Cultural changes ahead
In a few short weeks, we’ve seen adaptations to living in a world with COVID-19, a novel strain of the coronavirus that has become a global pandemic. Between skipping handshakes, keeping a safe distance from other people, and being (much) more diligent about proper handwashing, we’re in the process of seeing what kind of impact the spread of the virus will have on our cultural, social, and hygiene practices.
According to CJ Xia, a VP of marketing and sales at Boster Biological Technology, a biotech company based in Pleasanton, California, there were three types of people before the coronavirus outbreak: those who were extremely conscious, moderately conscious, and ignorant about germs. “Now the level of each category has risen, and it is difficult to find the third type of folks now,” Xia tells Reader’s Digest. “As a result, we have started seeing far less social interaction. [And] remember, when one thing is done again and again, then it becomes a part of muscle memory.”
Though it’s difficult to find a bright side to the coronavirus outbreak, one positive is that this period of global upheaval may change some of our less-than-desirable public-health habits—and improve our hygiene for good. It could also alter the way we approach work, school, and so much more. Here are 13 everyday habits that could (and should) change forever once this crisis has passed.
Handshakes will be out
One of the most visible changes to societal norms since the coronavirus has hit has been avoiding handshakes. “In this new era of the coronavirus and the practice of social distancing, there will undoubtedly be a cultural shift in the way we all greet one another,” Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internist and health expert, tells Reader’s Digest. “Shaking hands, high fives, hugs, and kisses are modes of greeting to be abandoned at this point. Social greetings may now entail a hand on the heart, a head nod, or pretty much any action that enables one to avoid direct touch or contact.” Here are more polite ways to get out of shaking hands.
There will be more hand sanitizer available in public places
In the days post–coronavirus outbreak, we’re probably going to see more hand sanitizer made available in offices, public spaces, and entertainment events. “For example, sanitizers would be placed at reception or outside interview rooms to make sure candidates’ hands are clean,” Xia says. “We would see sanitizers at the table of interviewers as well. It would no longer be rare. By placing such products around, everyone would be signaling to other people that their hands are clean.” And though many concert venues, stores, and gyms already provide hand-sanitizer dispensers, we’re likely to see this expand to including more restaurants, churches, and other establishments. That said, you can have too much of a good thing: Check out these 13 times you’re overusing hand sanitizer.
We’ll get better at responding to customer and client needs
The coronavirus outbreak has forced people to form rapid-response teams that cut across functions and seniority, according to Joanne Cleaver, author of The Career Lattice and a consultant and trainer to employers and individuals on how to use lateral career strategies for sustained growth. “People will discover that their coworkers and employees have talents that are relevant—even vital—to keeping the company operating,” she tells Reader’s Digest. “It’s up to employees to make the case, post-virus, that their employers should invest in additional training and skills development to develop the abilities that came to the fore in the crisis. And it’s on companies to extract strategic value from how people rose to the occasion.”
Our relationships with restaurants may change
Dining out—or even getting takeout or delivery—is pretty different now compared to what it was like even a few weeks ago. According to Johann Moonesinghe, an expert in restaurant finance and the founder of inKind, a restaurant financing platform, we are already seeing a dramatic shift in how consumers are eating at restaurants. “The restaurants that require their guests to dine in are seeing the largest decline in sales, whereas bakeries that don’t have a lot of dining tables are busier than ever,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “And it is not just where people are going, it’s also what they are eating. We also have seen an increase in the sale of carbs and sugary products.”
Though it’s unclear exactly how our relationship with restaurants will play out after the outbreak, there will likely be changes. For example, delivery and takeout options might be expanded (in case something like this happens again), and more explicit information might be posted in the restaurant about its hygiene practices.
More people will use bidets
Though bidets that attach to your home toilet have become increasingly popular over the past few years, the sales and searches of these products have surged since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, last week, TUSHY—a company that makes attachable bidets—had sales that were 10 times what they were before word spread of TP shortages. And that’s on top of TUSHY already selling well over double what they’d been selling a year ago, according to a rep from the company.
If we’ve learned one thing already from this outbreak, it’s that people are extremely concerned about having enough toilet paper. Given that bidets are an alternative to (or an addition to) toilet paper, it makes sense that more people are interested in them now. Now that bidets are becoming more popular and commonplace in American bathrooms, we’ll likely continue to see that trend after the pandemic is over.
More companies will permit employees to work remotely
These days, it’s pretty standard to negotiate some sort of arrangement for working remotely at least part of the time when you start a new job, but after the coronavirus outbreak, even more companies will permit employees to do so. “Once businesses and their employees see that working from home is not only doable but that it might even be more productive, it could cause a big shift in office cultures across the globe,” says Angela Ash, the content marketing manager at UpFlip, a site that assists people through business investments. “With so many companies allowing their team members to work remotely, and even intentionally hiring a remote workforce in the first place, this could be much more than a solution to the virus.” Here are the reasons that telecommuting may be the most important job perk to ask for, after health insurance.
We’ll find another way to press buttons
Even before coronavirus became an issue, most of us were aware of everyday locations that are laden with germs. These places include buttons on ATMs, the credit-card swiper at the grocery store (and the attached pen), and buttons in an elevator. According to Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe, people might start pushing those elevator buttons with their elbow or even an object like a pen instead of their fingers. “The same goes for pushing your pin number at the ATM or making a purchase at a store,” she adds. “Directly touching the keypads with your fingers will be an action of the past.”
Nikola Djordjevic, MD, cofounder of HealthCareers, agrees that pushing buttons in public is something that could change. “Surfaces are ideal places for transmitting the disease, and a lot of people now have to get rid of the habit of pressing elevator buttons or touching handles with their hands,” she explains. “Ideally, people should cover their skin with clothes or simply press buttons with elbows. In case they accidentally use their fingers, people should avoid touching their face until they get a chance to wash hands with soap.” And this isn’t just a good idea in terms of coronavirus. Check out this long list of diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.
It may be the end of communal foods
Free food is great, but let’s be honest: Those bowls of popcorn and nuts at bars have always been kind of suspect. After all, just how many people use the restroom, don’t wash their hands, and then help themselves to a scoop of snacks via their very dirty hands? But the coronavirus outbreak will cause more people to rethink eating out of communal food containers. “You may also likely notice avoidance of buffets and salad bars to avoid picking up germs from serving spoons,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe explains. “There [also] will be a greater focus on purchasing ingredients to prepare your own meals as hygienically as possible at home.” Here are another 12 things you’re probably sharing that germ experts wouldn’t.
People will take their personal space more seriously
One of the most visible policies in the age of the coronavirus is the idea of “social distancing.” According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this involves staying at least six feet away from other people. And while we probably won’t see that six-foot rule remain in effect after the outbreak is over, a version of it will likely continue, says Dmytro Okunyev, the founder of Chanty, a team chat platform using artificial intelligence. “People will start paying more attention to whom they let approach them in their personal space and the socially acceptable personal distance will change in most cultures.
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