Coronavirus has been without doubt an event that has had the most profound global impact on people in generations. Although the effects of the pandemic have and continue to be sadly negative in terms of loss of life and prolonged illness, there are some positive outcomes that are starting to become apparent.
The environment has benefited
A global Coronavirus shutdown resulting in closed borders, a collapse in air travel, business and school closures, home working and reduced road and rail transport, have all contributed to a major reduction in global pollution.
Research has shown that approximately 100,000 premature deaths as a result of air pollution could be avoided in China if the country’s existing rate of economic slowdown persists in the coming year. Consumption of coal in China was cut by 36% between February and March 2020 compared to the previous year. According to the Centre for International Climate research in Oslo, the air quality has significantly improved as the use of fossil fuels has receded.
In China the average number of good quality air days increased 21.5% in February compared to the previous year. Due to China being the largest emitter of carbon emissions in the world, any improvements are a benefit to all of us.
Transport accounts for 23% of global carbon emissions. Due to airport closures and airline reductions in service and bankruptcies, there are fewer planes flying which has resulted in significant reductions in air pollutants. Air quality has improved and the Ozone layer has begun to show signs of recovery.
Coronavirus and social distancing forced the closure of businesses and offices resulting in many employees having to work from home. Because of this, the daily commute by road or rail has disappeared for many resulting in significant reductions in carbon emissions and marked improvements in air quality. A potential 300 million tonnes of reduced carbon emissions per annum can be achieved through home working according to the Climate Change Group.
Italy has also seen a major drop in air pollution due to a reduction in human activity. Evidence from the European Space Agency has revealed significant reductions in nitrogen dioxide typically from power plants and car fumes. Residents of Venice have also remarked on the water in the Venice canal being cleaner than ever before.
Reductions in accidents
A report by the University of California revealed that road accidents fell by 50% after lockdown was imposed and resulted in an estimated $40million in savings daily. Traffic volume dropped 55% and hospitals in the area recorded fewer admissions for trauma. Other reports have shown that there were reduced instances of car impacts with cyclists and pedestrians.
Increase in community spirit
Hundreds of locals in Eastbourne U.K registered to join a telephone befriending service to help elderly and vulnerable members of the local community. Many supermarkets in the U.K have also assisted by reserving online slots for the vulnerable and instore time slots solely for the elderly. In many areas local people have also set up help services for the vulnerable or people under quarantine to assist them with buying food, medicine, and any other help required.
An enforced slowdown
The mandatory lockdown as a result of Coronavirus has meant that people have been forced to make a drastic change to their everyday lives. With most places closed at the peak of the virus and many still working from home, this has resulted in a much needed slowdown in the pace of life for most of us.
We are so used to rushing around and being under pressure due to work and life commitments, that the pandemic has given us the opportunity to take a breather and reevaluate how we live our lives.
More free time to ourselves
One of the positive results of lockdown has been the huge gain in free time. So often in life we have little time or space to fully relax and just be ourselves. Our minds often have a hundred thoughts spinning around perpetually, and the pace and commitments of modern life rarely afford us an opportunity such as this.
Although many things have been restricted due to the virus, people have taken the opportunity to learn new skills, experience new things, do tasks they’ve never had the time to, and rethink life in general.
Being forced out of your usual routine encourages you to take a fresh look at how you work. People who are now working from home have much more free time due to commuting being unnecessary. As well as time savings, there is also the benefit of reduced stress from the daily commute. Many are now starting their daily work from home in a more refreshed and focused state.
I have personally found that I have been much more productive over this period compared to when I’m usually at work. Although there can still be distractions at home, there are many more in the typical work environment. The loss of social contact with colleagues can be an issue for some people but it does enable you to be more focused.
Improvements in health
The release of more free time has meant that many of us have taken the opportunity to get fitter and lose weight. Limited outdoor time due to the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions likely gave people a bit more impetus to make the most of it, and as a result there has been a large visible increase in people jogging, walking and exercising compared to usual. Its widely accepted that physical exercise is the ultimate practice for good health and well-being.
More time for family
As a result of schools and workplaces being closed, families have been brought closer together. Home working has meant that rather than struggling to find time, parents now have the chance to spend quality time with their children. One of the big problems facing modern families is disconnect. Coronavirus has unwittingly created the conditions where families have been brought back together and an improved work/life balance has been achieved.
A chance to reevaluate your expenditure
The economic impact of the virus has affected people in different ways. Some have lost their jobs, others have been furloughed and many have been forced to switch to home working. Whilst there have been winners and losers financially, it gives us all a chance to reassess our expenses which is always a good thing.
The lockdown restrictions imposed have meant that many of the usual activities we were accustomed to doing like eating out, shopping and travel were either stopped or curtailed. However, the lifestyle changes that have been imposed upon us have also given us the opportunity to reexamine how we spend our money.
Those who have lost their jobs or been furloughed will have to make vigorous changes to their expenses. Workers fortunate enough to be able to work from home have actually seen a positive change, with many reporting that they are saving up to £500 extra a month due to savings on commuting and childcare costs.
Having the chance to take a breather from our normal lifestyle, challenges our assumptions about what we actually spend our money on. We can take advantage of this ‘experiment’ and based upon our experience of more minimal living during lockdown, revise our spending moving forward with the aim of maximising saving to achieve FIRE.
The opportunity to rethink the 9-5
Home working has for many given them the opportunity to experience a new lifestyle. No more commuting, no getting caught in the rain, no buying overpriced latte’s. If were honest with ourselves and we really break it down, how much time do we actually spend working whilst we are at work?
There’s so much time wasted with idle chit chat, unproductive meetings, inefficiency, wondering around, coffee breaks etc. that we could probably half our daily work time and thats without the commute. Home working gives us a taste of what life can really be like. Work doesn’t need to consume the majority of our day or of our lives, and if we make changes we can start to live and work on our terms and challenge the notion that 9-5 working is the default option.
It’s often said that out of every crisis comes opportunity. This can be seen by the huge growth in tech stocks during the pandemic. Although these companies were already well established, the move to lockdown turbo-charged growth for companies like Netflix and Amazon and especially for smaller companies like Zoom. Whilst we cannot control the effects of the virus itself, we can try to turn the current situation to our advantage and embrace new ways of working and living that could be advantageous for us.
We have been able to witness the positive changes to the environment as a result of shifts in human behaviour – something that exposes quite clearly the impact we all have on the world we live in. We have also had the opportunity to reflect on how we work and utilise the money we earn, giving us the chance to decide to make positive changes to improve our work/life balance and focus our path towards improved well-being and financial independence.