This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and given that (at the time of writing) restrictions here in the UK have been lifted (many of us would argue it’s been done too early), now is probably a good time. Plus, after being pinged by the NHS app, I’m currently in isolation until Monday. So, lots of time with my own thoughts. Covid has changed a lot of things for everyone, and you could argue that things won’t be the same for quite a while – if ever. While it’s been absolute hell for everyone (some more than others) over the last 18 months, and I’m sure we’d all rather it never happened, myself included, I think going forward, there are few things that I hope change as a result.
Now, I should clarify, before anyone tries to cancel me or shoot me down for being way too optimistic – read the title. It’s four things we SHOULD take away from the pandemic – not four things we WILL. I’m not trying to be all “I wish I could bake a cake with smiles and rainbows and we would all eat it and be happy” here, I think these are all perfectly reasonable requests, but I know others may disagree.
Yes, even hoping for just one of these is far too optimistic, but for a second, let’s just pretend we’re living in an ideal world (okay, scrap that – an ideal world probably wouldn’t have had a global pandemic in the first place or would have at least dealt with it better), and in a country that isn’t run by absolute fucking morons.
Better Policies for Workplace Sickness
This is something I’ve championed long before Covid-19 was a thing (those were the days), but I hope more than anything that the pandemic has taught people the importance of staying home when you’re sick. I’ll admit I’m biased given my contamination-based OCD, but at the same time, I think so many of us weren’t quite aware of how easily things like coughs and colds can spread. If you’re confined to an office with other people, if you’re in a communal area, if you share desks and computers and so on.
Before, so many people (myself included, I’ll be honest) would come into work with heavy colds and other illnesses. Whether it was because of a lack of sick pay, not wanting to let colleagues down, or, something I’ve experienced more often than not, employers guilting you into coming in, I’m sure many of us would make the decision to crawl into work rather than phone in sick. I’ve worked in environments before where managers have told me “well, we’re all ill at the moment” or “we’re really short today,” rather than just accepting the fact I’m too ill to come in. One thing I found in particular – and I’m sure many will relate to this – is that one person comes into work with the lurgy, and for the next 3 months or so, there is ALWAYS one person (or more) that has something. Surely one person being off for a few days while they’re contagious is better than multiple people coming in with their germs and spreading it to everyone in the entire community?
I’m ashamed to say that in November 2019, I was full of flu-like symptoms (as well as conjuntivitis as a result), but I dragged my sick AF ass into work because it was Black Friday week, and we were under stern instructions that there was no holiday or sick leave allowed because it was our busiest week. My manager took one look at my swollen, snotty, red face and listened to me croak that I was feeling horrific, and responded with “well, I was in the dentist chair for two hours yesterday…that was rough.”
Despite the fact I was coughing/sneezing into tissues and washing my hands like there was no tomorrow, I still felt incredibly guilty for putting my colleagues at risk. However, I couldn’t afford to take time off, and I also knew the treatment I’d get if I even dared phone in sick. The easiest way out was to go in and do my best to keep my germs to myself.
I’m no scientist, and this is more of an opinion than anything else, but I feel as though one of the reasons why Covid-19 spiked here in that first instinct was due to people putting it down as “just a cold.” Think about it – that time of year, coughs and colds are rife – but people soldier on, and we didn’t really know a great deal about the virus in those early days. I feel that so many people continued going to work and socialising because they thought they had no more than a common cold.
My point after all this? Well, it kind of goes two ways. First of all, employers need to have better policies in place when it comes to sickness. I feel that if more places offered sick pay (and just accepted that their staff were unwell rather than trying to guilt them), more people would actually call in sick when they’re too ill to come to work. Of course you can’t say that will 100% be the case, but you’d hope that offering sick pay would mean that people wouldn’t feel less obligated to come in.
If that’s too much to ask, maybe we can at least hope that some employers have realised that the majority of office based jobs can be done from home and so offer up remote working as a result. Of course that won’t be a luxury for everyone, and there’s bound to be bosses out there that have major trust issues with their employees (even if they’ve no reason to). Let’s just hope some employers do something good for their staff as a result of the pandemic.
Improved Hand Hygiene
It’s amazing how much things have changed since the pandemic when it comes to using our hands. Things like shaking hands, pushing the button on a pedestrian crossing, using ticket machines and putting your fingers into bowling balls all now feel like a death sentence (although for me, nothing’s really changed…). However, I’d like to hope that the pandemic has taught us about the importance of hand hygiene.
Again, this is a biased area for me, because my hands have essentially turned to chapped stumps ever since Covid first hit. However, I think washing your hands is one of the best ways in which you can keep your germs to yourself. We need to normalise things like washing your hands when you go into someone’s house or at work, or before we eat – for me, it’s essentially the same as washing your hands when you go to the toilet. Whenever we go to someone’s house, the first thing I do is wash my hands. If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, the answer is yes – if you don’t wash them when you come into my house, I WILL be judging you and mentally listing all of the things I’ll have to wipe down after you leave.
Of course there will be times when it may not be possible to wash our hands straight away, and in those instances, make use of hand sanitiser – it’s better than nothing. Generally, for viruses like Covid-19, it needs at least 60% alcohol to be effective. Personally, I prefer my hand sanitiser to be antiviral as well as anti-bacterial, as these will be more effective against norovirus (although it can vary across different brands) – every emetophobe’s nightmare – but rest assured, my bag is well stocked with both varieties.
I think it’d also be nice if public toilets could sort themselves out a bit as well on the hand hygiene front. By that I mean getting rid of those bloody air dryers, or at least the ones you have to touch to activate (you don’t know whether the person who used it before you has used soap or whether they’ve just dabbed their hands under the tap). That goes for those Dyson air blade thingies as well – in the words of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, “I’d rather have a disease ridden gibbon sneeze my hands dry.” For me, the dream public toilet is taps and dryers that work on sensors. No touching required.
Show Some Common Courtesy
This is one that we can all do our bit with, and we saw lots of it at the start of the pandemic. However, as things went on, people just got fed up and started being dicks. To be honest, people covering their mouths when they cough and blowing their nose into tissues etc is just common courtesy, but I’m sure we all know people that don’t do it, even after Covid.
I personally will still be wearing my mask in shops and public places for the time being – because all this has made me aware of how close we get to randomers in these environments. Plus, I know the evidence around it is iffy, but I would have thought surely you get some sort of protection yourself by wearing a mask, so it’s peace of mind for both you and everyone else.
Staying TF at home when you’re ill is another way people can be a bit more considerate. Not just at work like I’ve already mentioned, but generally. If you’re full of cold, don’t go out with your friends or visit your family – again, it’s just common courtesy, but pre-covid so many people completely ignored this, and I’ve actually heard of a few people doing the same even now. It’s not okay. On a similar note, if you’re feeling under the weather or have any Covid-19 symptoms, get a bloody test. Don’t just assume it’s a cold!
Oh, and one other way you can do your bit? Get your vaccine!
Appreciate the NHS More
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic it’s that our NHS is amazing. They were dealt the most shitty, shitty hand by the asshats running our country, yet they still stepped up and kept us all safe, and continue to do so. I don’t want to get too political, but I think we all know things aren’t exactly going to get better for the NHS anytime soon, and that’s largely the fault of the government. However, there are things we can all do to help.
We can stop going to A&E and calling ambulances for shit that we can either deal with ourselves or get treated via the GP. People are like “I pay my taxes, I’ll go to A&E if I want to” – no hun. All you have to do is watch 10 minutes of shows like 999 What’s Your Emergency or 24 Hours in A&E and you’ll see immediately what pithy ambulance calls and unnecessary trips to emergency departments do. Of course there are underlying factors that contribute – such as the need for better support for the elderly and those with mental health issues, many of whom resort to calling ambulances because they’ve no other means of support. It all falls under the umbrella of the government needing to sort their shit out and fund the NHS properly, but still, we can all do our bit. Do you really need to go to A&E just because you can’t get a routine appointment with your GP?
Another thing we can all do comes down to how we treat people – only in Britain will you go into a hospital and find posters all over the walls telling you not to abuse the staff. Frontline NHS staff work their butts off keeping us and our loved ones safe, the least you could do is show them some respect.
Sorry folks, this all got a bit intense. I didn’t intend to write this much in all honesty, but there you go. I think in a nutshell, the takeaway from the post is quite simply: “don’t be an asshole.” Yes, people are fed up and sick of everything this pandemic has done, and we all want to get back to normal, but on the flipside, there are people who are utterly terrified about the idea of things going back to normal. So be kind to people, and do your bit where you can.
What do you hope we take away as a result of the pandemic?