If someone had told me six months ago that a virus would cause a meltdown of our financial markets, shut down all major U.S. sports leagues, close schools and restaurants and completely disrupt virtually all facets of our daily lives, I would have thought that they had lost their marbles or watched the movie Contagion too many times. And yet, here we are in the midst of a global pandemic, with little idea of how to react to it, or of the true impact it will have on the global economy and on our entire society.
One of the most visible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the dramatic reduction in the number of face-to-face meetings we hold. As I write this piece I am at home, enjoying an unusually light schedule after I canceled multiple scheduled trips. Several other conferences I had scheduled in the coming months – some scheduled for the Fall – have been canceled, or at least turned into online/virtual events.
There is not doubt that this pandemic will have a profoundly negative impact on our society. But while it is clear that the pandemic will be highly disruptive and cause significant economic losses, there may be some positive side effects.Today In: Diversity & Inclusion
One benefit, which has received significant media attention, is the dramatic reduction in pollution that results from the reduced travel: shortly after the Chinese province of Wuhan was locked down, scientists observed a drastic reduction in air pollution. Some scientists have estimated that the reduction in pollution alone can potentially save more lives than the virus is causing – especially for the elderly, who are most susceptible to pollution.
There are other potential benefits of the reduced reliance on face-to-face encounters: relying more on remote communications may help level the playing field for individuals from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups in various ways, and generally lead to greater inclusion.
A clear example is the benefits that may result for people with disabilities, for whom gaining access to the workplace has always been a challenge. As companies are forced to adopt procedures and technologies that support remote work, and realize that “face time” is not nearly as important as it may have seemed, they may become more interested in hiring people with disabilities, many of whom have already perfected the art of working remotely. It is worth noting that the disabled community has long been advocating for increasing remote work. In a recent story, Amy Meng points out that “Seeing companies make drastic changes to accommodate working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak is great — but it’s also frustrating for those of us who could have used those accommodations much sooner.”
Originally posted on Forbes