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April 30, 2020 3 min read

WORKING FROM HOME BECOMES THE NEW NORMAL

We’re four weeks into the massive time-out forced on us by coronavirus. Many of us have spent much of that time trying to get used to the radical lifestyle change the virus has brought. But we’re also beginning to think about the end of the crisis, and what the world will look like afterward.

So it’s a good time to round up some opinions about how the pandemic might change how we think about various aspects of life and work. We asked some executives, venture capitalists, and analysts for thoughts on the specific changes they expected to see in their worlds.

Naturally, many of them tended to see the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis in optimistic terms, at least when it comes to their own products, ideas, and causes. And at least some of them are probably right. But the general themes in their comments add up to preview of what might be ahead for tech companies and consumers once the virus is no longer the biggest news story in the world.

 

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare
The pandemic has resulted in what is effectively the largest “work from home” experiment ever conducted in human history . . . We’re seeing the effect on the internet, in terms of traffic patterns that are shifting. People are accessing more educational resources online for their kids; finding unconventional ways to connect with coworkers, friends, and family; and employers are being more flexible in how they respond to employee needs through more dynamic, cloud-based technology. I think we’ll see these shifts last well beyond the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365
This time will go down as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work—and we’re not seeing usage of Microsoft Teams dip. People are carrying what they learned and experienced from remote work back to their “new normal.” We’re learning so much about sustained remote work during this time.

A disproportionate impact, especially for women

But allow me to also take a moment to discuss the more concerning elements of tackling COVID-19. Because while we came together to support those in need within our own neighborhoods and communities, COVID-19 also demonstrated how the most vulnerable groups are all too often forgotten and left behind to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that up to 25 million jobs worldwide could be lost as a result of the crisis. Since its first report March 18, lockdown measures taken to contain the spread of the disease have affected already around 2.7 billion workers, forcing millions into unemployment.

This unemployment crisis will hit women — who often hold vulnerable and precarious jobs — the hardest. Women were among the first to lose out during the economic shock of COVID-19.

When nations across the world implemented stay-at-home measures, the challenges faced by marginalized women became even more hidden away. Women continue to be shouldered with extra domestic burdens, often as informal caregivers at the frontline of infection.

The lockdown also significantly increases women’s risk of domestic violence in the face of economic difficulties, loss of support systems and being confined to the home. If gender equality was but a distant vision before the pandemic, the plight of the world’s poor women no longer can be ignored. We have a big and important task ahead of us to ensure women and girls are supported both during and after this crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world in the same year that the United Nations is commemorating its 75th anniversary. There is a lot of hope in that.

 It reminds us that we as a human community are able to lift ourselves up from our deepest and darkest hour to rebuild a new and better world on a set of shared values and principles. The United Nations was founded in the wake of two devastating world wars with the understanding that to save future generations from the atrocities of war, nations must come together in multilateral cooperation to protect the dignity and worth of every human being. That vision is as relevant and important in the wake of this pandemic as it was then.