Can We Coexist with COVID?

June 1, 2020

By Erin Hunter

The world as we once knew it has changed forever. Our lives at home, work, school, sports, travel, and leisure are all in a holding pattern. And worse, so many people have passed away and so many people have faced devasting blows in their lives. Life as we know it has changed. Kids are stricken from seeing their friends and classmates, parents are stuck juggling homeschooling their children while trying to hold on to their job if they’re lucky enough to still have work. Grief, sorrow, anger, isolation, anxiety, depression, helplessness, pain, poverty – together we are swirling in tornado of trauma and emotion but feel so alone.

I remember waking up one morning during the first couple weeks after the first case appeared in the US. I was still half asleep, and I thought to myself, “Woah, I had the craziest nightmare. There was a pandemic where hundreds of thousands of people were dying; and we were terrified to go out in public.” To this day, I sometimes long for just a few moments when I had the naïve thought that this could never happen in reality – where I could finally just relax and breathe normally (for once). I try to attain that moment of peace during meditation when time stands still for just a moment between each inhale and exhale. Before the pandemic, I had anxiety. During it? Exponentially more. I’m terrified for my family, for everyone I know, and for everyone I don’t know. Feeling grateful we’re still ok, but a tremendous sense of guilt and sadness for those who are not. Meditation is one essential tool that has always helped me keep going when the going gets tough. Now, I practice meditation every day.

Hopefully there will be a vaccine sooner rather than later, and treatment will provide better outcomes. But even at that point, there will be a massive void to fill in our daily lives. The void of human connection. After months of avoiding being within six feet of one-another and wearing masks, will we be comfortable to shake hands or to give each other hugs like we did last year? I’m not sure we’ll feel comfortable anytime soon.

Thankfully many of us have digital tools out there to help us stay connected virtually. Video calls, Facetime, phone calls instead of just an email. I can take my yoga class online. In-person meetings are now video conferences. The people who are lucky enough to be able to work from home have seen Zoom meetings that go on way longer than they should and meetings that are better off as a short email. Maybe it’s due to an intense need for human connection?

How should we design now that there is a lack of trust due to the inability to be physically together? Images of people shaking hands or gathering in groups or working in offices or restaurants or kids in school suddenly appear outdated… so pre-Covid.

As we adapt in our personal and professional lives, as designers, we must also adapt in how we connect with our audience. We must respect people and their need for safe distance. We must be sensitive to those who may have lost loved ones or suffered tragedies during this crisis. We cannot truly understand how everyone is feeling and why. Emotions and situations can change dramatically on a moment’s notice. So, we must listen. We must ask often. We must have empathy. And we must hold life and health as a highest priority in our messaging, our voice, and what we show visually. We are all in this together. And the only way through to the other side of this is for us all to stick together with love and respect.

“As we adapt to life during COVID, we must adapt in how we connect with our audience. We must respect people and their need for safe distance. We must be sensitive to those who may have lost loved ones or suffered tragedies during this crisis.”

Erin Hunter, Design for People

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