As university students continue with their first completely online semester, there’s a question that’s been on everyone’s mind since March: how long until things go back to normal? Will we ever be able to go back to the way things were pre-COVID? My answer is a resounding ‘no.’
The economic impact left just by the government’s emergency response will become something to pay off for years to come. Not only in repayment of the response benefits, but there’s also the added economic stress on schools and students of Premier Kenney’s budget cuts to post-secondary education.
Since organizations have spent all this time and money to set up the systems necessary to work from home, it seems unlikely companies will just throw that infrastructure out once we start recovering from the impacts of COVID. In anticipation of this, many companies already announced that after COVID, workers will still be allowed to work from home, with Twitter and Facebook leading the charge.
As we continue our shift to a remote workplace, we ask the second question: is this a good thing or a bad one? Many worry about social inequalities, furthering the benefits wealthier students have and the hardships facing Black students. Others have worried about the effects on mental health brought by quarantine. The biggest worry being the lasting effect on the economy students and workers alike will have to surmount.
However, while many have been quick to point out its downfalls, it’s time to reconsider our positions on our current situation.
Leading with the obvious perk, if you have pets, as I do, you get to stay home all day with them. Honestly, staying home all day with my cat is usually number one on the list of things I want to do. Along those same lines, the feeling of seeing someone else’s pet in a Zoom meeting is typically the highlight of my day. Having this natural de-stressor with me, especially when it came time for finals last semester, was invaluable.
For the people that aren’t as keen on animals as I am, we also have the perk of no commutes. For those located in St. Albert, for a period, they didn’t have a bus that went directly to the University of Alberta. Let alone that, it was quite the journey, sometimes having upwards of an hour on the bus. Going online has also given us the freedom of mobility. Once it becomes safe again, who doesn’t want to call into work from Hawaii?
Alternatively, for people with family elsewhere, remote work means you can still visit anytime during the year. My boyfriend and I have very close family in B.C. and Australia, and during the school year we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to see them. However, remote work allows much more freedom with your schedule.
Working online also adds a huge degree of accessibility. If you’re a mother going back to work, you can do that from your own home. If you’re not able-bodied, you don’t have to worry about making your way through crowded halls or dealing with unaccommodating architecture. Instead, you can use the set up you have at home to make getting your work as inclusive and comfortable as it should be.
Despite all of this, many have been worried about distractions and a loss of the social aspect of in-person work. Even before we went online, all of us were using our laptops in class anyways. There are many ways to be social online and even limited in-person gatherings following public health guidelines.
While the shift to remote work can leave many with more to be desired, it becomes important to take a more positive mindset. Allowing yourself to focus on the positives of this change will alleviate much of that worry everyone faced going into the new normal. If all the above fails to convince you, just remember — remote delivery means no more long walks in winter.