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The online habits that should stick around after the pandemic

Some of the behavior shifts that happened during the pandemic should continue, even after COVID-19 is no longer a real threat

Sara Warren helps her daughter, Raya Warren, 6, up her iPad during online kindergarten while she works on the dining room table in their home
Sara Warren helps her daughter, Raya Warren, 6, up her iPad during online kindergarten while she works on the dining room table in their home in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
Jenn Ackerman, For the Deseret News

Fully vaccinated people can resume activities they did before the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with a majority of those in the U.S. ages 12 and older now fully vaccinated, a lot of people may be returning to their pre-pandemic attitudes and behaviors. But some online habits a lot of us formed during the past year should become permanent.

In a Mashable survey from earlier this year, the majority of people said they will keep some, if not all, of the online habits and routines they adopted during the pandemic. More than 50% of respondents said when the pandemic is all said and done, they would continue using meditation apps, taking online courses and performing volunteer work virtually.

Here are five shifts that came about because of COVID-19 that should permanently change the way we live online and in real life.

Hybrid work arrangements

Years ago, I had a disagreement with one of my employers about the benefits of having a flexible schedule when it came to work/family balance. I knew I could get the job done just as well from home as I could sitting in my cubicle.

And as a mother of young children, sometimes the hours I was supposed to be at my desk conflicted with important family events like the Halloween costume parade at school.

I lost that battle at the time.

But the pandemic forced employers to find ways workers could get everything done whether at home, a remote cabin in the mountains or from a truncated schedule at the office. And it worked.

A PwC survey from the end of 2020 found 83% of employers said “the shift to remote work has been successful for their company.” Employees still desire some office time though, with 87% saying it’s important for collaboration and relationships.

A majority of executives said they will invest in more tools for online collaboration and training for managers to handle a more virtual workforce. Hybrid work arrangements may also mean happier workers who don’t have to spend a ton of time commuting. Plus businesses could save some money paying for less office space. It’s a win-win.

Telehealth

Virtual medical and mental health appointments can benefit patients who don’t want to spend time in a doctor’s office filling out paperwork or sitting in a waiting room. They could also help health care providers who are overbooked with limited office time.

A pre-pandemic study by Massachusetts General Hospital found 62% of patients reported the quality of a virtual visit was no different than seeing a provider in person.

Telehealth doesn’t work for all visits but gives patients and providers the option to choose. While we’re at it, let’s hold on to those basics we’ve learned over the past year that could keep us from needing a doctor as often: wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow and wear a mask when sick.

More frequent video chats with loved ones

There’s something special about seeing someone’s face when you talk. You can pick up on expressions and gain personality insights. COVID-19 drove many of us to do more video chats with friends, siblings and grandparents and that was a good thing.

Research by the American Association of Retired People found 71% of grandparents of young kids upped their use of video chats during the pandemic. And some of those nanas and papas had never even used the technology before COVID-19. Now that we’ve all learned how to video chat, let’s keep it going on a regular basis. PBS has some fun tips on how to make that face time engaging for everyone including using puppets, learning family history and reading books aloud.

Online classes and gatherings

Whether it was working out, going to college, participating in religious services or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, COVID-19 pushed those activities online during 2020.

Some people thrived as these events turned virtual, while others bemoaned the loss of community and contact. But giving everyone the option of attending in person or online is the key to success for these types of activities. Someone may feel more comfortable hearing a worship service from their couch instead of a church pew. Someone else may desire the communal experience of doing hot yoga in a room full of people instead of alone in their spare bedroom. Allowing a virtual option gives each person the choice to participate in the way that feels right to them.

The pandemic has been rough and we’re happy to say goodbye to many of the changes it forced into our lives. But whether it’s your sourdough starter, ring light or collection of sweatpants, COVID-19 may have brought some things to your world that are worth keeping around. Make sure you do so.