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A Retrospective on the Future of…Post Pandemic: Part 2

Erica Barreiro, CNM's new Academic Fellow for the Future of Work + Learning, will be writing guest columns throughout the year to help spark discussion at CNM about how we prepare for the future of...

Apr 30, 2020

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new virtual, stay-at-home-produced YouTube series called Some Good News with John Krasinski. Admittedly, it is a welcome reprieve from all of the scary and depressing news related to the coronavirus pandemic; in fact, that is exactly John’s purpose in the show. John highlights videos and tweets from around the world of people finding ways to celebrate and thank those working on the front lines (from health care professionals to grocery clerks) during this pandemic, and jumps in to do the same. He also uses his celebrity connections to create special moments for his viewers, such as virtually bringing together the cast of Hamilton to perform a song for a young fan and hosting a virtual prom. John helps me find the humor in our remote work situation when he does goofy things like walk off camera at the end of his show, revealing the crazy mismatch between his outfit visible throughout the show of business-wear shirt, tie, and jacket, and the boxer shorts or pink tutu bottoms that were hidden behind his desk. Without minimizing the seriousness of the situation we are facing, he touches my heart and lifts my spirits in elevating acts of human connection and kindness.

Photo of Erica Barreiro
Erica Barreiro

What I have found myself wondering in watching this show, and others in which this type of production and connection is now occurring virtually because of necessity, is whether or not it will become a lasting medium post-pandemic. I find I enjoy the authenticity of the format, the ability to be invited into others’ home lives, and the creativity that is required to coordinate these virtual productions. I also appreciate that they can do all this while reducing the costs associated with in-person production and the negative impacts of travel and commuting on our environment.

For the last month, I have also appreciated another new experience that has been the result of the pandemic, and that is being able to have video appointments with my health care providers. I didn’t realize (until I asked) that federal regulatory and reimbursement barriers actually prevented most health care providers from offering their patients the option of video appointments. The threat of the spread of COVID-19 forced an immediate change in these barriers. And while I suspect once we have reduced the threats of the pandemic, many patients will choose and may need the option of an in-person visit. Video appointments, however, will remain a robust tool for health care post-pandemic.

Each of these are small examples of how the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to result in positive changes for our future. I’m not going “Pollyanna” on you and ignoring the grim reality this pandemic has created for our society, especially for those already most vulnerable to economic and health hardships. But I believe that the only way we make the losses meaningful, is to make sure that we use this experience to create a more equitable and humane society.  And so, a couple of weeks ago, I asked my CNM colleagues, “as CNM responds to the COVID-19 crisis, what lasting changes are we creating?”

Miranda Evjen Sanchez, Director of Student Experience, had this to say:

I believe we have learned that excellent work can be done remotely and creatively, and that our care for students and their success comes through just as much on the phone or chat as it would in person at the Welcome Center or in our offices. I am really excited about the online processes and efficiencies we are creating as well. Many of our students struggle with transportation or getting to us during office hours. Creating these online and automated processes makes CNM truly accessible to many more.

Sonya Lara, Associate Director of the Contact Center, shared:

I am reminded of one of the main tenets you shared about the future of work; communication, critical thinking, strategy depend upon the work of creative human beings. Our future is reliant upon folks that have these “human skills,” to include a level of emotional intelligence necessary to understand how decisions impact our students, as well as affect our colleagues. We are rising to the moment by being really great at demonstrating these skills, such as communicating and collaborating, in a way and with people that we maybe didn't do as much before COVID-19.  We are recognizing opportunities for lasting change: using our tech to do the heavy lifting and are utilizing it in different ways which optimize our resources.  

And Kyle Lee, CEO of CNM Ingenuity, echoed these themes of using technology to intentionally increase access when he shared this:

Digital access by individuals will be higher as a cultural norm after the pandemic crisis. While previously a meme for millennials and Gen Z, every generation’s instant connectivity as a result of stay-at-home orders has normalized our relationship with technology at every age level. But, the gap between those who can be online digitally and those who cannot will widen and has to be addressed. Crisis escalates divisions. Poorer and underserved communities who can’t participate in an accelerated digital culture will have fewer opportunities. I hope it reaches a national crisis that transcends how we discuss inequity today and allows for more honest forward-looking opportunities to change.  

The disruptions to educational systems, business models, national and global politics, work, supply chains, health care and more were coming, influenced by trends in areas such as technology, globalism and income inequities. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly accelerated these disruptions. Many of us are still in shock and grappling with the uncertainties, hardships, and tragedies brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. But perhaps the best path to begin healing is to turn our attention to using what we’ve experienced and learned through reacting to this crisis to reshape how we intentionally move forward.