How Do We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?

As we mark the fourth year since the COVID-19 virus upended our lives, it seems appropriate to ask: are we better prepared for a pandemic now than we were in early 2020? What lessons did we learn, and how can we be prepared for the next one?

With the benefit of hindsight, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable. Yes, in the early days there was a lot of confusion and conflicting information. No doubt, there was trauma that still persists to this day.

Of course, that is unavoidable with something that spread so quickly and proved so deadly. However, the speed at which the scientific community determined how the virus was spread was remarkable. Even more remarkable was how quickly an effective vaccine was created and distributed.

While much remains unknown, one thing that is certain is that this pandemic will not be the last one we will experience. Over the last century, we have seen multiple pandemics, from the Spanish Flu about 100 years ago, to AIDS/HIV, to COVID-19 (and others as well). It seems likely that climate change will increase the likelihood of new infections. There is also the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

With that in mind, it makes sense for us to be prepared for the next outbreak. What did you, personally, learn from the experience with COVID-19? What did our local, state, and federal governments learn? The international community?

Pandemic fatigue is real, and it effects us all, to varying extents. However, the next outbreak is a matter of when and not if, so it makes sense to think about what we can do to be ready when it does eventually happen.

Related questions: COVID-19? How do you want this to change you? How do you evaluate risk? Will technology save us?

How Has Remote Work Impacted Your Friendships?

With remote work gaining popularity due to the pandemic, some employers are worried about weakening relationships between employees. But could it be impacting friendships?

For many adults, the workplace is one of the only places to consistently meet new people. Some coworkers may become friendly, and might even go so far as to socialize together outside of the office. Many deep, meaningful friendships have started in the halls at work.

Remote work threatens to change that. If you only interact with people over an online chat or in a group conference call, there are fewer opportunities to develop relationships.

Employers fear that may lead to a lack of cohesion in work-based teams. That may be the case, but it may also lead to shallow, superficial interpersonal relationships that never have the chance to grow into something deeper.

Studies have shown that the number of people — particularly men — suffering from loneliness and depression is on the rise. If one of the few opportunities for making friends is reduced or even removed, what might that mean for this data?

Of course, this concern may be overblown. People can make real, strong connections with people they mostly interact with online. It is also true that a workplace may not be the best place to look for friendships.

What do you think? Is working remotely leading to weaker connections between people, and possibly fewer friendships? Or should that be irrelevant to making friends?

Related questions: How does your personal life influence your work life? How has remote work changed your workplace culture? What makes a friendship? How do you make friends as an adult?

How Does The Pandemic Continue To Disrupt Your Life?

The Coronavirus pandemic has arguably been the most disruptive event in recent history. How has it impacted your life now?

The early days of the pandemic were by far the most disruptive, as we all struggled to adjust to the spread of the disease. This included lockdown, the adoption of facemasks, disinfecting groceries, a shortage of toilet paper, and on and on.

However, most of the immediate impacts have been alleviated. There are vaccines, and that, combined with a growing familiarity with living in a society with COVID, have seen many aspects of life return to normal. Large gatherings, including sporting events, concerts, and so on are happening again. Many people no longer wear masks. Socialization has increased.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘Freedom or security?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Is technology neutral?’


And yet, COVID is still with us. While the overall case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID are lower than in past years, they are still significant. Individuals and/or families still catch the virus, and plans are frequently postponed or cancelled even now, nearly three years into the pandemic.

Now that we, as a society, have adapted our lives to accommodate COVID, what do you find to be the most disruptive to your life? Are they things you do, other people around you do (or don’t do), or some combination of the two? Three years in to this situation, what has had the biggest impact on your life?

Related questions: What advice would you give your pre-lockdown self? How do you want this to change you? How has your work life changed? COVID-19?

How Has Remote Work Changed Your Workplace Culture?

In professions where it is possible to work from home, the pandemic has increased the frequency of working remotely. Assuming you work in such a field, how has it impacted the way you work, and the way you interact with your coworkers? Has it affected your productivity?

A big disclaimer: not all jobs can be done remotely. But for those that can, employers have been more likely than ever to allow remote work — sometimes requiring it — over the last two years.

Prior to the pandemic, many companies were reluctant to allow work from home to any great extent. There was some fear of loss in productivity. Employee interaction and bonding was a concern as well. In your experience, was this a valid fear?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Where does authority come from?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’


Assuming you work remotely, how have you seen your workplace culture change? Has not seeing your co-workers in person changed the relationship you have with them? What are the differences between a meeting in a conference room and a meeting over Zoom? Is your supervisor more or less likely to monitor what you do? Is your relationship with people in other departments — for example, HR — impacted in any meaningful way?

Related questions: What is your favorite teleconferencing platform? How will the economy be impacted by COVID-19? How has your work life changed?