I’ve been working from home since 2014 and so the pandemic hasn’t changed my work life that much, except for reduced travel, and making it more convenient to communicate with others who are now themselves working from home.
As the remote worker I used to play second fiddle to those physically in the conference room. I was a voice on a phone, that couldn’t always hear everything that was going on and found it difficult to find the right moment to interject without seeing nonverbal cues, or I was a face on a screen. Now meetings are optimized for everyone to be remote. I think we overuse zoom, when phone calls will do – not everything requires video – but everyone’s invested in overcoming technology hurdles that make my life easier.
I don’t mean to minimize the pandemic, it’s wreaked havoc on a lot of lives. I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I moved to Austin 7 years ago, gave up a downtown high rise for a house. That’s meant I’ve had a yard, and for the last year I’ve been able to eat dinner most nights with my daughter.
As we get ready to go back to ‘normal’ life, as vaccinations proceed apace, there are some changes around travel that I hope persist.
- I will continue to wear masks in airports and on planes during flu season. Masking and distancing didn’t eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it spreads too easily, but it sure seems to have suppressed the seasonal flu. I hated sniffling, sneezing seat opponents long before Covid-19, and the pandemic has made masking acceptable.
- I hope TSA continues to allow large hand sanitizer. TSA permits “one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags” separate from your freedom baggie full of 3 ounce liquids. While we should declare victory in the War On Water and go home, to the extent that doesn’t happen the hand sanitizer exception has proven workable throughout the last year.
- Extra cleaning of planes should continue, but may quietly wane. In tough times in the past one of the first things to get cut has been cleaning aircraft, with deep cleans pushed out to every 18 months or more. The extra cleaning overnight or even between each flight is not just a direct cost, it also takes time that means less efficient use of aircraft or flights that delay. There will be an incentive for airlines to quietly diminish their cleaning, though I certainly hope they do not.
- When will hotels stop their thorough room cleans? I want more housekeeping, not less, and a return to full service. But I do want an assurance that real cleaning is happening between each guest, too. There hasn’t been 100% compliance even over the past year but the stickers are reassuring at least.
- Contactless pickup of food whether restaurants or groceries, the proliferation of contact pickup options have been a boon. It saves time, and doing this with restaurants to bring food home to eat has been great – far better than UberEats or Door Dash as well. I hope more restaurants continue to offer a streamlined process for to-go ordering.
- Don’t make me fly out to give a talk unless in-person matters. A Zoom talk isn’t as good as in-person, but it’s a whole lot easier to accept. I can hope on for 60-90 minutes, give a talk and take questions, and this is so much more efficient than Ubering to the airport, taking a connection, checking into a hotel, and doing all of this several hours earlier than necessary as a hedge against airline delays and cancellations. There should be a higher value threshold to hopping on a plane for this than there used to be, though of course I’ll still happily do it whenever it makes sense.
I’m so thankful for so much in the face of the last year. I’ve been able to grow closer with my family, even as I’ve given up so much international travel. Hopefully there are some things that we’ve learned in the last year that can continue to make travel and other parts of life even better.