The Upside of the Pandemic

COVID 19 Map

COVID 19 (Coronavirus) has been in the news for a good month now. I bet I am not the only one tired of every single accidentally subscribed company’s “Important COVID-19 Update” email clogging up your inbox. This doesn’t even include work emails, various social groups, gym, or the library. Even my previous dentist that I don’t go to anymore sent me an email about how they were going to limit seeing patients. All the headlines from news articles are about the most updated status of how many people have been infected with the virus. The world now officially moved from talking about Trump 100% to talking about Coronavirus 100% (half of that is probably still about Trump dealing with Coronavirus).

My company, along with many other big companies, have asked their employees to work from home until at least April 3rd. I took a bike ride out today and yoga studios, restaurants, bars, and food trucks are all closed. There are a few brave coffee shops still open but they are only doing curbside pickups. I started sharing work-from-home memes and gifs with my friends.

While everyone is panicking about the stock market, their 401k’s, and whether or not they have enough toilet paper to last for a whole year, there are also many unprecedented unmentioned upsides to this pandemic.

1. This pandemic has forced many companies to re-evaluate how they have repeatedly told their employees that they “cannot work from home.” 

As it turns out, there are a LOT of s&*t we can do remotely. Don’t have a monitor at home? Company can ship you one. Need to fill out an I-9 that needs to be in person? Someone else can verify it. A lot of “must be in person” meetings all of a sudden can be virtual. There are virtual town-hall meetings, virtual scrum stand-ups, even virtual marathons! Not to say every job can be remote, but certainly a LOT of office jobs do not require the employee to be chained to a desk. Next time your boss tells you to be in the office “for optics reasons,” there might be a great historic datapoint how “optics” does not actually increase productivity. 

2. It has forced people to learn how to cook!

This is just as wholesome as it sounds. Because with all the restaurants closed, delivery services halted, many people who used to be relying on restaurants and take-out like UberEat, Grubhub, and Postmate now are learning how to cook (because you can only eat ramen noodles so many times in a row).

There is a new wave of social media sharing on the successful and not-so-successful home-cooking. Here’s a very addictive channel on the basics of cooking (Basics with Babish). I certainly have started to become more creative with my cooking as the local grocery aisles are starting to look like this:

3. There are way less cars on the road so we can bike / run!

One of my biggest complaint about this small town in Arkansas is that people probably lived their whole lives commuting by cars, even though it could be just a 15-minute bike ride instead. People are not used to pedestrians or cyclist on the road when they are driving. There are no sidewalks on the road, no shoulders to pull-over, and no sharing the road with a bike. Most of the time, drivers are courteous, and they wait for a good time to pass. But there are other times I have been almost clipped, almost hit, honked at, and yelled at for being on the road with a bike. 

Thanks to Coronavirus, the whole town is almost silent! With no traffic on the road, and 65 degrees weather, it is like heaven. I almost wish this would last a bit longer. 

4. It is a great time to experiment on spending less and love more.

Since everything is closed, there is no place to spend our time and money. People started reaching out to their friends across the state, country, and ocean to ask whether they are doing alright. Although, sometimes it is your annoying ex-dentist reaching out.

This reminds me very much of Mr. Money Mustache’s article about what if everyone is frugal . I wonder if this would be what the world is like if we all-of-a-sudden decided to all become frugal and consume only what we need. Maybe we don’t need all the clothes, food, cars, or other status symbols that we buy to make ourselves feel more worthwhile. All the material things are dwarfed by the threat of our health and loved ones. 

 

*If you’ve never played Plague Inc., it is a cool game that simulates what a pandemic is like! I always name the virus after my pet princess Tali just so at the end of the game it would say “Tali has eliminated Earth.” This may also give you some hope that it’s actually kind of hard to infect and destroy the entire human race.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 2/1/20
  • Predictably Irrational: recommend borrowing from your local library – everyone should read it at least once!

This book is fascinating on describing some of the very basic decisions we make, that we think we are being rational, when we are not.

On consumerism:

  • We are always looking at the things around us in relation to others.
  • The only cure is to break the cycle of relativity.
  • In order to make a man covet a thing, it’s only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain

On free stuff:

  • Free is not always the best deal: not “free.” This also applies for time: go to the museum on the day it is free.
  • the difference between two cents & one cent is small, but the difference between one cent and free is HUGE.

The cost of social norms:

  • the most expensive sex is free sex!
  • Social norms vs. market norms
  • Introducing market norms into social exchange violates the social norm & hurts the relationship. Once this type of mistake has been committed, recovering a social relationship is difficult.
  • Companies undermining the social contract between employers & employees and replacing it with market norms. It is really no surprise that “corporate loyalty” in terms of the loyalty of employees to their companies, has became an oxymoron.
  • Money, as it turns out, is very often the most expensive way to motivate people. Social norms are not only cheaper, but often move effective as well.

The influence of emotions:

  • Our emotions change who we are when we are in a heated moment. Morality ethics goes out of the window.
  • Moral to the story, don’t make decisions or drive when you are in a high emotional state, and don’t underestimate the influence of emotions that could cloud your judgment.

Savings:

  • What we truly need is a method to curb our consumption at the moment of temptation, rather than a way to explain about it after the fact.
  • The high price of ownership: when we own something – whether it is a car or a violin – we begin to value it more than other people do.
  • Pride of ownership is inversely proportional to the ease with which one assembles the furniture.
  • Virtual ownership: we become partial owners even before we own anything, e.g. auction, catalog, trial promotion, 30-day money back guarantee, ideas of politics & sport teams
  • Everywhere we see the temptation to improve the quality of our lives by buying a larger home, a second car, a new dishwasher, a lawn mower, and so on. Once we change our possessions we have a very hard time going back down.
  • View all transactions as if I were a non-owner, putting some distance between myself and the item of interest

The cost of options

  • We keep our options open at costs we don’t know: just in case
  • The consequence of not deciding sometimes is larger: trying to compare two job opportunities and losing sleep over finding apartments in a different location, rather than picking one choice and move on with my life. We are afraid of picking the “wrong choice” or “burn bridges” or setting off on a road we cannot turn back. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to make a decision and keep going on it.

The effect of expectation: if you tell people up front that something might be disastrous, odds are good they will agree with you – not because of their experience, but their expectations.