One of my favorite memes of over the past month reads: “I guess we’re about to find out which meetings could have been emails after all.”
The arrival of the COVID-19 novel virus brought the United States to a standstill, millions of Americans are likely spending more time at home over the past 30 days than they have over the past three years.
Thousands and thousands of people are fighting for their lives, mostly alone, in a hospital filled with people wearing only masks, unable to show a smile with anything but their eyes.
Thousands of people are dying.
Nonessential businesses have also closed their doors and millions of workers – if their job allows for it – are now working from home. Businesses that have been deemed nonessential have shuttered and laid off millions of workers, whether they wanted to or not.
Students have lost the remainder of their school year, and many seniors may not have those senior proms to tell stories about or have the opportunity to toss their graduation cap into the air with their classmates.
Still, they are attending classes online, completing and turning in assignments. Most importantly, they are continuing to learn.
More people are using Facetime, Zoom and Skype to communicate with friends, family and co-workers than ever before.
While we all navigate American life with freedom of movement restrictions, new accessories like face masks and ponder whether the handshake has a future – people are doing what they do best – adjusting, adapting and being creative.
Which brings me back to my favorite meme. How many meetings will be scrapped in favor of an email or in other words, how many of the things we do will become the things we used to do?
It is easy to start here because it is on topic.
Thousands of people in southwest Riverside County travel outside of their community to jobs located in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties.
They leave before dawn and clog up Interstate 15 as they migrate to office buildings far away from home. They repeat the process each evening.
But if some of those meetings can now become emails – or at least video conference meetings – couldn’t that reduce the number of hours those employees would need to inhabit those soulless office complexes five days a week?
Could some business owners be realizing at this very moment that with advances in technology and the right workforce in place, they can be just as effective working from home at least some of the time? How does a three-day office workweek sound?
Going even further, what if that same business owner realizes that not having to house so many people each day can save them money on overhead?
Instead of offices? Workstations.
Instead of company cars or rideshare programs? Telecommuting technology packages and home work stations.
There’s another benefit too. What if you could hire the best people for the job, regardless of where they live?
Less commuting, less traffic, less pollution and less of an impact on public safety – it sounds pretty good.
That’s right, I’m going there.
What is the role of government during this crisis? Who is in charge? States or the federal government?
Everyone’s got an opinion – especially on Facebook, ugh, exhausting – but what most people agree on is, Americans need help. Most would agree that we need leadership and bipartisan support in order to keep as many of us from falling off the map either health-wise or financially.
And that represents, to me at least, a shift.
If the current administration continues to insist that the responsibility of caring for its citizens resides at the state level, the role of local, county and state governments will be put under a spotlight like never before.
The upcoming 2020 election and those that follow will be less about who wins the presidency and more about the people who will be elected to help create policies that will guide us through difficult times in the future.
States with strong, effective governors and legislatures will push through this crisis faster than others. States with ineffective or corrupt leadership will suffer. That accountability has to be reflected in the results of upcoming elections.
Or, it can flip in the other direction, the election could swing toward the federal government having a bigger role in our collective well-being.
I will say it – bigger government.
Considering Americans pay more money in taxes to the federal government than to their respective states, some would argue the federal government should be taking more responsibility for the overall well-being of every American.
I believe that how this balance plays out will have a big impact on how and where Americans want leadership and responsibility to reside.
Friends and Family
In times like this, we tend to lean on the people we trust the most. Today, when those people don’t live under the same roof as us, we miss that.
Millions of Americans are taking more time to check in with friends and family all over the country and world. Millions more are suffering from isolation.
Suddenly, spending copious hours on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is seemingly less important than an hourlong phone call with your father, mother, sister, brother, children and friends.
If you remember, that was the big criticism of the youth in our country – their inability to connect on a human level. The same argument could be applied to adults as well – we’ve lost touch.
These days you can find families playing board games, watching old movies together, having familywide Zoom meetings – laughing, learning and connecting.
We yearn for the days when we could go for a hike, have a family birthday party at the beach and invite everyone over for a barbecue.
This thing has hit us hard, and we’re making promises, commitments and changing our ways.
When this is all over, forget the meetings that could have been emails – I believe we will be more focused on text messages that can become phone calls, phone calls that can become hugs and Zoom meetings that can become precious time together.
For all the frustration, fighting and sorrow that we are all dealing with in this crisis – we will be better for this – in more ways than we can imagine.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.