Evanston RoundTable, Sept. 2, 2020
Amidst the spate of continuing bad news (COVID spiking! Russia hacking! Arctic melting!) and the continuing absence of any civility or sentience in our nation’s capital, we should treasure the few bright spots in our national and local climates.
Start with the weather. True, 2020 was Chicago’s hottest summer on record, according to just-released data from the National Weather Service. But it sure didn’t feel that way. In fact, most days felt balmy and mild (mid-70s was the average temperature), and the lack of rain made for clear skies and lots of opportunities for outdoor activities.
Then there are the peaches. Last year, not so good. This year, OMG—splendid—bag after bag, all summer long, juicy and sweet!
There are other pluses too.
The sweatshirt and casual wear business is booming, and with good reason. Why invest in costly business clothes when most of us are lounging around the house in jeans and T-shirts or going shopping or for long neighborhood walks in shorts?
Let us hope COVID can eliminate the neck tie like JFK ended top hats, when he failed to wear one at his 1961 inauguration. There Is no more execrable piece of fashion apparel than men’s ties. After all, who would want to wear something that chokes you at the windpipe and may even harbor contagious pathogens?
Work in general is changing. “I used to see eight patients an hour,” one of my wife’s doctors told her. “Now I’m down to four. And I love it!”
Not everyone can control their schedule that way, or effectively halve their income—salaried and hourly workers don’t usually have that option, if they’re even lucky enough to have a job. But some people are beginning to see the connection between working less and enjoying life more.
Take working from home. Outside of Silicon Valley, it used to be rare for companies to let employees telecommute. Call it the “Woody Allen Principle”—80% of success in life was just showing up. But now we know “showing up” can be done just as well from home, on a computer screen.
In fact, it turns out working from home can be better—more productive and less stressful—than commuting to work. Better for the environment, without all that driving. Saves money on transit fares and gas. Saves hours of commute time a week. And an added benefit for our canine friends, who have all that extra human company.
Fun to wear PJ bottoms at a Zoom meeting—who would know? (But don’t forget to “Stop Video” when getting up to make coffee or go to the bathroom.) Nice also to forgo shaving—Zoom can’t tell if you have a three-day stubble!
With the time saved commuting and the flexibility of being home, people can run errands, get to doctor’s appointments and chauffer the kids as needed, instead of having to cram those activities into the weekend. Some businesses have traditionally been suspicious about just how much work time from home is actual “work,” but those views are changing as productivity seems to be steady or even improving.
Of course, endless Zoom meetings bring on a kind of Zoom torpitude, interrupted occasionally by barking dogs and crying kids.
Speaking of kids at home, well…that’s a mixed bag. While it’s awful that children in Evanston and many other places can’t go back to school this fall, depriving them of facetime (the old-fashioned kind) with their pals and putting working parents in a real bind, there is one upside: families get to spend more together time, as this writer posted on WBEZ’s blog: “Working at home means I can be productive when I feel productive and get the sleep that I need and spend more time with my child. It means I can drop everything to do a noon virtual yoga class or go for a run before I start my work day, whereas before, as a working mother it was either hitting the grocery store on the way home or hitting the gym to squeeze in a 30 minute workout before picking up my child before his aftercare closed. Working at home means I can wear yoga pants and comfy tops 99% of the time. Working at home means I can breathe.”
Even as school and work time schedules are changing, so is sleep. According to Current Biology, a recent study shows people are sleeping longer and later. Time magazine, in reporting on the study, said: “Clearly, we have yet to control the coronavirus pandemic, but as individuals, we can try to control our response to it. Improving our sleep might be one of healthiest responses of all.”
Longer and better sleep, more family time together, greater productivity and relaxed clothing standards: these are some of the unintended benefits that might endure after the pandemic finally has the decency to depart.