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“从那之后,我再也没回过办公室”

“从那之后,我再也没回过办公室”

 Rachel Schallom  and Fortune Staff 2021年03月20日
被困在原地的一年,我们的得到与失去

距离《财富》杂志宣布美国和欧洲员工居家办公,已过去整整一年。回首去年通知居家办公的邮件,仿佛在看时间胶囊一般。去年此时人们都在强调清洁和消毒,如今回头看才知道,光靠消毒对抗疫情其实是在浪费时间和资源。

商务旅行纷纷取消,公司还提供了关于居家办公的培训。最值得注意的是,起初宣布办公室关闭的时间仅为一周:“下周我们将重新评估是否有必要延长临时居家政策,并通报最新情况。”

然而,从那之后我再也没回过办公室.

疫情以前所未有的速度改变着世界的方方面面。似乎一夜之间,原本古怪的生活方式(比如穿着紧身裤跟客户在Zoom上开视频会议)都变得很正常。

与此同时,朋友、家人、同事和社区的生活也出现重大变化,而且这种影响可能是长时间的。经历了全球性疫情之后,人们的工作、饮食习惯、育儿,甚至集体时间观念都发生了巨变。

《财富》杂志的15位员工报道了生活中一些最明显的变化,其中有一条肯定没错,在经历了如此突然的大混乱之后,几乎没人不受影响。

未来一年对世界的重建和改造也要牢记一个事实:满怀同情和理解可以帮人们变得更强大。

居家办公

插图:Veronica Cerri

在过去一年中,Zoom视频会议轰炸,口罩行业暴利,还有视频瑜伽课,各种信息接踵而至,在疫情造成的诸多变化中或许没有比居家办公影响更深远的事了。

疫情中全球各地的公司被迫关闭办公室,有的甚至是提前一天才通知。很多人搬离了公寓,选择更便宜或更安静的地方。不少公司直接将总部挪了地方。

刚开始一段时间,居家的人们感觉从日常压力中解脱。原本忙碌不堪的城市再没出现交通堵塞。

对公司来说,水电和经营成本方面也节省了大量资金,还一度认为昂贵的办公室其实也没什么必要,即便没有实体办公地点,业务似乎也能运转良好。

现在一年过去,办公室生活可能再也不会像以前一样了。

其实,能居家办公在一定程度上已经算是高端职业了。如今在街上就能明显发现,远程工作的人和无法居家办公的人群,比如交通、医疗或零售业员工之间出现了鸿沟。

随着办公室关闭,餐厅和午餐饭店的大量工作人员、清洁工等人统统失业。斯坦福大学经济学家尼古拉斯·布鲁姆称之为“引爆不平等现象的定时炸弹”。

尽管种种混乱现象令人痛苦,但多数远程办公的人们表示,疫情最终结束时,希望能选择工作地点,很多人更希望能将办公室和居家灵活结合。这是巨大的转变,企业可能得花多年才能解决。

是的,企业可节省数百万美元的水电费和租金。同时还促进了工作效率,减少不必要的会议或长途通勤花费的时间。

但如果居家办公一直持续下去,损失可能同样巨大。刚进入职场的人们居家办公很难保证效率。研究表明,面对面交流对激发新创意至关重要。Gmail、谷歌新闻和街景都源于谷歌总部免费午间大餐上的闲聊。

即使办公室重新开放,方便人们面对面工作,很多人也认为办公环境需要大调整,要有无接触电梯,还有间距较远的办公舱。

到最后这些可能是最简单的部分,最难的是企业如何适应全新的居家办公时代。

——薇薇安·沃特

时间观念扭曲

去年3月英国疫情爆发时,利物浦约翰摩尔大学助理教授露丝·奥格登正在休产假,在家照顾刚出生的小女儿和另外两个孩子。由于只能待在家,条件也有限,每一天都感觉无比漫长。

奥格登主要研究人类对时间的感知,她想知道是否每个人都有这种感觉?所以她做了研究。结果显示并不是所有人都跟奥格登感觉类似,在604名受访者中,多数表示全国封锁期间感觉时间有所扭曲。

疫情期间对时间产生奇怪的感觉并不出奇,在过去一年里人们经常忘记今夕何夕,还有人表示,每天的生活很像电影《土拨鼠之日》(男主角发现每天自己都困在一天之内,每天醒来之后都在重复昨天的生活。——译者注)。这种描述并不算夸张。

去年疫情的突然来袭颠覆了正常生活,也基本上将人们与例行的日常程序和活动彻底隔绝,包括工作、学校、约会、社交、体育活动、仪式、旅行,还有一些计划和期待的事等等。

奥格登解释说,生活中没有特定日子后,往往变得一片模糊。

对于疫情期间能居家办公的人们来说,由于工作和家庭之间的界限崩塌,工作日更加灵活,时间扭曲的感觉也更复杂。

如果没法真正离开虚拟办公室,那工作日究竟是何时开始,又何时结束?

当然,早在几十年前,科技就已然开始侵蚀工作和家庭之间的界限,员工也分为喜欢划清边界的“细分者”和更灵活的“综合者”。不过宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院管理学教授南希·罗斯巴德等专家表示,疫情导致趋势加剧。

研究表明,远程办公者工作量增加。哈佛商学院的研究团队分析了全球约310万名员工的会议和邮件大数据,发现疫情期间工作日平均延长了48.5分钟。微软抽样调查时发现,员工在晚上、午餐和周末,也经常需要工作。

不过奥格登也表示,疫情期间人们的生活方式也更加个人化。

根据她的研究,而且是从英国第二次封锁中得到了类似的结果,大约40%的受访者感觉时间比平常慢一些。而另外40%的人则感觉过得更快。

奥格登发现,差异主要归结于几个因素。对于忙忙碌碌,对社交活动很满意而且没有压力的人来说,时间过得很快。而对于孤独、无聊、感觉焦虑和抑郁的人来说,时间过得很慢。

不管经历如何,疫情带来的影响会是长期的影响吗?专家预计,工作日会比以前更灵活,至少一段时间内,人们可能更珍惜自己的时间,对于时间的利用也会更小心。

“我们意识到,一年的时间相当重要,”拉瓦尔大学心理学教授,也是《感知时间:你的问题有答案》一书作者西蒙·格罗丁表示。

不过讽刺的是,他认为随着时间流逝,人们珍惜时间的感觉会逐渐消失。

——艾瑞卡·弗赖伊

健身方式

疫情初期,稀缺的不只是卫生纸。对常年泡在健身房的人们来说,用不上哑铃,还有苦苦等待Peloton动感单车和跑步机送货,充分体现了疫情期间健身文化的巨变。

地区封锁后,健身中心和精品舞蹈、杠铃和瑜伽工作室纷纷关门。有些地区甚至连户外运动都受限制。就像疫情时代的众多其他方面一样,突然之间健身也变成了家庭活动,业余运动员们纷纷把地下室、车库或公寓角落改造成个人健身空间。

然而类似转变对实体健身房来说着实是个坏消息,曾经热闹非凡的健身房都开始为生存挣扎。众多商家纷纷关门停业。

疫情对家庭健身器材制造商来说则是巨大的好消息。最近一个财年,由于Peloton公司的动感单车联网设备和按需应用,销售额翻了一番达到18亿美元。最近一个季度,联网用户数达167万,应用用户数62.5万,比之前一年分别增长了134%和472%。

Hydrow的划船机售价每台2200美元,公司称疫情期间销售额猛增了400%,6月还筹集到新一轮2500万美元资金以扩大消费者直销业务。

健身服装零售商Lululemon斥资5亿美元收购了壁挂式屏幕制造商Mirror,方便向用户提供健身服务,也是笃定即便疫情缓解,健身家庭化趋势仍会持续火爆。

不过疫情期间为了满足运动需求,高端运动器材背后也有低端技术的替代品。Zoom上就有一位很受欢迎的教练,上视频瑜伽课时用装满书的背包当负重练深蹲,还有人在6米长的后院里独自跑马拉松。

全世界都渴望疫情消退,希望生活回归“正常”,不过居家健身的趋势可能比限流规定和保持社交距离的习惯更持久。

去年12月“新消费者”和Coefficient Capital联合发布的调查发现,疫情期间76%的消费者转而在家锻炼身体,66%的人表示更喜欢在家健身。健身课和拥挤的举重室里能培养的友谊,都可以靠科技重现,如今在家锻炼又很便利,也没那么多借口翘课。

——克莱尔·齐尔曼

再次感谢一线工作者

插图:Veronica Cerri

隔离期间,人们大多需要依靠餐馆员工和送货员的服务。

通过加州大学旧金山分校的一项新研究,可以更深入了解这些默默无闻的工作者的生活状态。结果表明,疫情期间死亡风险最高的是厨师,而不是医护人员。

研究结果与大量数据基本一致,即便没有疫情肆虐,在美国做与人密切接触的基础工作不仅身心受困,还要面临巨大的危险。

厨工、仓库工人、公交车司机、保管员、商店职员,还有其他从事类似工作的人,通常住在拥挤不堪的房子里。至于福利,例如资本市场、教育和医疗保健等往往遥不可及。这群人主要包括黑人、棕色人种、农村居民或移民。未来几年里,很多工作都可能被自动化取代。现在随着社区整体遭受经济损失,人们在疫情后的处境堪忧。

麦肯锡的研究显示,诸多非裔美国家庭面临巨大的贫富差距,美国白人家庭的财富中位数达到黑人家庭中位数的10倍之多,而且这一差距可能永远无法缩小。

如何对一线人员表达感恩?有些新做法就是不错的开始,比如对外卖小哥和快递小哥给予更多的包容。

但如果疫情后任由这些人变回默默无名的螺丝钉,那将是社会无法承受的错误。现在需要重新启动系统,向一线员工提供再培训或“技能提升”,从而应对数字化和自动化的未来,这还只是一部分。

感恩意味着清醒看待一线员工经常面临的真正障碍:薪酬待遇、移民改革、育儿、经济型贷款和失业保险等。是时候确保一线员工的利益了。

毕竟,如果没有他们,人们还如何生活?

——埃伦·麦吉尔特

疫情短缺纪实

对美国消费者来说,在过去一年中短缺现象一个接一个。去年3月,随着全美各地政府实施封锁,消费者担心物资匮乏,于是人们纷纷在恐慌中,大量囤积各种必需品,尤其是卫生纸。(后来一度导致坐浴盆紧缺。)

人们在得知接触所有物体表面之前都要消毒之后,去年春天Clorox湿巾成了最热门的产品。2021年初也一样,该公司认为湿巾供应要到年中才能恢复正常。

最初的混乱之后,人们意识到杂货店和仓储超市里的必需品并不会短缺,便开始关注于打发时间。

到了5月,美国自行车店里已经没有低端品牌,想买杠铃也找不到了。运动与健身行业协会表示,2020年至少骑一次公路自行车的美国人数量同比增加了14%。

夏天一到,户外家具迅速紧俏。

之后在接下来一个月里,购物者不得不面对另一个问题,很多商店要求要么准确支付零钱,要么使用电子支付,硬币很难找。

消费者的麻烦还不算完。

8月,由于美国人疯狂烧烤,很多商店的木炭卖空。夏季一结束,消费者还得面对3月零售商和服装制造商恐慌之中取消订单造成的影响,当时商家担心几个月后商品可能大量积压。结果从Crocs洞洞鞋到运动服饰安德玛,商店里空空如也。

转眼到了10月,家庭健身热潮中动感单车Peloton的订单已堆积如山,只得收购了一家制造商增加产量。

去年11月,餐馆和屋主们拼命抢购露台取暖器。一个月后,随着户外运动热潮持续,滑雪板和雪地鞋被抢购一空。(今年1月则变成越野滑雪板全卖光。)

今年2月也是疫情后第12个月,一种并不是由消费者直接购买的,但对各种行动都很关键的一种产品出现了短缺,就是硅芯片。芯片短缺导致美国汽车工厂关闭,消费类电子产品发货推迟,还有其他诸多领域,充分证明了即便病毒得到遏制,疫情的影响也仍会持续。

——王波非

职场父母要考虑很多问题

数十年来,职场父母面临的挑战很直接,如何找到负担得起的托儿服务?怎样接送孩子上下学?工作和家庭生活上的时间如何平衡?

疫情持续一年后,职场父母的顾虑变得没那么明确。考虑的因素越来越多,包括考虑日托会不会影响健康,以及如何应付孩子上网课和居家办公。对于仍然要上下班的父母来说,情况更为复杂。

如今唯一确定的是,当父母比以前更艰难,尤其是对女性来说,因为疫情中妈妈承担的压力显著增加。

外界确实提供了一些帮助。有些公司放宽政策为在职父母提供便利,或者提供额外福利,比如免费托儿支持或再就业培训,让以往必须前往一线上班,而如今要照顾孩子的员工远程工作。

与此同时,美国最新的疫情救济方案也将获得拜登总统批准,其中包括为托儿机构提供4000万美元,并将儿童税收抵免扩大到每个儿童3000美元,其中6岁以下儿童税收抵免力度更大。

不管具体情况怎样,未来几个月甚至几年内,职场父母,尤其是被迫离开工作岗位的母亲,都可能感受到疫情对家庭和事业的影响。

——艾玛·海克利夫

食欲变化

插图:Veronica Cerri

去年春天病毒席卷全球之际,有个趋势愈发明显,即全球各国在食物问题上反应基本相同。从哥伦比亚到保加利亚,到处都有餐馆和酒店关门,昂贵的特色菜不见踪迹,很多人囤积豆类和其他主食。

根据美国农业部对外农业服务局的报告,以前依赖外卖和餐馆的人,几乎足不出户在家做饭(尤其是烤面包),还开始选择既能维持生存又熟悉的经济型食品。

其中一些习惯改变的主要推动因素是疫情导致的食物短缺和囤积恐惧。一年后,相关担心已基本上消失。在大多数地区,粮食运输延误只是暂时现象。不过人们的饮食方式已发生改变,而且可能长期继续。

第一个变化是全世界粮食不安全感加深,疫情扩大了能否获得与能否负担得起营养食品的人们之间本就存在的鸿沟。联合国粮食及农业组织估计,仅在2020年全球营养不良人口就增加了8300万人到1.32亿人之间。

同时,人们淘汰精加工美食,改为健康饮食。美国农业部最新报告指出,从泰国到俄罗斯再到萨尔瓦多,对健康的全麦食品需求激增,特别是公认能增强免疫系统的食品,主要因为人们改为自己做饭,也希望健康食品能抵御疾病。富裕国家对有机食品的需求急剧增加。

不过很多家庭因为受到疫情带来的经济压力,做好节省膳食开支的规划,这也意味着减少冲动购买食物。

最后,食品巨头可能会发现新趋势,从约旦到希腊再到美国,在线商城购物和送货前所未有地激增,人们吃饭或购物的行为习惯可能会永久性改变。

——凯瑟琳·邓恩

曝光不平等

过去一年新冠疫情对人类生活和经济造成了毁灭性影响。但这种影响既不均衡也不公平,因为某些社区受到的破坏比其他地方更严重,一些群体财富富余甚至会增加,而其他一些群体财富却在萎缩。女性、少数民族和穷人遭受的痛苦更为严重,因为病毒暴露且加剧了先前就已存在的卫生、经济安全和福利差距,美国结构性不平等的状况格外凸显。

影响不均最明显之处可从不同社区的死亡率中体现。在美国,每1000名白人中有1.2人死于新冠病毒,而每1000名西班牙人中有1.5人死亡,每1000名黑人和美国原住民有1.7人死亡。死亡比例差距反映了美国人获得医疗服务方面的巨大差距,以及有色人种从事一线工作请病假也更加困难的现实。

由于越来越多女性和有色人种在服务业工作,而相关行业受疫情冲击更严重,失业也存在种族和性别差异。对于没接受过高等教育,或者因为要照顾子女或老年人没法朝九晚五的人们来说,服务性工作通常是最好的选择,甚至是唯一选择。这场疫情恰恰暴露了与白领和工薪阶层相比,服务型岗位是多么不安全。

疫情封锁后减少的岗位中,约60%涉及女性。更多女性不得不留在家里放弃工作,照顾封校的孩子,经济损失估计达3410亿美元。

从去年1月到6月,黑人员工失业率翻了一番,多达到15%,而白人员工最高失业率仅为9%。美国劳工统计局数据显示,到2020年底,黑人失业率仍保持在10%,而白人失业率不到6%。经济政策研究所数据显示,一定程度上因为只有20%的黑人员工可以居家办公,白人员工有30%,而亚裔员工达37%。

该差距也导致诸多后续经济效应。2月份,五分之一黑人家庭宣称食物不足,相比之下食物出现问题的拉美家庭和白人家庭分别为18%和8%。

另一项针对拖欠房租的调查显示,截至今年2月,29%的黑人租客、22%的拉丁裔租客和13%的白人租客承认付房租有困难。

虽然所有学生都因课时减少和缺乏面对面学习经历受到影响,学校因疫情关闭对有色人种的打击也更严重。麦肯锡一项分析显示,根据去年在25个州的评估,学生掌握的数学和阅读知识能达到正常年份67%和87%。在有色人种学生为主的学校,数学和阅读成绩分别为正常年份的59%和77%。相关数据和其他很多数据点一样,暴露了疫情之中社会对弱势成员的关怀不足。

——亚伦·普莱斯曼

远程学习

转向远程学习对传统学校教育、弱势学生以及家长职业和心理健康来说都是灾难。不过也有证据表明,在家学习也让很多孩子受益匪浅,这会让人反思家长平时如何教育和照顾孩子。

疫情之前和之后的各种研究都发现,在线远程学习根本无法取代课堂体验。缺乏人际互动和社交参与似乎会损害知识记忆,其中年纪小的孩子适应能力最差。

跟疫情诸多影响一样,受创最深的还是穷人、少数族裔和女性。美国20%的学生没有电脑,甚至没有接受远程教育的网络连接,这种情况主要集中在低收入家庭。

耶鲁大学经济学家估计,由于学校关闭一年,美国最贫困社区里九年级学生可能失去25%的未来收入,而家境前20%的学生则不会遭受严重影响。

由于缺乏资源和公共支持,有色人种学生在停工期间,学习进度比白人学生慢一倍。面临心理健康问题和存在特殊需要的儿童基本失去了学校系统提供的结构化的实际支持。超过50万的职场母亲因为育儿压力增加离开劳动力市场,这一数字远比离职的父亲要多。

然而,疫情期间的居家教育可能也提供了一线希望,而且不仅针对富裕家庭的孩子。近几十年来,儿童和青少年焦虑、抑郁和自杀激增。虽然人们非常关注社交媒体在这一趋势中的作用,而实际上,这种情况早在Instagram出现之前就已出现。

许多专家认为,罪魁祸首是儿童和青少年日益严格和忙碌的生活。有个指标非常令人不安,根据2018年范德比尔特大学对儿童医院入院情况的分析,在校期间有自杀念头的年轻人和自杀未遂人数均出现激增。

这或许可以解释,为何非政府组织在学校停课初期进行的横向调查发现,远离传统学校限制后,孩子自称平静、独立和责任感水平均有所提高,大多数家长表示孩子不去学校很快乐。

牛津大学正在进行中的一项研究发现,同一时期孤独感的水平升高,不过封锁之后的数据很少,因此对孩子的全面影响尚未可知。

但如果等式积极的一面成立,可能会推动长期的新观念产生,在“校外教育”和“自由放养”的旗帜下给孩子更多时间,不受监督地玩游戏和自觉学习。

倡导者表示,该方法有助于培养儿童自力更生并开发创意,从疫情来看,相关素质对终身成功至关重要。

——大卫·Z·莫里斯

重新拥抱大自然

插图:Veronica Cerri

有时人们需要疫情的牵绊,才能静下来欣赏一下自家后院。

2020年病毒肆虐期间,国际旅行变得不可能,“隔离”和“社交距离”等术语进入日常口语,数百万美国人只得将旅行改为户外活动。

人们涌向公园和公共场所。国家公园管理局的数据显示,虽然全国游客数量实际下降了28%,主要原因是疫情导致闭园和限流。总人数并未反映出仍然开放的公园里游客激增。

根据非营利环保组织Trust for Public Land最新发布的报告,从宾夕法尼亚州到太平洋西北部,多地官员都报告称公园游客数量急剧上升。夏天人尤其多。

2020年8月,大提顿国家公园参观人数接近历史最高纪录。7月黄石国家公园游客数量也比去年同期增长了2%,不过没有满负荷。

“随着全国各地电影院、餐馆、酒吧和商店纷纷关门,公园变成人们走出家门解闷唯一相对安全的场所,”信托基金战略和创新负责人琳达·黄在报告中写道。

危机时期美国重新亲近大自然并不是新现象。该趋势与上一次严重疫情期间非常类似。

1920年,西班牙流感在美国的致命影响消退时,美国人也蜂拥去黄石公园。据Quartz报道,当年乘火车和汽车前往观光的游客分别比之前一年分别增加了42%和21%。

多年来研究表明,多花时间参加户外活动大有益处。根据医学杂志《柳叶刀》最近研究,前往绿色空间“意味着更多体育互动,心理更健康,睡眠质量更高,压力水平更低,认知能力增加,也能更快康复。”

换句话说,逛公园与健康有一定关系。正如国家公园管理局副局长肖恩·本格在一份新闻稿中提到,受保护的土地“为人们提供了离家不远”就能改善“身心”健康的机会。

所以,隔离数月之后,新鲜空气越发甜美。

——安德鲁·马奎德

职场女性成批“阵亡”

才不到一年时间,美国职业女性辛苦30多年争取来的进步已然被抹煞。

自2020年2月以来,已有230多万女性离开美国劳动力市场,回到了1988年的水平。女性,尤其是有色人种女性原本就是经济上最脆弱的群体,还承担了疫情期间失业的打击,占去年美国失业人数的53%以上。

如今,美国总统约翰·拜登和副总统卡玛拉·哈里斯已认识到,职业女性就业危机已成为“全国性紧急情况”。

疫情导致学校、托儿所和女性劳动力主要从事的服务型企业关闭,这也是引发危机的导火索。根本原因包括:美国普遍缺乏廉价托儿服务;职场父母没有育儿带薪假期;雇主一直未缩小薪水的性别和种族差距;男性普遍不愿意承担无薪的家庭工作负担,而且这种情况已持续很长时间。

“让所有人都回家暴露了性别不平等的创伤,”美国人口普查局首席经济学家米思提·海格奈斯表示。

治愈创伤需要彻底改革政策,拜登在提出的经济刺激方案中就提到了一些。要想真正实现,就需要雇主持续努力,不管是现在,还是疫情结束后,都要改变招聘、晋升、发薪和回聘女性的方式。

“疫情揭示了很多藏在表面之下的事实,”Verizon的首席人力资源官克里斯蒂·潘比安基表示,“每年增加几天带薪假期,并不能解决规模如此庞大的问题。”

——玛利亚·阿斯潘

心理健康危机

在关于超级英雄的节目中,有句台词准确描述了集体创伤时刻:“悲痛,不就是爱的延续?”

这并不是全新概念。毕竟,悲伤的本质就是失去所爱的感觉。不过,迪士尼节目《旺达幻视》中一段简单对话,却真正触及了疫情中深入人们灵魂的感受。

过去一年里,美国人一直深感孤独而且压力巨大,还普遍陷入了怪圈:“9·11也是创伤,但过段时间就结束了。这次创伤仍在持续,生活也发生翻天覆地的变化,”哥伦比亚大学复杂悲伤中心的创始主任凯瑟琳·谢尔博士说。这对全美应对心理健康危机,以及行业应对危机的方式都会造成广泛的影响。

在过去一年,最大的变化是专注心理健康的远程医疗行业增长。截至2020年底也就是疫情真正开始9个月后,虚拟和基于文本的心理健康服务使用率都出现飙升。

Ginger等初创公司的利用率与疫情之前相比出现大幅飙升,根据虚拟精神病护理就诊类型的不同,增长率在150%到300%之间。

兰德公司智囊团一项研究发现,由于疫情期间亲自前往医院很不安全,在求助虚拟医疗服务的人里,有54%希望解决精神层面的问题,而不是身体本身出了毛病。

这些只是很小的案例。其他业务,例如IBM软件部门Red Hat等纷纷紧急任命首席执行官并部署相关措施,解决全民隔离时代员工的焦虑和抑郁情绪。

尽管精神健康问题无处不在,但它通常都被放在各项疾病后面。疫情暴露了精神健康问题,也为创新型公司提供了出头的机会。尽管在病毒的阴影下,业务和需求都可能保持增长,底层社区以及没有高速互联网的社区仍然很落后。

如果真希望精神保健可持续发展,不仅要消除耻辱感,还要破除影响人们寻求必要治疗的结构障碍。

——锡·穆克吉

大学校园经历的损失

插图:Veronica Cerri

如果让毕业生找出大学经历中最珍视的部分,答案应该几乎都跟课程内容无关。通常最让人铭记于心的是人际关系,和后来成为终身朋友的同学、教授、队友、教练、导师等人的关系,还有亲身经历。

然而疫情使得人际关系出现了倒退。北卡罗来纳州中央大学大四学生珍妮·戴维斯在接受校园节目“在线回音”时说:“就是不一样了。”

今年春天,许多学校都在努力提供面对面上课机会,结果却与传统的大学生活相差甚远,主要是由于严格的限制。举例来说,弗吉尼亚大学除了上课、吃饭、独自锻炼或接受病毒检测,都禁止离开宿舍。

有些大学食堂只开放外卖。由于病例激增,新罕布什尔大学、密歇根大学、克拉克森大学等多所学校本学期只提供数天或数周的网课。

宾夕法尼亚州一名大三学生告诉《时代周刊》:“感觉只是在看视频,不像在上课。”

除此之外,体育赛季纷纷被缩短甚至取消。12月份的美国十大联盟的俄亥俄州立大学与西北大学比赛场面相当超现实和悲惨,容纳7万人的体育场里,观众只有球员家属和工作人员。

对于社交控的一代来说,这可能是最糟糕的情况。他们担心错过的恐惧成真了,而且他们确实错过了大学最有意思的部分。很多学生和家长都对此感到很愤怒。

BryanCave LeightonPaissner律师事务所声称,学校已收到257宗集体诉讼,该事务所负责为大学辩护。虽然学校的做法迫不得已,学生还是坚持应该部分退款。

在某些案例中,学校根据合同法细节进行了有效的辩护,然而事实是学生的主张没错。学生花钱却没有享受应有的大学生活,而且看不到希望。这简直太糟了。

——葛继甫

TikTok大爆发

TikTok既是疫情中的英雄也是受益方,封锁期间该应用为全世界数亿人提供了急需的联系和娱乐,也在用户数和收入方面获得了巨大收益。仅在2020年,该应用就吸引了1.81亿用户,成为当年下载量最多的应用,其中一季度全球各地刚开始封锁时下载量最大。

去年TikTok上受欢迎的视频多种多样,包括了模仿居家办公表现最差的同事、对于疫情期间消失的积极氛围的感叹,还有那些永远受人关注又不可描述的片段。

除了偶尔的阻碍,去年堪称TikTok相当辉煌的一年。特朗普宣布可能对该应用发布禁令时,从Z世代到几乎每代人都在表达反抗。

根据App Annie的数据,虽然疫情期间几乎所有应用的用户使用时间都有所增加,但TikTok在美国的同比增长率达到325%,甚至超过了Facebook。

去年,美国TikTok用户平均每月使用21.5小时,而Facebook用户平均每月使用时间为17.7小时。

随着新冠疫苗的推出,人们可能会走出隔离,减少在社交媒体上花的时间,不过预计2021年TikTok仍会保持增长。2020年,TikTok是全球下载量最大的应用,在全球消费者支出中排名第二,仅次于Tinder。

Hootsuite发布的《2021年社会趋势》报告显示,今年只有14%的营销商计划在TikTok上增加广告支出,说明虽然应用的文化持续增长,变现仍然面临挑战。

——麦肯纳·摩尔

疫情分层

去年春天的第一次封锁开始时,除了联邦政府认定为“一线员工”的人,很多人都要居家隔离。医护人员、杂货店员、送货司机、公交员工,还有一些没法完全居家生活的人们受到病毒传播的严重影响。

居家办公者和户外工作者之间出现分裂,而且明显存在阶层(以及种族和性别)界线,割裂格外明显。

疫情期间,阶层分界标志越发清晰。有远程办公阶层和现场工作阶层;远程办公的人员中,也分为拥有可靠互联网和稳定家庭环境的人和没条件的人。

Zoom和其他视频应用暴露了美国人的家庭状况,同龄人通过观察彼此住在大公寓还是小房间里就很容易判断。疫情初期,新冠病毒检测还很稀罕时,检测也能区分阶层,有钱人和名人可以接受测试,还有无法检测的阶层。

去年4月,社会分为有能力支付房租的人,以及三分之一无力付房租的人。

此外还有在职与创历史纪录的失业者之间的分别,而且失业者大部分是女性。

全球范围内贫富差距扩大。富裕国家一直在抢购疫苗,发展中国家在疫苗接种方面面临落后的风险。一些专家表示,排在最后一批的国家可能要等到2024年才能接种疫苗。

——凯伦·袁

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

编辑:徐晓彤

距离《财富》杂志宣布美国和欧洲员工居家办公,已过去整整一年。回首去年通知居家办公的邮件,仿佛在看时间胶囊一般。去年此时人们都在强调清洁和消毒,如今回头看才知道,光靠消毒对抗疫情其实是在浪费时间和资源。

商务旅行纷纷取消,公司还提供了关于居家办公的培训。最值得注意的是,起初宣布办公室关闭的时间仅为一周:“下周我们将重新评估是否有必要延长临时居家政策,并通报最新情况。”

然而,从那之后我再也没回过办公室.

疫情以前所未有的速度改变着世界的方方面面。似乎一夜之间,原本古怪的生活方式(比如穿着紧身裤跟客户在Zoom上开视频会议)都变得很正常。

与此同时,朋友、家人、同事和社区的生活也出现重大变化,而且这种影响可能是长时间的。经历了全球性疫情之后,人们的工作、饮食习惯、育儿,甚至集体时间观念都发生了巨变。

《财富》杂志的15位员工报道了生活中一些最明显的变化,其中有一条肯定没错,在经历了如此突然的大混乱之后,几乎没人不受影响。

未来一年对世界的重建和改造也要牢记一个事实:满怀同情和理解可以帮人们变得更强大。

居家办公

在过去一年中,Zoom视频会议轰炸,口罩行业暴利,还有视频瑜伽课,各种信息接踵而至,在疫情造成的诸多变化中或许没有比居家办公影响更深远的事了。

疫情中全球各地的公司被迫关闭办公室,有的甚至是提前一天才通知。很多人搬离了公寓,选择更便宜或更安静的地方。不少公司直接将总部挪了地方。

刚开始一段时间,居家的人们感觉从日常压力中解脱。原本忙碌不堪的城市再没出现交通堵塞。

对公司来说,水电和经营成本方面也节省了大量资金,还一度认为昂贵的办公室其实也没什么必要,即便没有实体办公地点,业务似乎也能运转良好。

现在一年过去,办公室生活可能再也不会像以前一样了。

其实,能居家办公在一定程度上已经算是高端职业了。如今在街上就能明显发现,远程工作的人和无法居家办公的人群,比如交通、医疗或零售业员工之间出现了鸿沟。

随着办公室关闭,餐厅和午餐饭店的大量工作人员、清洁工等人统统失业。斯坦福大学经济学家尼古拉斯·布鲁姆称之为“引爆不平等现象的定时炸弹”。

尽管种种混乱现象令人痛苦,但多数远程办公的人们表示,疫情最终结束时,希望能选择工作地点,很多人更希望能将办公室和居家灵活结合。这是巨大的转变,企业可能得花多年才能解决。

是的,企业可节省数百万美元的水电费和租金。同时还促进了工作效率,减少不必要的会议或长途通勤花费的时间。

但如果居家办公一直持续下去,损失可能同样巨大。刚进入职场的人们居家办公很难保证效率。研究表明,面对面交流对激发新创意至关重要。Gmail、谷歌新闻和街景都源于谷歌总部免费午间大餐上的闲聊。

即使办公室重新开放,方便人们面对面工作,很多人也认为办公环境需要大调整,要有无接触电梯,还有间距较远的办公舱。

到最后这些可能是最简单的部分,最难的是企业如何适应全新的居家办公时代。

——薇薇安·沃特

时间观念扭曲

去年3月英国疫情爆发时,利物浦约翰摩尔大学助理教授露丝·奥格登正在休产假,在家照顾刚出生的小女儿和另外两个孩子。由于只能待在家,条件也有限,每一天都感觉无比漫长。

奥格登主要研究人类对时间的感知,她想知道是否每个人都有这种感觉?所以她做了研究。结果显示并不是所有人都跟奥格登感觉类似,在604名受访者中,多数表示全国封锁期间感觉时间有所扭曲。

疫情期间对时间产生奇怪的感觉并不出奇,在过去一年里人们经常忘记今夕何夕,还有人表示,每天的生活很像电影《土拨鼠之日》(男主角发现每天自己都困在一天之内,每天醒来之后都在重复昨天的生活。——译者注)。这种描述并不算夸张。

去年疫情的突然来袭颠覆了正常生活,也基本上将人们与例行的日常程序和活动彻底隔绝,包括工作、学校、约会、社交、体育活动、仪式、旅行,还有一些计划和期待的事等等。

奥格登解释说,生活中没有特定日子后,往往变得一片模糊。

对于疫情期间能居家办公的人们来说,由于工作和家庭之间的界限崩塌,工作日更加灵活,时间扭曲的感觉也更复杂。

如果没法真正离开虚拟办公室,那工作日究竟是何时开始,又何时结束?

当然,早在几十年前,科技就已然开始侵蚀工作和家庭之间的界限,员工也分为喜欢划清边界的“细分者”和更灵活的“综合者”。不过宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院管理学教授南希·罗斯巴德等专家表示,疫情导致趋势加剧。

研究表明,远程办公者工作量增加。哈佛商学院的研究团队分析了全球约310万名员工的会议和邮件大数据,发现疫情期间工作日平均延长了48.5分钟。微软抽样调查时发现,员工在晚上、午餐和周末,也经常需要工作。

不过奥格登也表示,疫情期间人们的生活方式也更加个人化。

根据她的研究,而且是从英国第二次封锁中得到了类似的结果,大约40%的受访者感觉时间比平常慢一些。而另外40%的人则感觉过得更快。

奥格登发现,差异主要归结于几个因素。对于忙忙碌碌,对社交活动很满意而且没有压力的人来说,时间过得很快。而对于孤独、无聊、感觉焦虑和抑郁的人来说,时间过得很慢。

不管经历如何,疫情带来的影响会是长期的影响吗?专家预计,工作日会比以前更灵活,至少一段时间内,人们可能更珍惜自己的时间,对于时间的利用也会更小心。

“我们意识到,一年的时间相当重要,”拉瓦尔大学心理学教授,也是《感知时间:你的问题有答案》一书作者西蒙·格罗丁表示。

不过讽刺的是,他认为随着时间流逝,人们珍惜时间的感觉会逐渐消失。

——艾瑞卡·弗赖伊

健身方式

疫情初期,稀缺的不只是卫生纸。对常年泡在健身房的人们来说,用不上哑铃,还有苦苦等待Peloton动感单车和跑步机送货,充分体现了疫情期间健身文化的巨变。

地区封锁后,健身中心和精品舞蹈、杠铃和瑜伽工作室纷纷关门。有些地区甚至连户外运动都受限制。就像疫情时代的众多其他方面一样,突然之间健身也变成了家庭活动,业余运动员们纷纷把地下室、车库或公寓角落改造成个人健身空间。

然而类似转变对实体健身房来说着实是个坏消息,曾经热闹非凡的健身房都开始为生存挣扎。众多商家纷纷关门停业。

疫情对家庭健身器材制造商来说则是巨大的好消息。最近一个财年,由于Peloton公司的动感单车联网设备和按需应用,销售额翻了一番达到18亿美元。最近一个季度,联网用户数达167万,应用用户数62.5万,比之前一年分别增长了134%和472%。

Hydrow的划船机售价每台2200美元,公司称疫情期间销售额猛增了400%,6月还筹集到新一轮2500万美元资金以扩大消费者直销业务。

健身服装零售商Lululemon斥资5亿美元收购了壁挂式屏幕制造商Mirror,方便向用户提供健身服务,也是笃定即便疫情缓解,健身家庭化趋势仍会持续火爆。

不过疫情期间为了满足运动需求,高端运动器材背后也有低端技术的替代品。Zoom上就有一位很受欢迎的教练,上视频瑜伽课时用装满书的背包当负重练深蹲,还有人在6米长的后院里独自跑马拉松。

全世界都渴望疫情消退,希望生活回归“正常”,不过居家健身的趋势可能比限流规定和保持社交距离的习惯更持久。

去年12月“新消费者”和Coefficient Capital联合发布的调查发现,疫情期间76%的消费者转而在家锻炼身体,66%的人表示更喜欢在家健身。健身课和拥挤的举重室里能培养的友谊,都可以靠科技重现,如今在家锻炼又很便利,也没那么多借口翘课。

——克莱尔·齐尔曼

再次感谢一线工作者

隔离期间,人们大多需要依靠餐馆员工和送货员的服务。

通过加州大学旧金山分校的一项新研究,可以更深入了解这些默默无闻的工作者的生活状态。结果表明,疫情期间死亡风险最高的是厨师,而不是医护人员。

研究结果与大量数据基本一致,即便没有疫情肆虐,在美国做与人密切接触的基础工作不仅身心受困,还要面临巨大的危险。

厨工、仓库工人、公交车司机、保管员、商店职员,还有其他从事类似工作的人,通常住在拥挤不堪的房子里。至于福利,例如资本市场、教育和医疗保健等往往遥不可及。这群人主要包括黑人、棕色人种、农村居民或移民。未来几年里,很多工作都可能被自动化取代。现在随着社区整体遭受经济损失,人们在疫情后的处境堪忧。

麦肯锡的研究显示,诸多非裔美国家庭面临巨大的贫富差距,美国白人家庭的财富中位数达到黑人家庭中位数的10倍之多,而且这一差距可能永远无法缩小。

如何对一线人员表达感恩?有些新做法就是不错的开始,比如对外卖小哥和快递小哥给予更多的包容。

但如果疫情后任由这些人变回默默无名的螺丝钉,那将是社会无法承受的错误。现在需要重新启动系统,向一线员工提供再培训或“技能提升”,从而应对数字化和自动化的未来,这还只是一部分。

感恩意味着清醒看待一线员工经常面临的真正障碍:薪酬待遇、移民改革、育儿、经济型贷款和失业保险等。是时候确保一线员工的利益了。

毕竟,如果没有他们,人们还如何生活?

——埃伦·麦吉尔特

疫情短缺纪实

对美国消费者来说,在过去一年中短缺现象一个接一个。去年3月,随着全美各地政府实施封锁,消费者担心物资匮乏,于是人们纷纷在恐慌中,大量囤积各种必需品,尤其是卫生纸。(后来一度导致坐浴盆紧缺。)

人们在得知接触所有物体表面之前都要消毒之后,去年春天Clorox湿巾成了最热门的产品。2021年初也一样,该公司认为湿巾供应要到年中才能恢复正常。

最初的混乱之后,人们意识到杂货店和仓储超市里的必需品并不会短缺,便开始关注于打发时间。

到了5月,美国自行车店里已经没有低端品牌,想买杠铃也找不到了。运动与健身行业协会表示,2020年至少骑一次公路自行车的美国人数量同比增加了14%。

夏天一到,户外家具迅速紧俏。

之后在接下来一个月里,购物者不得不面对另一个问题,很多商店要求要么准确支付零钱,要么使用电子支付,硬币很难找。

消费者的麻烦还不算完。

8月,由于美国人疯狂烧烤,很多商店的木炭卖空。夏季一结束,消费者还得面对3月零售商和服装制造商恐慌之中取消订单造成的影响,当时商家担心几个月后商品可能大量积压。结果从Crocs洞洞鞋到运动服饰安德玛,商店里空空如也。

转眼到了10月,家庭健身热潮中动感单车Peloton的订单已堆积如山,只得收购了一家制造商增加产量。

去年11月,餐馆和屋主们拼命抢购露台取暖器。一个月后,随着户外运动热潮持续,滑雪板和雪地鞋被抢购一空。(今年1月则变成越野滑雪板全卖光。)

今年2月也是疫情后第12个月,一种并不是由消费者直接购买的,但对各种行动都很关键的一种产品出现了短缺,就是硅芯片。芯片短缺导致美国汽车工厂关闭,消费类电子产品发货推迟,还有其他诸多领域,充分证明了即便病毒得到遏制,疫情的影响也仍会持续。

——王波非

职场父母要考虑很多问题

数十年来,职场父母面临的挑战很直接,如何找到负担得起的托儿服务?怎样接送孩子上下学?工作和家庭生活上的时间如何平衡?

疫情持续一年后,职场父母的顾虑变得没那么明确。考虑的因素越来越多,包括考虑日托会不会影响健康,以及如何应付孩子上网课和居家办公。对于仍然要上下班的父母来说,情况更为复杂。

如今唯一确定的是,当父母比以前更艰难,尤其是对女性来说,因为疫情中妈妈承担的压力显著增加。

外界确实提供了一些帮助。有些公司放宽政策为在职父母提供便利,或者提供额外福利,比如免费托儿支持或再就业培训,让以往必须前往一线上班,而如今要照顾孩子的员工远程工作。

与此同时,美国最新的疫情救济方案也将获得拜登总统批准,其中包括为托儿机构提供4000万美元,并将儿童税收抵免扩大到每个儿童3000美元,其中6岁以下儿童税收抵免力度更大。

不管具体情况怎样,未来几个月甚至几年内,职场父母,尤其是被迫离开工作岗位的母亲,都可能感受到疫情对家庭和事业的影响。

——艾玛·海克利夫

食欲变化

去年春天病毒席卷全球之际,有个趋势愈发明显,即全球各国在食物问题上反应基本相同。从哥伦比亚到保加利亚,到处都有餐馆和酒店关门,昂贵的特色菜不见踪迹,很多人囤积豆类和其他主食。

根据美国农业部对外农业服务局的报告,以前依赖外卖和餐馆的人,几乎足不出户在家做饭(尤其是烤面包),还开始选择既能维持生存又熟悉的经济型食品。

其中一些习惯改变的主要推动因素是疫情导致的食物短缺和囤积恐惧。一年后,相关担心已基本上消失。在大多数地区,粮食运输延误只是暂时现象。不过人们的饮食方式已发生改变,而且可能长期继续。

第一个变化是全世界粮食不安全感加深,疫情扩大了能否获得与能否负担得起营养食品的人们之间本就存在的鸿沟。联合国粮食及农业组织估计,仅在2020年全球营养不良人口就增加了8300万人到1.32亿人之间。

同时,人们淘汰精加工美食,改为健康饮食。美国农业部最新报告指出,从泰国到俄罗斯再到萨尔瓦多,对健康的全麦食品需求激增,特别是公认能增强免疫系统的食品,主要因为人们改为自己做饭,也希望健康食品能抵御疾病。富裕国家对有机食品的需求急剧增加。

不过很多家庭因为受到疫情带来的经济压力,做好节省膳食开支的规划,这也意味着减少冲动购买食物。

最后,食品巨头可能会发现新趋势,从约旦到希腊再到美国,在线商城购物和送货前所未有地激增,人们吃饭或购物的行为习惯可能会永久性改变。

——凯瑟琳·邓恩

曝光不平等

过去一年新冠疫情对人类生活和经济造成了毁灭性影响。但这种影响既不均衡也不公平,因为某些社区受到的破坏比其他地方更严重,一些群体财富富余甚至会增加,而其他一些群体财富却在萎缩。女性、少数民族和穷人遭受的痛苦更为严重,因为病毒暴露且加剧了先前就已存在的卫生、经济安全和福利差距,美国结构性不平等的状况格外凸显。

影响不均最明显之处可从不同社区的死亡率中体现。在美国,每1000名白人中有1.2人死于新冠病毒,而每1000名西班牙人中有1.5人死亡,每1000名黑人和美国原住民有1.7人死亡。死亡比例差距反映了美国人获得医疗服务方面的巨大差距,以及有色人种从事一线工作请病假也更加困难的现实。

由于越来越多女性和有色人种在服务业工作,而相关行业受疫情冲击更严重,失业也存在种族和性别差异。对于没接受过高等教育,或者因为要照顾子女或老年人没法朝九晚五的人们来说,服务性工作通常是最好的选择,甚至是唯一选择。这场疫情恰恰暴露了与白领和工薪阶层相比,服务型岗位是多么不安全。

在疫情封锁后减少的岗位中,约60%涉及女性。更多女性不得不留在家里放弃工作,照顾封校的孩子,经济损失估计达3410亿美元。

从去年1月到6月,黑人员工失业率翻了一番,多达到15%,而白人员工最高失业率仅为9%。美国劳工统计局数据显示,到2020年底,黑人失业率仍保持在10%,而白人失业率不到6%。经济政策研究所数据显示,一定程度上因为只有20%的黑人员工可以居家办公,白人员工有30%,而亚裔员工达37%。

该差距也导致诸多后续经济效应。2月份,五分之一黑人家庭宣称食物不足,相比之下食物出现问题的拉美家庭和白人家庭分别为18%和8%。

另一项针对拖欠房租的调查显示,截至今年2月,29%的黑人租客、22%的拉丁裔租客和13%的白人租客承认付房租有困难。

虽然所有学生都因课时减少和缺乏面对面学习经历受到影响,学校因疫情关闭对有色人种的打击也更严重。麦肯锡一项分析显示,根据去年在25个州的评估,学生掌握的数学和阅读知识能达到正常年份67%和87%。在有色人种学生为主的学校,数学和阅读成绩分别为正常年份的59%和77%。相关数据和其他很多数据点一样,暴露了疫情之中社会对弱势成员的关怀不足。

——亚伦·普莱斯曼

远程学习

转向远程学习对传统学校教育、弱势学生以及家长职业和心理健康来说都是灾难。不过也有证据表明,在家学习也让很多孩子受益匪浅,这会让人反思家长平时如何教育和照顾孩子。

疫情之前和之后的各种研究都发现,在线远程学习根本无法取代课堂体验。缺乏人际互动和社交参与似乎会损害知识记忆,其中年纪小的孩子适应能力最差。

跟疫情诸多影响一样,受创最深的还是穷人、少数族裔和女性。美国20%的学生没有电脑,甚至没有接受远程教育的网络连接,这种情况主要集中在低收入家庭。

耶鲁大学经济学家估计,由于学校关闭一年,美国最贫困社区里九年级学生可能失去25%的未来收入,而家境前20%的学生则不会遭受严重影响。

由于缺乏资源和公共支持,有色人种学生在停工期间,学习进度比白人学生慢一倍。面临心理健康问题和存在特殊需要的儿童基本失去了学校系统提供的结构化的实际支持。超过50万的职场母亲因为育儿压力增加离开劳动力市场,这一数字远比离职的父亲要多。

然而,疫情期间的居家教育可能也提供了一线希望,而且不仅针对富裕家庭的孩子。近几十年来,儿童和青少年焦虑、抑郁和自杀激增。虽然人们非常关注社交媒体在这一趋势中的作用,而实际上,这种情况早在Instagram出现之前就已出现。

许多专家认为,罪魁祸首是儿童和青少年日益严格和忙碌的生活。有个指标非常令人不安,根据2018年范德比尔特大学对儿童医院入院情况的分析,在校期间有自杀念头的年轻人和自杀未遂人数均出现激增。

这或许可以解释,为何非政府组织在学校停课初期进行的横向调查发现,远离传统学校限制后,孩子自称平静、独立和责任感水平均有所提高,大多数家长表示孩子不去学校很快乐。

牛津大学正在进行中的一项研究发现,同一时期孤独感的水平升高,不过封锁之后的数据很少,因此对孩子的全面影响尚未可知。

但如果等式积极的一面成立,可能会推动长期的新观念产生,在“校外教育”和“自由放养”的旗帜下给孩子更多时间,不受监督地玩游戏和自觉学习。

倡导者表示,该方法有助于培养儿童自力更生并开发创意,从疫情来看,相关素质对终身成功至关重要。

——大卫·Z·莫里斯

重新拥抱大自然

有时人们需要疫情的牵绊,才能静下来欣赏一下自家后院。

2020年病毒肆虐期间,国际旅行变得不可能,“隔离”和“社交距离”等术语进入日常口语,数百万美国人只得将旅行改为户外活动。

人们涌向公园和公共场所。国家公园管理局的数据显示,虽然全国游客数量实际下降了28%,主要原因是疫情导致闭园和限流。总人数并未反映出仍然开放的公园里游客激增。

根据非营利环保组织Trust for Public Land最新发布的报告,从宾夕法尼亚州到太平洋西北部,多地官员都报告称公园游客数量急剧上升。夏天人尤其多。

2020年8月,大提顿国家公园参观人数接近历史最高纪录。7月黄石国家公园游客数量也比去年同期增长了2%,不过没有满负荷。

“随着全国各地电影院、餐馆、酒吧和商店纷纷关门,公园变成人们走出家门解闷唯一相对安全的场所,”信托基金战略和创新负责人琳达·黄在报告中写道。

危机时期美国重新亲近大自然并不是新现象。该趋势与上一次严重疫情期间非常类似。

1920年,西班牙流感在美国的致命影响消退时,美国人也蜂拥去黄石公园。据Quartz报道,当年乘火车和汽车前往观光的游客分别比之前一年分别增加了42%和21%。

多年来研究表明,多花时间参加户外活动大有益处。根据医学杂志《柳叶刀》最近研究,前往绿色空间“意味着更多体育互动,心理更健康,睡眠质量更高,压力水平更低,认知能力增加,也能更快康复。”

换句话说,逛公园与健康有一定关系。正如国家公园管理局副局长肖恩·本格在一份新闻稿中提到,受保护的土地“为人们提供了离家不远”就能改善“身心”健康的机会。

所以,隔离数月之后,新鲜空气越发甜美。

——安德鲁·马奎德

职场女性成批“阵亡”

才不到一年时间,美国职业女性辛苦30多年争取来的进步已然被抹煞。

自2020年2月以来,已有230多万女性离开美国劳动力市场,回到了1988年的水平。女性,尤其是有色人种女性原本就是经济上最脆弱的群体,还承担了疫情期间失业的打击,占去年美国失业人数的53%以上。

如今,美国总统约翰·拜登和副总统卡玛拉·哈里斯已认识到,职业女性就业危机已成为“全国性紧急情况”。

疫情导致学校、托儿所和女性劳动力主要从事的服务型企业关闭,这也是引发危机的导火索。根本原因包括:美国普遍缺乏廉价托儿服务;职场父母没有育儿带薪假期;雇主一直未缩小薪水的性别和种族差距;男性普遍不愿意承担无薪的家庭工作负担,而且这种情况已持续很长时间。

“让所有人都回家暴露了性别不平等的创伤,”美国人口普查局首席经济学家米思提·海格奈斯表示。

治愈创伤需要彻底改革政策,拜登在提出的经济刺激方案中就提到了一些。要想真正实现,就需要雇主持续努力,不管是现在,还是疫情结束后,都要改变招聘、晋升、发薪和回聘女性的方式。

“疫情揭示了很多藏在表面之下的事实,”Verizon的首席人力资源官克里斯蒂·潘比安基表示,“每年增加几天带薪假期,并不能解决规模如此庞大的问题。”

——玛利亚·阿斯潘

心理健康危机

在关于超级英雄的节目中,有句台词准确描述了集体创伤时刻:“悲痛,不就是爱的延续?”

这并不是全新概念。毕竟,悲伤的本质就是失去所爱的感觉。不过,迪士尼节目《旺达幻视》中一段简单对话,却真正触及了疫情中深入人们灵魂的感受。

过去一年里,美国人一直深感孤独而且压力巨大,还普遍陷入了怪圈:“9·11也是创伤,但过段时间就结束了。这次创伤仍在持续,生活也发生翻天覆地的变化,”哥伦比亚大学复杂悲伤中心的创始主任凯瑟琳·谢尔博士说。这对全美应对心理健康危机,以及行业应对危机的方式都会造成广泛的影响。

在过去一年,最大的变化是专注心理健康的远程医疗行业增长。截至2020年底也就是疫情真正开始9个月后,虚拟和基于文本的心理健康服务使用率都出现飙升。

Ginger等初创公司的利用率与疫情之前相比出现大幅飙升,根据虚拟精神病护理就诊类型的不同,增长率在150%到300%之间。

兰德公司智囊团一项研究发现,由于疫情期间亲自前往医院很不安全,在求助虚拟医疗服务的人里,有54%希望解决精神层面的问题,而不是身体本身出了毛病。

这些只是很小的案例。其他业务,例如IBM软件部门Red Hat等纷纷紧急任命首席执行官并部署相关措施,解决全民隔离时代员工的焦虑和抑郁情绪。

尽管精神健康问题无处不在,但它通常都被放在各项疾病后面。疫情暴露了精神健康问题,也为创新型公司提供了出头的机会。尽管在病毒的阴影下,业务和需求都可能保持增长,底层社区以及没有高速互联网的社区仍然很落后。

如果真希望精神保健可持续发展,不仅要消除耻辱感,还要破除影响人们寻求必要治疗的结构障碍。

——锡·穆克吉

大学校园经历的损失

如果让毕业生找出大学经历中最珍视的部分,答案应该几乎都跟课程内容无关。通常最让人铭记于心的是人际关系,和后来成为终身朋友的同学、教授、队友、教练、导师等人的关系,还有亲身经历。

然而疫情使得人际关系出现了倒退。北卡罗来纳州中央大学大四学生珍妮·戴维斯在接受校园节目“在线回音”时说:“就是不一样了。”

今年春天,许多学校都在努力提供面对面上课机会,结果却与传统的大学生活相差甚远,主要是由于严格的限制。举例来说,弗吉尼亚大学除了上课、吃饭、独自锻炼或接受病毒检测,都禁止离开宿舍。

有些大学食堂只开放外卖。由于病例激增,新罕布什尔大学、密歇根大学、克拉克森大学等多所学校本学期只提供数天或数周的网课。

宾夕法尼亚州一名大三学生告诉《时代周刊》:“感觉只是在看视频,不像在上课。”

除此之外,体育赛季纷纷被缩短甚至取消。12月份的美国十大联盟的俄亥俄州立大学与西北大学比赛场面相当超现实和悲惨,容纳7万人的体育场里,观众只有球员家属和工作人员。

对于社交控的一代来说,这可能是最糟糕的情况。他们担心错过的恐惧成真了,而且他们确实错过了大学最有意思的部分。很多学生和家长都对此感到很愤怒。

BryanCave LeightonPaissner律师事务所声称,学校已收到257宗集体诉讼,该事务所负责为大学辩护。虽然学校的做法迫不得已,学生还是坚持应该部分退款。

在某些案例中,学校根据合同法细节进行了有效的辩护,然而事实是学生的主张没错。学生花钱却没有享受应有的大学生活,而且看不到希望。这简直太糟了。

——葛继甫

TikTok大爆发

TikTok既是疫情中的英雄也是受益方,封锁期间该应用为全世界数亿人提供了急需的联系和娱乐,也在用户数和收入方面获得了巨大收益。仅在2020年,该应用就吸引了1.81亿用户,成为当年下载量最多的应用,其中一季度全球各地刚开始封锁时下载量最大。

去年TikTok上受欢迎的视频多种多样,包括了模仿居家办公表现最差的同事、对于疫情期间消失的积极氛围的感叹,还有那些永远受人关注又不可描述的片段。

除了偶尔的阻碍,去年堪称TikTok相当辉煌的一年。特朗普宣布可能对该应用发布禁令时,从Z世代到几乎每代人都在表达反抗。

根据App Annie的数据,虽然疫情期间几乎所有应用的用户使用时间都有所增加,但TikTok在美国的同比增长率达到325%,甚至超过了Facebook。

去年,美国TikTok用户平均每月使用21.5小时,而Facebook用户平均每月使用时间为17.7小时。

随着新冠疫苗的推出,人们可能会走出隔离,减少在社交媒体上花的时间,不过预计2021年TikTok仍会保持增长。2020年,TikTok是全球下载量最大的应用,在全球消费者支出中排名第二,仅次于Tinder。

Hootsuite发布的《2021年社会趋势》报告显示,今年只有14%的营销商计划在TikTok上增加广告支出,说明虽然应用的文化持续增长,变现仍然面临挑战。

——麦肯纳·摩尔

疫情分层

去年春天的第一次封锁开始时,除了联邦政府认定为“一线员工”的人,很多人都要居家隔离。医护人员、杂货店员、送货司机、公交员工,还有一些没法完全居家生活的人们受到病毒传播的严重影响。

居家办公者和户外工作者之间出现分裂,而且明显存在阶层(以及种族和性别)界线,割裂格外明显。

疫情期间,阶层分界标志越发清晰。有远程办公阶层和现场工作阶层;远程办公的人员中,也分为拥有可靠互联网和稳定家庭环境的人和没条件的人。

Zoom和其他视频应用暴露了美国人的家庭状况,同龄人通过观察彼此住在大公寓还是小房间里就很容易判断。疫情初期,新冠病毒检测还很稀罕时,检测也能区分阶层,有钱人和名人可以接受测试,还有无法检测的阶层。

去年4月,社会分为有能力支付房租的人,以及三分之一无力付房租的人。

此外还有在职与创历史纪录的失业者之间的分别,而且失业者大部分是女性。

全球范围内贫富差距扩大。富裕国家一直在抢购疫苗,发展中国家在疫苗接种方面面临落后的风险。一些专家表示,排在最后一批的国家可能要等到2024年才能接种疫苗。

——凯伦·袁

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

编辑:徐晓彤

This week marks the first anniversary of Fortune’s decision to ask all U.S.- and Europe-based staffers to work from home. Looking back on the email announcement is like looking at a time capsule. There was a strong focus on cleaning and sanitization, which we now know isn’t a good use of time and resources in fighting the battle against COVID-19. Business travel was canceled. Training sessions on working from home were offered. But most notable is that initially the office shutdown was scheduled for just one week: “We will reevaluate the need to extend this temporary policy next week and will communicate updates accordingly.”

I haven’t been back in the office since.

The past year has transformed nearly every aspect of our world. Seemingly overnight, the quirky (wearing leggings during a Zoom call with clients!) became mundane. Meanwhile, our friends, family, colleagues, and communities have had their lives changed in critical ways that promise to have much longer-lasting effects. Living through a global pandemic has driven dramatic shifts in our jobs, eating habits, childcare, and even our collective sense of time.

Fifteen Fortune staffers reported on some of the most significant ways in which our lives have been altered, and one lesson rings true: Virtually no one has been left untouched after 12 months of such dramatic disruption. A generous dose of empathy and understanding of that truth will make us all stronger as we rebuild and remake our world in the year ahead.

Work from home

In a year of Zoom burnout, mask profiteering, and virtual yoga, perhaps no COVID-19 phenomenon will have a more lasting impact than WFH, or work from home. The pandemic drove companies worldwide to shut their offices, sometimes at a day’s notice. By June of last year, 42% of the U.S. labor force, largely from the ranks of white-collar employees and professionals, were working from home, many shutting their apartments and logging in from cheaper or more serene locations. Similar retreats to home offices happened around the world.

For a while it seemed like a respite from daily stresses. Traffic jams vanished in cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, and Bengaluru. Companies reported saving countless millions on utilities and operating costs, and started eyeing their high-priced offices as unnecessary, since their businesses seemed to tick along fine without them.

Now, a year on, it seems possible that office life might never be the same again. For millions, working from home has come to signify higher-end employment. Indeed, the gulf is now starkly visible on the streets between those able to perform their jobs remotely, and lower-paid transport, health, or retail workers who have no WFH option. With offices shut, large numbers of canteen and lunch-hour restaurant workers, janitors, and others have lost their jobs altogether. It is a “ticking time bomb for inequality,” says Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom.

Despite such wrenching dislocations, most remote employees say that when the pandemic finally ends, they will want the choice of where they work, with many preferring a flexible mix of office and home. That is a profound shift, with which companies will need to grapple for years. Yes, businesses will save millions on utilities and office rent. And there is also saved productivity, lost before to hours spent in needless meetings or on long commutes.

But the loss from making WFH permanent could be just as big. Those only beginning their careers have struggled to be productive while working from home. And studies show that face-to-face contact is crucial for generating new ideas. Gmail, Google News, and Street View all grew out of chitchat over free gourmet lunches at Google HQ.

Even as offices begin reopening for partial in-person work, many are finding that they need a drastic redesign, with touchless elevators and distanced pods. But in the end, that may be the easiest part, as companies adjust to the WFH age.—Vivienne Walt

A distorted sense of time

When the U.K. locked down owing to the emerging coronavirus last March, Ruth Ogden, an assistant professor of psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, was on maternity leave, at home with her infant daughter and two other young children. Confined to those quarters and conditions, each day felt like a fresh eternity to her.

Ogden’s research focuses on human perception of time, and she wondered: Is everyone feeling this way? So she did an academic study. They didn’t all feel like Ogden, but the vast majority of the 604 participants reported experiencing a distorted sense of time during the country’s lockdown.

That time has been playing tricks on us during the pandemic will surprise no one who, over the course of the past year, has forgotten what day it is, or who in describing daily life has invoked Groundhog Day. There are reasons for that.

When COVID-19 abruptly upended our lives last year, it separated us, almost completely, from the routine and events that usually root our lives in time (and help us commit it to memory)—work, school, dates, social outings, sports events, ceremonies, travel, the things we plan for and look forward to. Life tends to be a blur without those anchors, explains Ogden.

For people who have been able to work from home during the pandemic, that disorienting effect is compounded by the collapsed boundary between work and home, and the now more fluid workday: When does the day begin and end when you can never really leave the virtual pandemic office?

Technology, of course, began eroding the wall between work and home decades ago—dividing employees into boundary-loving “segmenters” and more flexible “integrators”—but experts, like Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, say the pandemic has supercharged that trend. Studies show remote workers are working more. A team with Harvard Business School, using meeting and email metadata of roughly 3.1 million employees around the world, found the pandemic workday was, on average, 48.5 minutes longer. In a sample of its employees, Microsoft found they were more often working at night, through lunch, and over the weekends.

How we’ve experienced the passage of time during the pandemic, though, is more personal, says Ogden. In her study, which she repeated with similar results during the U.K.’s second lockdown this winter, roughly 40% of respondents sensed that time was passing more slowly than usual. Another 40% felt it was moving faster. (And 20%, perhaps essential workers, experienced no change.) The difference, Ogden found, came down to a few factors. For people who were busy, who were satisfied with their social interactions, and who were not stressed, time sped along. For those who were lonely, bored, and experiencing anxiety and depression, it moved slowly.

Will a year on pandemic time, however we experienced it, have long-term implications? Experts expect the workday will remain more flexible and fluid than it was in the before-times, and that—for a while, at least—people may be a bit more appreciative and thoughtful about the time they have and how they use it.

“We’ve realized that a year is quite important,” says Simon Grondin, a psychology professor at Laval University and the author of The Perception of Time: Your Questions Answered. But as the months roll on, ironically enough, he believes that sensitivity to the preciousness of time will disappear.—Erika Fry

The way we work out

Toilet paper wasn’t the only hard-to-find item in the early days of the pandemic. For gym rats, dumbbell shortages and lengthy waits for delivery of Peloton bikes and treadmills became symbols of just how dramatically COVID-19 altered workout culture.

City- and statewide lockdowns shuttered fitness center chains and boutique spin, barre, and yoga studios. In some places, even outdoor exercise was restricted. Like nearly all other aspects of pandemic-era life, exercise too was suddenly an at-home activity, and amateur athletes scrambled to turn a basement or garage or corner of a studio apartment into a personal workout space.

The shift was bad news for brick-and-mortar gyms, with once-buzzy purveyors of in-person fitness struggling to survive. Spin studio Flywheel, for one, filed for bankruptcy in September.

Meanwhile, the pandemic was an enormous boon for makers of in-home workout equipment. Peloton’s sales doubled in its most recent fiscal year to $1.8 billion, as consumers clamored for the company’s connected gear and on-demand app. The company ended its latest quarter with 1.67 million subscribers to its equipment-connected classes and 625,000 subscribers to its app, increases of 134% and 472%, respectively, from the prior year. Hydrow, which sells a $2,200 rowing machine, said its sales jumped 400% during the pandemic; it raised a fresh round of $25 million in funding in June to expand its direct-to-consumer distribution. And workout apparel retailer Lululemon paid $500 million to acquire Mirror, maker of wall-mounted screens that offer on-demand workouts, in a bet that the at-home fitness trend will remain hot even if COVID-19 eases.

But for every piece of high-end exercise equipment sold to meet the demands of pandemic-era exercise, there was a low-tech alternative: live yoga classes with a beloved instructor on Zoom, squats with a backpack full of books, a marathon-distance race, run alone in a 20-foot backyard.

The world is eager for the pandemic to subside and for life to return to “normal.” But the at-home fitness trend might just outlast the days of occupancy limits and social distancing. A survey by The New Consumer and Coefficient Capital, published in December, found that 76% of consumers have switched to exercising more at home during COVID-19, and 66% say they prefer it. Technology can re-create some of the camaraderie that exercise classes and crowded weight rooms used to foster—and the convenience of working out at home means there are fewer reasons to not show up.—Claire Zillman

Renewed gratitude for essential workers

In a world that came to rely on restaurant workers and delivery people to survive quarantine, a new study from the University of California at San Francisco offered a surprising insight into the lives of these anonymous workers. Turns out that line cooks, not health care workers, may face the highest risk of death in the pandemic. The study aligns with what reams of data now affirm: To perform essential, in-person work in the U.S. is to be both a hostage and in enormous jeopardy, even without a pandemic raging. The line cooks, the warehouse workers, the bus drivers, the custodial staff, the store clerks, and anyone doing the kind of work that makes other work possible are often living in crowded and inadequate housing. Tools for their well-being, like access to capital markets, education, and health care, are typically out of reach. They’re also primarily Black, brown, rural dwellers, or immigrants. Many of these jobs were on track to be replaced by automation in the coming years; now, as entire neighborhoods reel from economic loss, their post-COVID future is fraught. Many African American families, already laboring under an enormous wealth gap—the median white family in the U.S holds more than 10 times the wealth of the median Black family, according to research from McKinsey—may never recover.

What would gratitude for essential workers look like? The new practice of acknowledging in-person workers—there is an entire Pinterest category just for signs thanking delivery drivers, for example—is a terrific start. But letting them return to anonymity is a mistake society cannot afford to make. Nothing short of a system reboot is called for, of which the vital work of job retraining or “upskilling” to prepare the workforce for a digitized and automated future can be only one part. Gratitude means a sober look at the true barriers essential workers often face; conversations about wages, immigration reform, childcare, affordable credit, unemployment insurance, police and bail reform, even union protections. It’s time to make sure essential workers stay visible. After all, what would we do without them?—Ellen McGirt

A chronology of pandemic-fueled shortages

For American consumers, the past year has been marked by one shortage after another. In March, as government lockdowns spread across the country, consumers feared penury, and in their pandemic-fueled panic, stocked up on essentials, notably toilet paper. (That later led to a paucity of bidets.)

At the same time, as people were being told to disinfect all surfaces before touching them (remember being told not to touch a delivery package for 24 hours?), Clorox’s namesake wipes became the hottest item imaginable in early spring, and in early 2021, the company thinks the wipes’ availability will be normalized only by midyear.

After the initial chaos, as people realized grocery and big-box stores would not run out of essentials, they focused on how to pass the time. By May, American bike shops were running out of lower-end brands, and barbells proved impossible to find: The Sports & Fitness Industry Association says that 14% more Americans rode a road bike at least once in 2020 than in the previous year.

Once summer arrived in June, outdoor furniture became scarce. The following month, shoppers had to contend with yet another problem: Coins were hard to come by, and many stores were requiring exact change or electronic payments.

But consumers weren’t yet done with hassles. In August, many stores were out of charcoal as Americans barbecued their hearts out. Once summer ended, consumers had to deal with the effect of orders canceled in March by panicked retailers and apparel makers fearful of being saddled with merchandise they might not be able to unload months later. Stores ran low on everything from Crocs to Under Armour clothing.

By October, the home-gym craze was such that Peloton’s order backlog reached alarming levels, prompting the stationary-bike maker to buy a manufacturer to increase production. In November, restaurants and homeowners were buying up every patio heater in sight. And a month later, as the outdoor sports boom continued, skis and snowshoes went flying off the shelves. (In January, it was cross-country skis that were selling out.)

In February, the 12th month of the pandemic, a shortage of a product consumers don’t buy directly but is a key component in much of what they do had reared its head: an insufficient supply of silicon chips. The shortage has closed U.S. car factories and delayed shipments of consumer electronics among many repercussions, proving how long-lasting the impact of this pandemic could be even after the virus is curbed.—Phil Wahba

The many, many considerations working parents juggle

For decades, the challenges for working parents were straightforward: How do I find affordable childcare? How do I transport my kids to and from school? What’s a good balance between the time I spend on work versus home life?

But a year into the coronavirus pandemic, nothing about working parenthood is as clear-cut anymore. The number of considerations has ballooned to include weighing whether day care is a health risk and how to juggle working at home while children do online schooling. For parents who must still commute to work, the situation is even more complicated. The only constant these days about working parenthood—and especially working motherhood, as moms shoulder these pandemic burdens disproportionately—is that it’s harder than ever.

There has been some help. Some companies have relaxed their policies to make it easier for working parents, or now offer extra benefits, such as free backup childcare or reskilling so that employees who normally work in person can stay at home because of childcare obligations. Meanwhile, the latest COVID relief package making its way to President Biden’s desk includes $40 million for childcare providers and an expansion of the child tax credit to $3,000 per child, with slightly more for kids under six.

Whatever the case, working parents, and especially mothers forced out of the workforce, will feel the impact of the pandemic on their families and careers for months to come—and possibly for years.—Emma Hinchliffe

A change of appetite

As the virus swept the globe last spring, one of the more remarkable trends was manifest in how much of the world reacted roughly the same way when it came to food. From Colombia to Bulgaria, restaurants and hotels closed—taking high-priced specialties with them—and many people stockpiled beans and other staples. People who had previously relied on takeout and restaurants started cooking at home almost exclusively (especially when it came to baking bread) and loading up on affordable comfort foods that provide sustenance and familiarity alike, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Some of those changes of habit were fueled by fears of food shortages and stockpiling owing to COVID-19. One year later, those fears have largely dissipated; in most places, logistical delays to transporting food proved to be short-lived. But the way we eat has changed regardless—and likely for the long term.

The first change is the deepening of food insecurity worldwide, as the economic effects of the pandemic have widened already existing divides between those who can and can’t access, and afford, nutritious food. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the economic impact of the pandemic added between 83 million and 132 million people to the world’s undernourished in 2020 alone.

Meanwhile, for those who can afford to make the move, processed comfort foods are out—and healthy eating is in. From Thailand to Russia to El Salvador, recent USDA reports point to a surge in demand for healthy, whole foods—especially ones seen as immune-system boosting—driven by the sudden shift into home cooking and the hope that good food will ward off disease. In wealthier countries, this includes sharp increases in demand for organic food. But in many households it’s driven by the economic strains of the pandemic: Budget-friendly meal planning means fewer impulse-bought treats.

And finally, there’s one trend that food giants may find is here to stay: Online grocery shopping—and delivery—is surging as never before, finding avid customers from Jordan to Greece to, yes, the U.S. We may never eat—or shop—the same way again.—Katherine Dunn

Shining a light on inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on human life and the economy over the past year. But that impact has been uneven and inequitable, as the disease ravaged some communities more than others, sparing or even boosting the fortunes of some demographic groups while others withered. Women, minorities, and the poor have suffered disproportionately, as the pandemic exposed and exacerbated pre-existing gaps in health, economic security, and well-being, bringing America’s structurally embedded inequality into sharp relief.

This uneven impact can be seen most starkly in divergent death rates in different communities. While 1.2 out of every 1,000 white people in the United States have perished from the disease, the death toll reached 1.5 out of every 1,000 Hispanics, and 1.7 per 1,000 Black people and Native Americans. Those disparities reflect the nation’s wide gulf in access to health care, as well as the fact that people of color are more likely to have frontline jobs and less likely to be able to take sick leave.

There has also been a racial and gender disparity in jobs lost, as more women and people of color worked in the service industries that were hit harder by the pandemic. Service jobs are often the best or only option for workers who haven’t had access to higher education, or whose child- or eldercare duties preclude a more routine nine-to-five schedule. And the pandemic exposed just how insecure those jobs are compared with white-collar, salaried positions.

About 60% of the jobs eliminated after COVID-19 struck were held by women. More women also had to stay home and forgo working in order to care for kids whose schools have been closed, costing the economy an estimated $341 billion.

The unemployment rate for Black workers more than doubled from January to June of last year, rising to 15% versus a peak of just 9% for white workers. By the end of 2020, the unemployment rate for Black people remained at 10%, compared with less than 6% for white people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In part, that’s because just 20% of Black workers can work from home, versus 30% of white workers and 37% of Asian workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

That has led to many follow-on economic effects. One out of five Black households reported not having enough food in February, compared with 18% of Latino households, and 8% of white households. In another survey of those behind on rent payments as of February, 29% of Black renters, 22% of Latino renters, and 13% of white renters said they were not current.

School closures owing to the pandemic have also delivered a harder blow among people of color, though all students have been harmed by reduced hours and the lack of in-person learning. Based on assessments done in 25 states last year, students learned only 67% of the math and 87% of the reading they would have in a normal year, according to an analysis by McKinsey. But at schools with a majority of students of color, scores were 59% of a normal year for math and 77% for reading. Those data points, like so many others, underscore how COVID-19 exposed our society’s underinvestment in its less privileged members.—Aaron Pressman

Remote learning

The shift to remote learning has been a disaster for traditional schooling, the most vulnerable students, and the careers and mental health of parents. But there’s also evidence that staying home has benefited many children, raising questions about how we educate and care for them during normal times.

Both pre- and post-pandemic, a variety of studies have found that online remote learning simply cannot replace the classroom experience. The lack of personal interaction and social engagement appears to impair knowledge retention, with younger children least able to adapt.

Like many aspects of the pandemic, this burden has fallen hardest on the poor, members of minority groups, and women. Twenty percent of all U.S. students, primarily from lower-income families, lack a computer or even an Internet connection for remote schooling, while those with more resources can turn to solutions like private tutoring or small-group “pods.” Yale economists estimated that ninth graders in the poorest U.S. communities could lose 25% of their future earning potential as a result of a one-year school closure, while those in the top 20% will experience no significant loss.

Owing in part to the same lack of resources and public support, students of color stand to lose twice as much learning progress as white students during shutdowns. Children with mental health challenges and other special needs have been largely robbed of the structured, hands-on support provided by the school system. And more than half a million working mothers have left the workforce altogether because of increased childcare duties—far higher than the number of fathers making the same choice.

However, pandemic schooling may have a silver lining, and not just for the children of the well-off. In recent decades, levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide have surged among children and teenagers. While much attention has been paid to the role of social media in these trends, the spike long predates Instagram, and many experts instead think the main culprit is children’s and adolescents’ increasingly regimented and hectic lives. One deeply disturbing indicator: Suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides among youth surge when school is in session, according to a 2018 Vanderbilt University analysis of children’s hospital admissions.

That may help explain why cross-sectional surveys conducted by one NGO early on in school shutdowns found that without the constraints of traditional school, children self-reported increased levels of calm, independence, and responsibility, and parents overwhelmingly reported their children were happy without school. An ongoing Oxford study found heightened levels of loneliness over the same period, though, and data from later lockdowns is scarce, so the full impact on kids remains unclear.

But if the positive side of the equation holds up, it could be fresh fuel for a long-running movement, under banners like “unschooling” and “free-range parenting,” aimed at giving kids more time for unsupervised play and self-directed learning. Advocates say such an approach helps children develop greater self-reliance and creativity—attributes that the pandemic itself has shown are vital to lifelong success.—David Z. Morris

A renewed relationship with nature

Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to get us to appreciate our own backyard.

In 2020, a year in which the coronavirus decimated international travel and brought terms like “quarantine” and “social distancing” into the vernacular, millions of Americans turned to the great outdoors for refuge.

People flocked to parks and public lands. Although, technically, visitation declined 28% countrywide, according to the National Park Service, that dip was mostly the result of pandemic-related closures and restrictions. The total numbers fail to reflect the surge in guests that parks that remained open experienced.

Many local officials—ranging from those in Pennsylvania to the Pacific Northwest—reported dramatic upticks in park visitors, according to a recent report from the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit environmental conservation group. The summer months were particularly busy. Visits to Grand Teton National Park reached near-record levels in August 2020. Even visits to Yellowstone National Park rose 2% in July versus the same period a year prior, despite not operating at full capacity.

“As movie theaters, restaurants, bars, and stores have closed across the country, parks have emerged as the one safe space for scratching the itch to get out of the house,” wrote Linda Hwang, the trust’s strategy and innovation lead, in its report.

America’s renewed relationship with nature during times of crisis is not a new phenomenon. The trend matches how the country reacted to the last serious pandemic.

In 1920, as the Spanish flu’s deadly impact was subsiding in the U.S., Americans swarmed Yellowstone. The park recorded a 42% increase in visitors by rail and a 21% increase in visitors by automobile that year versus the year prior, as Quartz has noted.

Studies over the years have shown the advantages of spending more time outdoors. According to a recent study in medical journal The Lancet, researchers noted that access to green spaces is “associated with more physical activity, better mental health, sounder sleep, lower stress levels, improved cognition, and faster hospital recovery.”

Parks bear some relation to good health, in other words. As Shawn Benge, deputy director of the National Park Service, put it in a press release, these protected lands “provide close-to-home opportunities” for people to improve their “physical and psychological” well-being.

Thus, months of isolation make the fresh air that much sweeter.—Andrew Marquardt

The decimation of women in the workplace

It took less than a year to erase more than three decades of progress for America’s working women. More than 2.3 million women have left the U.S. labor force since February 2020, sending us back to participation levels last seen in 1988. And women—especially women of color, who are already the most economically vulnerable—have borne the brunt of the pandemic-era job losses, accounting for more than 53% of net U.S. jobs shed in the past year. Now President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have recognized the ongoing employment crisis for working women as “a national emergency.”

COVID-19, which closed schools and day cares and the service-oriented businesses that rely on majority-female workforces, was the spark that ignited this crisis. But its underlying causes—including the country’s sweeping lack of affordable childcare or paid leave for working parents; employers’ persistent failures to close the gender and racial gaps in what they pay workers; and men’s general unwillingness to shoulder an equal burden of unpaid caregiving and other domestic labor—have been accumulating for much longer. “Bringing everyone back into the house exposed the wound of gender inequality,” says Misty Heggeness, a principal economist with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Healing that wound will require sweeping policy changes, some of which Biden’s proposed stimulus package includes. But it also demands sustained efforts by employers to change how they recruit, promote, pay—and hire back—women, now and once the pandemic is over.

“COVID highlighted a lot of things that we knew were right under the surface,” says Christy Pambianchi, Verizon’s chief HR officer. “Adding a couple of days a year to the company PTO bank is not going to solve a problem of this size and scale.”—Maria Aspan

A mental health crisis

There was a line in, of all things, a show about superheroes that managed to capture the tragedy of our collective moment: “But what is grief, if not love persevering?”

It’s no revolutionary concept. This is, after all, the nature of grief—that sense of loss for the things we love. But that simple piece of dialogue from the Disney show WandaVision really gets to what we’ve been feeling in our bones over the course of this pandemic.

Americans have been isolated, stressed out, and generally thrown for a loop in the past year: “9/11 was traumatic, but it was over after a while. This is just ongoing, and it’s turned our lives upside down,” says Dr. Katherine Shear, the founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Complicated Grief. And that’s had wide-ranging implications for the country’s reckoning with a mental health crisis and what industries can do to address it.

The biggest change over the past year comes in the growth of the telehealth industry focused on mental health. By the end of 2020, some nine months after the pandemic began in earnest, usage of virtual and text-based mental health services soared.

Startups such as Ginger saw astronomical growth in utilization rates relative to the pre-COVID era—ranging from 150% to 300% depending on the type of virtual psychiatric care visit. A study conducted by think tank Rand Corporation found 54% of those seeking access to virtual medical care, a necessity when going to a hospital in person may not be safe, were looking for psychiatric services rather than physical health treatment.

Those are just some small examples. Other businesses, such as IBM’s software arm Red Hat, have rushed to appoint chief people officers and deploy measures to address their employees’ anxiety and depression in this era.

Mental health has typically been put on the back burner of American maladies despite its omnipresence. The pandemic laid it bare, offering an opportunity for innovative companies to take a stand. And while that business, and the demand for it, may be growing under the specter of the pandemic, underserved communities and those without the savvy or privilege of a fast Internet connection are still being left behind. For a virtual space for mental health care to be truly sustainable, it must rely not just on the tearing down of stigma but of structural roadblocks that prevent people from getting the care they need in the first place.—Sy Mukherjee

A diminished college experience

Ask any college graduate to identify the most valuable parts of their college experience, and the answer is almost never about course content. It’s usually about relationships—with classmates who become lifelong friends, professors, teammates, coaches, advisers—and about experiences that happen only in person, some of which one neglects to mention to parents. The answer is mostly about stuff that has been eliminated or throttled way back in the pandemic. North Carolina Central University senior Precious Davis spoke for millions when she told the school’s Campus Echo Online: “It just isn’t the same.”

Many schools are trying hard to offer in-person classes this spring, but the result is far from the traditional college experience. Restrictions are severe. The University of Virginia, for example, has barred students from leaving their rooms except to attend class, get food, exercise alone, or get tested for COVID-19. Some colleges’ dining halls are open only for takeout. Several schools—the University of New Hampshire, the University of Michigan, Clarkson University, many others—have gone online-only for days or weeks this semester as cases have surged. A Penn State junior told Time, “You simply feel like you’re watching videos and you’re not part of the class.”

Sports seasons have been shortened or canceled. The Big 10 football championship game in December—Ohio State vs. Northwestern—was a surreal and pathetic scene: The only attendees were family members of the players and staff in a stadium that seats 70,000.

For the FOMO generation, this is about the worst thing that could happen. Their fear of missing out is justified; they really are missing out on the best parts of college. Many of them, and their parents, are angry. They’ve filed 257 class-action lawsuits against schools, says the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, which defends universities in some of these suits. While the schools had to do what they did, the students insist they deserve a partial refund. In some cases, the schools have an effective defense in the niceties of contract law, but the truth is, the students are right. They aren’t getting what they paid for, and there isn’t any silver lining. It’s just lousy.—Geoff Colvin

TikTok’s big moment

TikTok was both a hero and a beneficiary of the pandemic, providing hundreds of millions of people worldwide with much-needed connection and entertainment during lockdowns, while gaining immensely in users and revenue. In 2020 alone, the app raked in an estimated 181 million users, making it the most-downloaded app of the year, hitting its peak during Q1, when the pandemic’s first lockdowns spread across the globe. The most popular videos on TikTok last year ranged in topic from a parody of your worst work-from-home colleague, to the type of positive, calming vibes sorely missing during the pandemic, to the endlessly catchy yet utterly inexplicable.

Aside from a brief bump in the road, when Gen Z—and just about every other generation with them—had to confront the terrifying possibility that then-President Trump might ban their beloved TikTok, the app had a stellar year. While nearly every app experienced an uptick in time spent per user, TikTok saw 325% year-over-year growth in the U.S. to surpass even Facebook, according to App Annie. The average American TikTok user spent 21.5 hours per month on the platform last year, compared with the average Facebooker’s 17.7 hours monthly.

As COVID vaccines are rolled out and herd immunity (hopefully) ensues, people may emerge from their quarantine caves and spend less time on social media, but TikTok is still expected to grow in 2021. In 2020, TikTok was the most-downloaded app in the world, and ranked second-highest, behind Tinder, for consumer spending worldwide. Hootsuite’s Social Trends 2021 Report showed that only 14% of marketers plan to up their ad spending on TikTok this year, though, showing that even as the app’s cultural cachet continues to grow, monetizing the platform remains a challenge.—McKenna Moore

The COVID class markers

When last spring’s first lockdowns began, many became quarantined in their homes—save for those the federal government labeled “essential workers.” Health care workers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, mass transit workers, and others could not move their lives fully indoors and became disproportionately vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus. Communities became split between those working from home and those working outside the home, and that split ran glaringly along the lines of class (as well as race and gender), illuminating that divide.

Class markers have become starkly visible during the pandemic. There is the remote-work class and the in-person–work class; even among remote workers, there are those who have reliable Internet access and a stable home environment and those who don’t. Zoom and other video calls have exposed the insides of Americans’ homes, whether they live in enormous condos or cramped apartments, to the judgment of their peers. Early in the pandemic, when COVID-19 tests were especially scarce, there was the tested class, among whom the wealthy and famous could access tests, and the untested class, who couldn’t. Last April, there were those able to pay rent and the third of Americans who weren’t; then the employed and the historic number of unemployed, most of whom are women.

On a global scale, the wealth disparities are even greater: Wealthy nations have been snapping up shipments of vaccines, leaving developing nations at risk of lagging behind in terms of vaccination. Some experts say the last in line may not get the vaccine until 2024.—Karen Yuan

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