The coronavirus pandemic has infiltrated practically every aspect of daily life, and the topic itself has become rather overwhelming. However, a side of the pandemic not largely discussed or shared are the positives that could come from this chaotic period.
The pandemic has caused devastating effects as the U.S. death toll climbs over 200,000, and the economic ravaging doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. Attempting to see any positive effect stemming from this tragedy is both hard to imagine and difficult to digest. However, the sheer quantity of loss and devastation is the exact reason society should strive to grow from the pandemic. The obvious areas for improvement rest within governmental preparedness, community organization and overall public health, but the pandemic has illuminated that Americans work far too much.
Quarantine began in mid-March for most of the U.S., and with it came the evolution of the pandemic workday. Many individuals, those who are fortunate enough to hold a nonessential position, began working from home and adjusting to the altered work atmosphere. Not only did the environment in which people work change, but many altered their weekly schedules and shifted their normal routines. For the first time in many years the American rat race slowed down and in its place was a more open and freeform work-life balance.
Quarantine has shown the U.S. the faults in the Monday through Friday nine-to-five, and exposed how little time is dedicated towards family, mental health, personal growth and leisure. American capitalist culture teaches individuals to chase money, even if it means there is no time to use the money for actual enjoyment or socialization. COVID-19 has the potential to revolutionize the work-life balance, as its revealed society will go on even if individuals don’t work as much as they have been.
The potential alterations are practically limitless and can be quite diverse depending on the particular field and position. Changes could easily involve shortening the average work week to four days instead of five, half of the work week in the office and the other half from home, or even adding time to a few days and having the remainder of the week off. The U.S. could even go further and demolish the concept of Monday through Friday, meaning there is no week and weekend, just a single week. This may seem radical and impractical, but it actually provides a lot of opportunity. Students could select which days they attend and have greater flexibility in their schedule, and businesses would see more steady patronage due to the diversity in schedules. The greatest asset would be the growth in jobs, as businesses will need to hire more employees if workers are working less time each week.
This concept is complicated and would rely heavily on other fundamental changes to American society, such as increased economic equality and universal provisions (healthcare, education, benefits, etc). Despite the complex strategizing and alterations needed to access this better work-life balance, it’s evident that COVID-19 has brought to light many negative factors and realities of the current American capitalist system. The U.S. needs to use this tragedy to fuel positive changes to society and ensure a more community-focused future.