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There is no Going Back to the “Old Normal”

You may have heard or even said “we are living in some strange times.” In fact, I may have stated this in my previous blog. Many of us are waiting for everything to go “back to normal”. I don’t believe there is a “going back to the way things were.” History has shown us that during major catastrophic events such as pandemics, wars, and economic challenges, life never returns to the way it was. One thing that I think will change is telework being more of a normalized working option.

Before the Covid-19 Pandemic, we as Transportation Demand Management Outreach Coordinators were promoting ridesharing (Carpools, Vanpools, Buses, Transit etc.) over driving alone to help reduce congestion on our clogged roads and highways. We had some successes as people realized they could save time and money. Even in the DC area where a good number of workers already worked remotely before Covid-19 (heavily influenced by the federal work force), many companies and some government agencies refused to allow telework for various reasons, including security.

Then Coronavirus hit and the message became quite different. When safe distancing precautions and stay at home orders went into effect, very few people were able to go to their office anyway. As an example, my company implemented a work from home program so I’m working remotely 5 days/week right now.

Where companies were once resistant, the pandemic forced them to put infrastructure in place, to allow their employees to telework, and to develop company-based telework policies. Even businesses/entities you would not think would ever implement telework (such as K-12 schools, medical professionals, and security firms) now see telework as a viable option. I am not saying “no one will ever work in their office again.” But I predict, the number of workers who telework will be higher than pre-pandemic levels. So much so, that many business improvement districts are nervous about the future of office rents.

Of course, I can only speculate. If anyone has a crystal ball, let me know. I would like to see what the future holds for us. But until that happens, we will keep doing the best we can in the current situation. And if telework becomes more the normal than the exception in our upcoming future, I think that is a good thing. And if you ask why I think that, the picture of New York City air quality, below, shows the most important reason.

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