COVID-19, Lessons Learned, Work from Home

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

There’s going to be plenty to say, write, and learn from the horrors of COVID-19. This is about the good things we’ve supposedly learned, and the unexpected sides of these “good findings.”

See, it’s easy for us to learn from the bad things, because the bad things hammer their lessons home – we have to actively learn to avoid them (and we do). It’s also easy for us to look at the good things and learn from them because, hey, we like the good things. There’s a problem with the good things, of course – we miss their impacts.

See, the good things, have impacts. The good things still make changes. The good things, if we actualize them and apply them, still change the world, and we might not be ready for change.

There’s a lot we’re learning from the COVID-19 shutdowns and changes and so on. Often I see talks about the good things, so let’s talk about their unexpected impacts.

Let’s talk working From Home. COVID-19 has forced a lot of people to work from home, and that has led to the conclusion by many (myself included) that we can work from home more, and probably should.

The benefits are, of course, obvious, and are often repeated like some kind of mantra. We can save commute time. We can reduce pollution. We can change up our hours. We can reduce land use and rethink our work arrangements. You get the idea.

The thing is if we maximize what we learned, if we truly move to “Work from home when possible” and apply its benefits, then it’s going to make a lot of changes in our lives. Changes that will alter the world, and give us new ways to screw up.

Let’s dive into those.

CHANGE IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT: If you’re like me, you’ve wished for better public transport in your area – and mine is better than many. Work from home might be nice, but how’s that going to affect public transport, how it’s funded, and how will that affect people that can’t work from home?

CHANGE IN TRANSPORTATION METHODS: People will in theory drive less. Which could affect car sales, car maintenance, gas station sales, and the like. You’re going to see subtle economic changes and unsubtle ones people missed.

CHANGE IN RELATIONS: Work from home means seeing some people less and some people more. Relations among co-workers, friends, family, and people we interact with will alter. We’re probably not ready.

CHANGE IN REAL ESTATE PRACTICES: Less people going to work means less people using buildings for work, means changes to real estate prices, practices, and zoning. There will be vast changes in value, maintenance, and what land is used for if we do more Work From Home.

CHANGE IN EMPLOYMENT FOR FACILITIES: Your office building or wherever you work has janitors, maintenance people, receptionists, perhaps even a cafeteria. When more people work from home, what happens to those jobs? To those people? Work from home in much larger levels could put people out of work.

CHANGE IN TECHNOLOGY: If you’re working from home more, that means having the tech to do so – the computer, the internet, the cell phone, the security, etc. Will this create new jobs, alter existing ones, and eliminate others – well, yes. If you do tech support and tech setup your life will change if we work from home more.

CHANGE IN SCHEDULES: Think you’d work the exact same hours in an age of work from home? Almost certainly not. That’s going to change relations, plans, schedules, support hours, and more. Is everyone ready for new schedules even if they supposedly save time?

NEW RELATIONS: Working from home means you’re interacting with a new group of people. You’re going to different restaurants, seeing different people, making new relations. You might not be ready for that especially as other relations are changing.

CHANGE IN DWELLING: Is your current house, apartment, etc. suited for Work From Home? Would you move to a better area? How many other people are going to make changes to their dwelling, how will property values change, how will policies of apartments change? More work from Home alters everything.

Look at the above. Imagine if we worked from home more and all the sheer alterations it would make to our lives, our relations, and our economy. If we apply all the lessons on Work From Home from COVID-19, it’s going to be yet another series of dramatic changes.

But we’ll be applying these lessons in the wake of a pandemic.

Steven Savage