not like we're hanging out with our neighbors in the current environment, but I think that stay-at-home orders have made us all just a bit more desperate for actual human contact, which in turn has us saying hello and having more frequent (albeit brief) conversations with neighbors when we're out for a walk or whatever. Granted, we've only lived in our neighborhood for a couple years, so we had a lot of room to get to know our neighbors, but it seemed to accelerate over these past months. 

5) Connection with old friends: As people were discovering Zoom for work and connecting with family, it also occurred to us to reconnect with old friends. I've got a group of guy friends from college (and the first few years out of college) that has stayed pretty cohesive in the last 20 years, with some number of us typically getting together once every year or so, but back in March or April we started a weekly Zoom call that some number of us have joined every week, Another group of my college friends has also been getting together every few weeks to catch up. Just speaking for myself, again with kids and both of us working, our social life outside of family was nearly non-existent pre-Covid, and so this has been great both in terms of my social life in general and in deepening these long-standing friendships. I wish we could all get together in person, this is still better than we were doing before.

6) Political Polarization: unfortunately, it doesn't seem like this is getting better any time soon. When we can't even agree on basic facts--never mind the political solutions to them--it's hard to see how this gets any better. Trump has been an accelerant for this, but it seems pretty clear than even his electoral defeat isn't going to dial this back. At all. And, broadly speaking, it seems like one of the most dangerous problems we have in our country, because it makes everything else harder to solve. 

7) Gratitude and Appreciation: I hated to end on a low note, and I'm hopeful that our new normal will include many of the things that we loved about our old normal, and I would expect that we will all appreciate those things much more. It's easy to take something like Thanksgiving for granted, or even to be a little bit tired of the yearly ritual... until you can't do it anymore. It's easy to take for granted simple things like having family or friends over for dinner or going out to a concert... until you can't do it anymore. 

What about you? What do you think we'll carry forward, return to, or do differently? 

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