Millions of people have suddenly become “wahes” – work at home employees. Thrust into this new reality, workers are doing their best to adapt on the fly, converting kitchen tables into office workspaces and taking conference calls amidst the chaos of kids and barking dogs. For some, working from home during the coronavirus crisis is a positive way to preserve continuity, stay busy and maintain some semblance of routine. Others find working from home lonely, isolating, or full of distraction, especially with spouses sharing the new “home office.” Now, more than ever, it’s important for all of us who work from home to create connection and community.
In a recent article, “Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How,” 34 big thinkers predicted what’s ahead for the world, and you might be surprised at some of their positive prognostications. Not surprisingly, one prediction centers on the creation of a healthier digital lifestyle. Over the past weeks, you’ve likely seen several inspirational examples of people using tech to do good for others. Singers John Legend, Neil Young, Bono, Chris Martin, Keith Urban, and more have performed virtual concerts from their homes for fans. Cello master Yo-Yo Ma shares daily live concerts. Others have used technology to offer virtual art classes, church services, yoga lessons, book clubs, and exercise sessions. People are using social media to galvanize support for struggling local businesses. Neighborhoods have created coronavirus support groups to help identify community needs and collect names of those able to meet needs. People are holding virtual happy hours with co-workers, texting humorous memes, and offering to pick up groceries for those who can’t – and the examples go on and on.
“This is breaking open a medium with human generosity and empathy. This is looking within and asking: ‘What can I authentically offer?’”—Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT
This trend toward using our tech to create community is long overdue. Instead of spending time solely feeding ourselves by scrolling through news feeds, posting our latest selfie to our favorite social channel, binging the latest game, or complaining about someone via text, we’re starting to see widespread glimpses of what it would be like if we used our time with our technology to create and offer community. The virus is forcing us to use the internet in creative, humane and caring ways to help us unite around solutions to personal and local problems.
This virus is devastating, and there’s no sense in minimizing the loss, hardship and financial strain to come. But it’s in human nature to hope that when we look back, we’ll be able to see some silver linings. It’s possible that these positive tech behaviors will be temporary – but isn’t it up to each of us to determine whether or not that will be the case?
Let’s all reinvigorate our efforts to reach out and creatively build community with our co-workers, family and communities during this time. And let’s remember the difference it made in a time when we needed it most.