Virtual Distancing: The New Normal

A new strain of coronavirus caused an infectious disease that quickly spread and became a global pandemic. It is a highly contagious disease that can be spread by the aerosol droplets excreted by a person who coughed or sneezed. The sad part is that this strain of virus can remain on surfaces and objects merely touched by an infected person, and instantly infect another healthy person touching the same surface. Due to the fast-spreading characteristics of this virus, governments all over the world have taken precautionary measures to narrow the pandemic down to controllable outcomes. Here is the New Normal of 2020.

Social Distancing Policy

Prohibition of Mass Gathering

Under the social distancing policy, people are prohibited from getting together in large groups. Various church services, festivities, as well as entertainment venues were all heavily impacted. In lieu of physically getting together, people heard mass streamed live through online channels such as social media platforms. Festivities were canceled and entertainment venues were closed, but this brought about virtual distancing wherein creative minds are able to continuously entertain people through digital venues. For instance, there are numerous musicians who now perform concerts through a cloud-based video conferencing platform. The ingenuity of people is limitless as there are even people who celebrated their birthdays or got married and held the ceremonies through the same platform. If a trip to the museum is what you miss the most during this period, you can join virtual museum tours.

Limited Capacity

Still in an effort to contain the disease, several nations have already implemented social distancing policies in their jurisdiction. While essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, some food establishments and banks remain open, they are only operating on a limited capacity. Under this new normal, you need to get in line and wait for your turn before you can enter a grocery store because only a few people are allowed inside for a time. People in line are advised to stay at least a meter apart from each other. This also holds true for the pharmacies and banks that remain open. Food establishments that are open only have a take out or delivery option and they are not allowed to accept dine in guests.

Online Payments

During this time of the pandemic, online payments are also heavily utilized to prevent the transmission of the disease through bank notes. Thus, more and more people explored their options when it comes to paying for their groceries or the products they purchase as well as the services they acquire. Even those who are not technologically inclined were forced to adapt to this measure as there are establishments that no longer accept cash.

Stay-at-Home Policy

The social distancing policy is implemented in conjunction with the stay-at-home policy wherein people are encouraged not to leave their homes and go out only to buy their basic needs. There are certain countries who strictly implemented this policy, while there are also countries who are more lenient. Nevertheless, the main objective is the same, and that is to prevent the contagion or to mitigate the virus from further spreading.

Work

Along with the stay-at-home policy, enterprises needed to adapt to a remote office set up to continue their operations and minimize the impact of the virus to their business, while keeping their employees safe. Companies leveraged technological innovations such as high speed internet connections, as well as cloud-based services. They provided employees with the computers and software that they need to continuously perform their function even outside of a normal office setting.

While this is far from the ideal set up of what people have been used to before, it is a lifestyle change that both employers and employees need to adapt to. There are some employees working from home who find that they are more productive given this setting, while there are also those who took some time to adjust to this new normal. If you are new to this arrangement or if you are finding it rather challenging to be productive, below are some tips on how you can effectively work from home.

  • Maintain a defined schedule. Dedicate certain hours of the day where you can work without any distraction and make an extra effort to stick to it. As much as possible, start your work and end your workday at the same time each day. Creating a routine that you can effectively stick to will make you more productive in the end as your body will eventually be wired to this routine.

  • Schedule your breaks. In a work from home set up, it can be quite tempting to take excessive breaks as your bedroom is just around the corner or the smell of lunch being cooked is so inviting. While it is important to take breaks and stand up from your desk time and again, it is also of equal importance to practice self-discipline and ensure that your breaks are in moderation. Depending on the work hours you have set for yourself, a good rule of thumb is to have an hour lunch and a couple of 15-minute breaks away from your computer.

  • Keep a dedicated workspace. Working in the comforts of your own bed can be fascinating. However, this can deter your productivity as your brain is wired to rest and sleep in bed, rather than work. Thereby, it will be more beneficial for you to have a dedicated area in your home that you can use as your workspace even if it is just a small table that can hold your office peripherals because this will condition your mind that it is time to hustle.

Business

If you are running a small business, you also need to adapt to this new normal to continue earning from your business venture. This means that you need to utilize the best communication practices to continuously get in touch with your customers and clients, as well as your staff. You and your staff also need to be equipped with the right tools and software to get connected. Set clear expectations for you and your staff to seamlessly work towards a common goal.

There may also be a need for you to enhance your business model, and even be creative with your pricing to ensure a consistent cash flow without compromising the loyalty of your customers. For instance, offer a lower price to your customers who are willing to purchase a long-term subscription. Just keep in mind to maintain a positive environment to be able to motivate your staff and encourage your clients to support your business.

School

In line with the stay-at-home policies that took effect ever since the pandemic started, schools have also been closed in several countries. While there are schools that transitioned into online or blended learning, there are also parents who opted to test the waters of homeschooling.

  • Online Learning. Parents are rest assured that through online learning, students may learn more than what they can through traditional courses. There are even studies that show that the retention rate of students is higher through online learning. However, you need to dedicate a specific amount of time to help your children through this mode of teaching. Perhaps conduct more frequent assessments to have a good idea on the learning curve of your child.

  • Blended Learning. One downside of online learning is that not all students have a high speed internet connection in their homes. There are also those who are not equipped with computers. This is where blended learning comes in wherein educators make the extra effort to deliver printed modules to their students or invite a certain number of students for a face to face mentoring.

  • Homeschooling. There are parents who are no longer new to the idea of homeschooling because this has been a known practice even before the pandemic emerged. However, there are also parents who only delved into this mode of learning because of the imposed stay-at-home policies that closed down schools to mitigate the spread of the virus, particularly in children. Parents who homeschool their children are likewise equipped with modules based on the level of their kids.

Challenges of the Pandemic

Vulnerable People

Over a million people have already caught the virus, which tested the healthcare system of many nations. The most vulnerable ones who are most likely to get complications when they contract the virus are the elderly, the young children, as well as those with underlying medical conditions. However, people who are seemingly fit and healthy were not also spared from severe symptoms of the virus.

A person confined in the hospital due to the virus is isolated, with family members prohibited to visit. In addition to this, an individual who died from the virus needs to be immediately cremated as a precautionary measure, without allowing his or her family members to pay their respects to their departed loved one.

Overwhelmed Healthcare System

Hospital bed capacities suddenly became insufficient, and even mortuaries and funeral homes became overloaded. There was a shortage of personal protective equipment for the healthcare workers, as well as testing kits that can effectively identify people carrying the virus. As a result, even healthcare workers became vulnerable to the virus, with some even dying from it.

Government Measures

To effectively mitigate its contagion, several countries immediately implemented measures such as grounding planes and prohibiting international and domestic travels, as well as temporarily closing off non-essential businesses. This caused a significant impact in the worldwide economy as people in the affected industries started losing their jobs because of businesses ceasing their operations and suffering substantial loss. Government leaders are put into the most difficult position of having to balance and weigh between the health of their people, and the economy of their country. The need for this balance resulted in a campaign for a ‘new normal’ that is currently on the rounds.

The Face of the “New Normal”

Physical Contact

In certain cultures, people hug or kiss to greet each other. At the very least, people shake hands. Under these new normal conditions, hugging, kissing, or shaking hands are all discouraged because this can pave the way for the virus to be transmitted. Rather, people are encouraged to bow as a sign of respect and avoid any physical contact at all cost.

Face Mask

This pandemic also brought about a new fashion statement and that is wearing a face mask as part of your outfit when you get out. The purpose of the face mask is to ensure that if you are a carrier of the virus, there is a reduced chance of you infecting others. On the other hand, there is also a decreased chance of you getting the virus instantly when you come in contact with a carrier. But a face mask is insufficient to ensure your safety and it doesn’t make you invincible from the virus. Rather, it is just a precautionary measure that reduces the risk, but not eliminates it entirely.

Cleanliness of Hands

People also used to take proper hand washing for granted. It is not until this global pandemic that people took it seriously, washing hands whenever they return home or after touching public surfaces. Aside from the proper hand washing, you will be able to find people carrying sanitizers wherever they go, to ensure that their hands are clean at all times.

Minimal physical contact, the use of a face mask, and proper hand washing are only some of the essential habits that people need to practice during this time under the new normal conditions. While it may take some time to get used to these habits, people will eventually find a way to ensure that these are always practiced, until a proper cure or a vaccine is found. More than these habits though, two policies seem to have the most significant effect on how people live their lives amidst this pandemic.

It is unclear when this pandemic will come to an end. Several seasoned experts in the medical field are currently researching the virus strain to come up with a vaccine that can fight off the complications of the virus. Until such time that a vaccine is developed, people have no choice but to embrace the new normal brought about by this global pandemic.

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