Is it possible to find a silver lining to COVID-19?

Is it possible to find a silver lining to COVID-19?

August is nearly over – and if it hasn’t dawned on you that we are now closer to Christmas than the beginning of the year, let that reality sink in. As we question where the first eight months of the year went and how a virus we hadn’t heard of in January has changed the entire world, it can be hard to find a silver lining.

An article posted in the British Journal of General Practice by Sophie Ingham, a Post CCT Fellow at Haxby Group Practice in York, highlighted that in the wake of this pandemic we must take the time to see the positives where we can find them.

Top ten positive effects seemed a bit ambitious, we’ll settle for top three (for now).

  1. An uptake in physical well-being

Ingham recalls an early-lockdown experience:

“I was out walking my dog and happened to notice a family of four running. A mum. A dad. A brother. And a sister. Each running at their own pace (or strictly adhering to the 2-metre social distancing rule) but running together as a family. It struck me that this was an unfamiliar sight.”

Whether this was a normal run for the family or a brand new quarantine activity, we will never know. But what we do know is, it’s a step in the right direction (no pun intended). Earlier this year, the UK reported an adult obesity level of 26% (some figures report 63% with overweight and obesity figures included). In 2018/19, the NHS recorded 876 hospital admissions with obesity as the primary or secondary diagnoses (a 23% increase from the year before).

From workout Youtube channels Chloe Ting to Yoga with Adriene, we are seeing home workouts become a pandemic staple. If it means that the British public is getting off the couch and on their feet, the knock-on impact of reducing obesity-related hospital admissions will go a long way to take the pressure off our struggling NHS.

  1. The impact on the environment

Of course, climate change isn’t news – and whichever side of the “debate” you land on, it cannot be denied that the human race has disrupted many natural habitats through industrialisation,  urbanisation and tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic is the first time in living memory where the world came to a standstill, and with the humans away the animals came out to play and air quality dramatically improved.

As much as a 30% reduction in air pollution was recorded in China, animals in the savannah of Africa taking to the streets, and the canals of Venice running clear are just some of the massive environmental improvements.

If you’re still thinking your actions don’t make a difference when it comes to the environment then see it for yourself here, here or here.

Will the impact be long-lasting? That remains to be seen, as adopting these changes post-pandemic must be discussed at a global level. What we can see is that a united front on climate change does have an immediate impact.

  1. Approach to flexible working

Although unspoken, there is a long-standing stigma associated with working from home – or as some might call it, “feet up, cuppa in hand, apathetically answering emails.” This stigma led to a rise in “seeing means doing culture”. Whether public sector’s branding physical presence as “community engagement”, or more traditional legal professions’ billable hours requiring a significant face-to-face component, working from home hasn’t been historically encouraged.  Other negative connotations insist that deviating from “the normal working pattern” indicates laziness or low output.

Whilst it may be an imperfect model, the pandemic has demonstrated that working from home does not cripple the economy; it hasn’t brought London Bridge crashing down, and staff have not slumped to irrecoverable productivity levels. Instead, workers who have kept their jobs during the pandemic are reporting better work-life balance, better mood and better mental health.

Sarah, 30, is an animator and usually works in London. She is finding that not being in an open office space with so many people around her desk has made it easier to “focus on work”.

Countless studies show a happier workforce is a more productive workforce – with many surveys showing employees are less willing to return to the traditional office hours even when offices fully reopen.

The coronavirus pandemic has shocked the world and devastated many, but finding the positive is also part of the healing process. Finding some good in the midst of this pandemic does give hope that things can, must and will get better.