News, Culture & Society

The COVID-19 Pandemic a Year On: What Has Changed?

As we mark the anniversary of the first lockdowns across the world, a full 12 months of the global pandemic have forever changed the way we live.

While much of the headlines have been about government policies and economic impacts, it’s also been a time when millions of people around the world have seen substantial effects.

  • Business owners are analysing the likelihood of recovering their trade.
  • Students are assessing their tuition subjects to identify how their long-term prospects have changed.
  • Individuals are taking stock of their pension funds, retirement plans and job stability.

Here we’ll look at some of the most significant changes and what they might mean for future employment opportunities and financial security.

Healthcare Has Become the Most Viable Global Career Prospect

We’ve seen healthcare workers celebrated, massive employment drives for medical professionals needed on the frontline, and a change in perception of how vital social care jobs are to us all.

The World Health Organisation predicts an increased demand for 18 million health workers in the next ten years. That means that today’s students have a wide range of options when it comes to exploring this sector.

Even with border closures and strict rules around international travel, healthcare workers have been the exemption. Many nations are now introducing new visa categories and incentives to attract professionals – ranging from doctors, nurses, and social care staff to mental health workers.

Growing Awareness of Mental Health Challenges

Alongside the demand for healthcare workers comes an increased awareness of how vital mental health is to our overall well-being.

The pandemic has caused a surge in such conditions, including depression, stress and even addiction. In many cases, this is because people have sought ways to cope with grief, financial losses and unemployment without the usual support structures.

Studies reflect the scale of the problem, with 74% of surveyed respondents ages 18-34 reported they had experienced mental health challenges. Across all age groups, 55% said they have also struggled during the pandemic.

There are countless reasons for this:

  • Students are living in isolation, losing peer interactions, and attending lectures virtually.
  • Inability to socialise, play sports, exercise or engage with friends to release stress.
  • Enforced distancing from families and loved ones – particularly challenging during ill health.
  • Separations in society – between who is vulnerable and who isn’t, who gets priority for a vaccination, and who doesn’t.

We all need to work together to rebuild these barriers, but in the meantime, it is vital to recognise the signs of a mental health struggle.

As employers and governments acknowledge the scale of the mental health problems the world faces, this will only increase the demand for social care professionals who can provide guidance and support across society.

Digitalised Communications and Remote Work and Study

Perhaps one of the most direct impacts has been on the way we work, and study – gone are days of busy lecture theatres and bustling offices!

With apps and remote communication platforms such as Teams, Zoom and Facetime now the norm, it’s taken a lot of getting used to.

Over time, many people will benefit from being able to meet in person again. We’re all looking forward to the days when social distancing isn’t required. Still, in the meantime, this feeds into the need to be conscious of our mental health.

What we hoped was a brief interlude into the way we communicate has now been around for over a year, and it seems likely that working from home and distance learning will stay for at least the months ahead.

The New Normal is Risk-Averse

One of the pandemic’s long-term side effects is that we, as a global population, have all become hesitant, cautious, and reluctant to take any risks that threaten the status quo.

In some ways, this has been absolutely necessary. We need to decide whether that trip to the shop is critical, how to ensure vulnerable friends and family members stay safe, and second-guess much of our regular routines.

However, the negative here is that we aren’t stepping into a brave new world, but one that has been bowed by the weight of pressure and stress.

Reports indicate that as many as 38% of people have delayed attending healthcare appointments or seeking support. They don’t want to expose themselves to the virus without due cause, and hesitancy has become the norm.

This same attitude is reflected in our financial management. Investors have been withdrawing from any higher-risk projects, and pension contributions are falling as millions of people are more focused on having an immediate cash flow buffer than preparing for the distant future.

Over time, the impact will be better known, but the need for professional financial planning has never been greater.

Whether that’s to work out your pension fund value, assess the stability of your savings, or decide on how to finance a student loan or tuition fees, it remains vital to seek guidance on any big decisions.

Financial planning isn’t just about leveraging investment opportunities, or succession planning, but is crucial to everyday finances, clearing debt, buying a home or deciding on the best pension plan.

By acknowledging all the short-term and longer-term impacts of the pandemic a year on, we can see where those changes have been most significant and start looking for ways to recover and reignite our zest for life – with all the lessons learned.