Virtual conferencing and remote work were already growing by leaps and bounds before COVID-19. But the pandemic and its myriad effects on economic sectors, business models, and workforces have turbocharged a digital revolution in companies from fields across the spectrum. The transformation is affecting virtually every facet of society, including jobs and social mores.
It’s hard to say exactly how this will all play out, but some analysts believe the impact will be so dramatic that we will essentially view American society and the economy in terms of a historical divide between pre-covid and post-covid.
Here is a brief overview of the fields most directly affected by the virtual takeover:
The legal field moved more slowly than others on virtual and remote technology prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has dramatically changed things. Law firms and in-house legal departments are already shifting into the digital sphere with greater rapidity. Secure video conference technology is now being tapped to help trial lawyers conduct mock jury consultations with surrogate jurors. Legal firms are reimagining their supply chains and organizational structures.
Earlier this summer, the world saw its first virtual federal trial, and all signs point to more remote trials in the future. The writing on the wall is that this is just the beginning of a major paradigm shift in the legal profession and industry.
Due to the regulations and safety precautions enacted during the pandemic, many healthcare providers have transitioned into offering virtual services. This includes doctors, therapists, nurses, and professionals across a wide range of health and medicine related professions. While telehealth was already a technology trend before the pandemic, the surge toward telemedicine has since gone into overdrive.
It kind of makes sense when you think about it….why would an industry ostensibly in the business of making people healthier want people to risk contracting a deadly virus? Public health officials have advocated a triage system where only seriously ill or injured patients are encouraged to seek in-person healthcare appointments. The rest are encouraged to download smartphone apps or desktop portals that allow them to virtually consult with a doctor.
Education is another field that was already transitioning into a more digital model but that has gone into overdrive since COVID-19. The reality is that while young people are less likely to die from the virus, it’s still important to keep the spread contained. By transforming classrooms into virtual conferences, teachers and students can stay safe while still learning and interacting. The number and quality of online classes are increasing all across the world.
It’s not just college and higher education that is going this route either. K-12 institutions are providing virtual programs that children can log into from home. While curriculums will likely have to be amended, in the long run, this could lead to more technologically literate kids.
We should also consider that by providing better and more accessible tools for remote learning, more kids and young adults will have access to education in the future.
This isn’t really an industry – unless you count social media and apps like TikTok – but it’s not just the economy that will be increasingly virtualized by the pandemic. The way we interact with each other is likely to evolve, too, and that has a rebound effect on the larger economic ecosystem. An increase in remote encounters and virtual friendships might sound like an episode of Black Mirror, but again, like with remote learning, the trend could help further democratize society by allowing greater access to social environments.
For example, people who are sick or have injuries or disabilities may meet important friends via an enhanced virtual infrastructure. Who knows, someday we could be interacting as digital avatars in virtual reality environments. In fact, come to think of it, we probably will and the current drive toward virtualization may someday be credited with that development.
According to one survey, prior to the pandemic only about a third of U.S. citizens worked from home using some kind of virtual platform. We won’t know the final post-covid numbers for some time, but it’s almost a certainty the percentage will be much higher. The increase in virtual conferencing and remote, digital interfaces can be seen across a wide spectrum of industries and fields and is affecting virtually every aspect of life. While it’s impossible to say what the broadest, long-term effects of this will be, we can be pretty sure that it will have wide-ranging and hard-hitting ramifications.