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Virtual is our new reality

Virtual is our new reality
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When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in February, many people expected the measures to reduce face-to-face contact as temporary. As in, we’ll close schools, offices, and businesses for a few weeks – a month tops – and that should be enough to take care of this virus. As we now know, clearly that scenario didn’t play out. Instead, here we are, several months deep into various versions of lockdown, with no clear end in sight. As we came to accept that this was going to be our reality for the foreseeable future, more and more of our lives moved online. Sure, there’s been the switch to remote work and learning, but we’ve gotten to the point where many services and activities now can be done virtually. While some of these things – like virtual tourism, or attending a concert via live stream – can’t measure up to their real-life counterparts, other things, like virtually attending therapy and the job hiring process may stick around. Here are 12 things that could stay virtual forever.

Don’t miss these virtual museums and concerts you can now see online.

Office jobs

Office jobs
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One of the biggest pandemic-induced societal shifts has been the transition to remote work – especially for people who work in an office. While telecommuting has become increasingly popular over the past several years, many employers that didn’t allow it before COVID have had to reconsider their position. Moving forward, human resources manager, Tracy Cote, says that remote work will be the norm. “COVID-19 accelerated the efforts of remote work for many companies and hiring people virtually will become a standard part of new workplace practices,” she tells Reader’s Digest. A big benefit for the company is not only the reduced overhead of smaller or non-existent office space but also a more diverse talent pool as companies will have access to potential employees who previously would have not been considered because of their location.

The job hiring process

The job hiring process
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If you’ve ever had to take the time and effort (and sometimes money) to travel to another city for a job interview only to not get the job, then you already know how much easier everything would have been if that process took place fully online. Now, thanks to COVID-19, it largely has been. And according to experts like Brian Stern, president of Modern Hire, this shift is going to be permanent. “There are a few reasons for this shift,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “For some businesses, the rise in applications they received began to come through in mass quantities during the pandemic, leaving them with little means to sift through to identify and hire top talent quickly. By adopting technology like pre-hire simulations and virtual interviewing technology, which support fast and objective hiring decisions, companies can drastically reduce logistical constraints, shorten the time-to-hire cycle and keep both employees and candidates safe amid ongoing covid-19 concerns.” for these reasons, stern says that some of his clients have opted to keep their hiring processes virtual post-pandemic. this wouldn’t be the first time that the world as we know it has changed because of a public health crisis.

Real estate viewings

Real estate viewings
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When you’re in the market for a new home, of course you’re going to want to see the property in person before buying it. But virtual real estate viewings can come in really handy as you’re narrowing down your choices, and save you the time and hassle of travelling all over to see your options and are especially important if you live out of town. That’s why Kris Lindahl, a real estate expert, thinks virtual real estate viewings are here to stay. “The pandemic accelerated the embrace of technology in real estate,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “Clients crave convenience, and tools like virtual home tours and 3D tours have been huge hits. It’s great for buyers because they can accomplish so much of their home search from their couch, and it’s great for sellers because the virtual tools weed out the non-serious buyers.” By the time a seller is asked to open their home for a tour, they know it’s a serious buyer because people have already seen and liked the property online. “We also started virtual staging consultations during the pandemic, and clients love them,” Lindahl says. “Our stagers use platforms like Zoom and FaceTime to connect with sellers. They walk us through their home. We can make suggestions and give them staging tips virtually. We still offer in-person staging, but the virtual option is very popular with many clients, and we’ll continue to offer it.”

Wondering when will things go back to normal? Here’s what a post-coronavirus life could look like.

Tax consultations

Tax consultations
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While some have long relied on online programs for doing their taxes, many still prefer to meet with their accountant in person every year during tax season. This year, those meetings looked a little different, and primarily took place virtually. According to Richard Lavina, co-founder and CEO of TaxFyle, this will likely continue, even once businesses open up again. “Because the COVID-19 pandemic set in right around the time when most Americans were filing their personal returns, and stay-at-home guidelines eliminated the option of dropping by their CPA’s, an H&R Block, or what have you to do it, they scrambled to find an alternative,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “Luckily, there’s a number of convenient, affordable, and secure platforms for tax-filing on the market today, which previously weren’t used by some simply because they preferred the old-school way – dropping off paper documents, receipts, etc.” But now that so many of our services have moved online, people may be more comfortable filing their taxes digitally. And if they still want to meet with their accountant to go over their taxes, there are always Zoom meetings.

Funerals, memorials, and graveside visits

Funerals, memorials, and graveside visits
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed public mourning and memorial services drastically. For the most part, families and loved ones haven’t been able to gather in person to comfort each other and celebrate the life of the deceased. But another result of this has been the shift to online funeral and memorial services through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook Live. “The cemetery and funeral industry hasn’t changed for thousands of years and this new development has become even more meaningful during the pandemic, and for years following,” funeral director, Joseph Schechter, tells Reader’s Digest.

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Gyms

Gyms
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With all the heavy breathing, shared equipment, and endless sweat, it’s no surprise that only 9 per cent of respondents were eager to get back to the gym in a survey by marketing agency, Klaviyo. Between free exercise videos on YouTube, gyms that have successfully pivoted to virtual, and companies such as Peloton where classes were always intended to be done in the comfort of your own home, there are endless options for working out without going to the gym.

Sneaking in these 60-second exercises can transform your body, check them out here. 

Movie theatres

Movie theatres
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While many states have allowed movie theatres to open, to date, this has put the release date of expected summer blockbusters on hold. It’s possible more companies could go the route of Universal which released Trolls: World Tour straight to streaming sources for rental, earning it close to US$100 million in less than three weeks. Add to that that only 11 per cent in the Klaviyo survey responded they’re ready to head back to the physical movie theatre and it’s easy to see how movie theatres could wind up going virtual.

Mental health therapy

Mental health therapy
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While some people genuinely prefer to see their therapist in the flesh, teletherapy has become an increasingly popular option over the past few years. It’s especially helpful for people who geographically, wouldn’t otherwise have access to mental health services. Prior to COVID, there were several restrictions in place, including regarding the online platform that was used (it had to be encrypted and things like FaceTime or Skype didn’t cut it), but out of necessity, these have eased over the past few months. And, as Dr Andrew Shatté, co-founder and chief knowledge officer of meQuilibrium tells Reader’s Digest, having teletherapy more available now is also important because “most of us are experiencing a significant increase in stress due to COVID-19 and the lifestyle changes it has brought in its wake.” But even after the pandemic, Dr Amy Cirbus, believes that teletherapy will stick around because of its availability, accessibility, and efficacy. “Virtual therapy eliminates the need for transportation,” she tells Reader’s Digest. “This allows for greater access for more people and greater efficiency of time. Scheduling is easier without the addition of drive and wait times. For those individuals who may have resisted therapy due to the stigma of driving and sitting in a waiting room, virtual appointments are a relief.”

Alcohol and drug recovery programs

Alcohol and drug recovery programs
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In addition to the usual inconveniences and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, people in drug and alcohol use recovery programs have faced another set of challenges. Typically, programmes and support meetings take place in person, but given the restrictions, programs of this nature have also moved online. Dr George Kolodner, has been using telehealth for withdrawal management over the past few months. So far he says that the outcomes of virtual treatment have been similar to those that they were achieving onsite. “Because of that success, we can see virtual models being included as part of outpatient treatment well beyond COVID,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “As an outpatient treatment provider, we strive to break down the barriers that may prevent people with substance use disorder from seeking help,” he says. “With virtual treatment services, we’ve eliminated some common barriers – such as not having the means to visit a clinic in person.” Even after the severity of the pandemic decreases, Dr Kolodner says he anticipates some patients will opt for virtual treatment.

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