Life after coronavirus: What positive changes can emerge?

20 Apr 2020

Image: © Gajus/

In an effort to accentuate the positive, Elaine Burke takes a look at what good things might come of the innovations, inventiveness and collectivist thinking brought on by the coronavirus.

Looking on the bright side, now is an opportunity to discover new ways of thinking about how things can be done. The old reliable ways of how things have always been done either don’t or can’t apply right now. And with necessity leading to invention, novel approaches have to be found.

Hays director James Milligan compared the potential transformative impact of this global crisis to that of wartime, and it’s true that some adaptations now coming through duress may stick around in a more positive context.

There will be no ‘back to normal’ after the coronavirus crisis has eased off, but a drip-feed return to some of our everyday practices. And this can come with some hope for improvement.

Digital transformation achievements unlocked

To keep operations going during the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to swiftly pivot to online systems and processes. After years of banging the drum for Irish businesses to enter the digital age, hands have been forced and no doubt some of these changes will prove beneficial in the long run.

Even those aspects of business we never thought would go online have happened, such as virtual cattle marts. There’s no argument for virtual marts to continue when we return to a world where regular marts can go on, but this innovation has no doubt opened up a new possibility of flexibility for the agricultural sector.

The events industry, too, has had to dramatically further its remote development. While we can expect in-person gatherings to pick up again when they can, the deployment of substantial and effective remote options has spotlighted new ways of hosting an a event that could lead to reduced carbon emissions and greater accessibility in future.

Learning to be very online in moderation

This realisation will come to some faster than others, but with our primary mode of connecting to those outside of our own households now via the online world, the need to moderate this capability is now heightened. During this period I can see those who are becoming ‘extremely online’ without even fully realising what that is.

They are seamlessly slipping from the screen for work to the screen for play, with no offline time in between. They’re adding comments on everything they see because they can no longer spark scintillating debate among colleagues and friends. They are binging on an anxiety-inducing 24-hour news cycle because news feels incredibly important right now.

They’re also learning (I hope) that being constantly plugged in is detrimental. We’re all ‘very online’ right now and moderation isn’t a reasonable solution, but we can try altering the diet.

You can be informed and still take breaks from the news for your own mental health. Netflix binging will no doubt be through the roof but there’s also online content that can help you work out, try some meditation and wellness practices, take up a new hobby or improve your cooking skills. Variety is a friend to moderation, so mix it up.

Breaking down the beauty illusion

Modern life, with its persistent photo-sharing and filtering, has inspired some next-level beauty practices that are now inaccessible for the most part. I did spy a tutorial for how to thread your own eyebrows this past weekend and I’m sure home remedies for all sorts will start to crop up – but we all know how these things can end in disaster.

Reflecting on that brighter side of life during coronavirus, now is the time to experiment. Grow out your fringe or undercut if you were thinking of doing so. Find out what the body you’ve been transforming and treating for years actually looks like. Give the tricky transition to natural deodorant, bar shampoo or other eco-friendly beauty alternatives a go. Try anything you like while in limited contact with others and subjected to less pressure on how you should preen and groom when all faculties are available to you.

In this experimental space, maybe you can learn to love your unfiltered self more than ever before. Find comfort in your own skin, hair, face and body. And if we emerge from our cocoons a bit uneven, a lot hairy, with exposed greys and wrinkles, and soft around the edges, maybe we’ll feel like extraordinarily unique butterflies and not creatures that need extreme modification to attain beauty.

Human-centred decision-making to the fore

From top to bottom, putting people first is what will get us through this crisis with minimum devastation. Yes, global economies are going to suffer because the steps necessary for public health will inevitably have that impact. But the alternative is that business continues as usual, benefitting those at the top by sacrificing those at the bottom.

The High School Musical refrain of ‘we’re all in this together’ has never held such political power and we may be living through the greatest argument for long fought-for policies such as universal healthcare and social housing, or even more radical ideas such as a universal basic income.

The respect this crisis has elicited for frontline workers – from healthcare, childcare and elder care to retail, logistics, production and maintenance – should translate to appropriate reward for these workers in future.

For a long time, critical roles in healthcare have been propped up by people’s passion for a vocation, because they can be gruelling, thankless jobs with insufficient reward. In fact, Ireland has a reputation for training exceptional nursing talent it then exports, as these young graduates are canny enough to see that their prospects in other health services are much brighter.

Gig economy workers signing up with disruptive high-valuation start-ups have suffered through job instability where regulation fails to consider their roles with high enough regard. Some companies have even disregarded gig workers’ importance to the very business they run. Yet here they are, bringing food to your door during a pandemic.

We’ve even seen the inadequacy of our social welfare provisions revealed with a Government decision to increase the emergency unemployment payment so that it reached a more reasonable amount to sustain people who find themselves out of work.

It is widely accepted that decisions being made now must accommodate the situation for all, not a privileged few. We need human-centred thinking across the board, and we need that to outlast the coronavirus.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.