How Digitization Aids and Relieves Social Distancing

Posted on March 13, 2020

During this time of uncertainty, health and safety authorities recommend practicing social distancing. This means maintaining a safe distance from others and avoiding local public transportation. Because of this, large scale events and gatherings, such as March Madness, shows at the Met, Carnegie Hall and Broadway, and Disneyland and Walt Disney World, have been cancelled or closed. Companies are beginning to encourage employees to work from home. Now is the time to unwind, stay home with loved ones and connect in person on a small scale or digitally. 

One (very thin) silver lining throughout this global pandemic is the digitization of our lives should we need to stay home for a time. Here are five basic functions that can continue with relative normalcy as we practice safe social distancing. 

5 Functions during social distancing supported by digitization 

1. Get paid, pay bills, and transfer funds online

Digital payments have made it possible to get paid, pay bills, transfer funds, and make purchases online Perhaps without realizing it, the digitization of payments has changed how we do everything online. Employers can transfer funds digitally right into their employees’ bank accounts in almost real-time. People can pay rent, health care and utility bills, online—without ever having to physically handle money, cheques, or even go to a bank. 

Interestingly, a financial services agency, The Futurist Group, recently conducted a two-wave study on U.S. consumers and contactless payments before and after the coronavirus. Of the 3,187 Americans surveyed, about 38% now see contactless (or digital payments) as a basic need or feature of payments, up from 30% a year ago. Those who don’t need contactless payments has fallen from 41% in March 2019 to 33% in March 2020.

A World Health Organization representative explained that “money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses,” advising the use of contactless payments whenever possible. 

2. Purchase groceries online and order food delivered

E-commerce sites, restaurants with online ordering options, food delivery companies, and digital payments have all made it possible to have food delivered right to our doors. We can shop online for essentials (and non-essentials) and have them delivered directly to us within days or even hours. We can order breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, groceries, and medications online. We can support local businesses, such as owner-operated restaurants that are otherwise hurt by social distancing, by ordering their meals via phone or online for direct delivery.

3. Stay connected to loved ones digitally

It is essential to maintain contact with our friends and family members during this time. Discuss their health, wellness, safety, and happiness to ensure that they have everything they need. Applications both on our phones and computers have made it possible to connect and check-in with our loved ones and those who may need us, instantly and digitally. Of course, whenever health and distance allow for it, socializing in person (in small groups) can do wonders for our overall happiness during this time. 

4. Work online from home and connect through video meetings 

Depending on our occupations and health, we may be able to work from home and conduct meetings online. Just as applications allow us to stay digitally connected, many of these same apps allow us to stay connected to our teams via email, video, instant chats, and shared documents, for example.  

5. Entertain, inspire, and educate ourselves online

While major in-person cultural events are cancelled for health and safety reasons, there are smaller-scale ways to entertain ourselves. For example, companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, DisneyPlus, and CraveTV have made it possible to watch thousands of hours of movies and shows. Likewise, there are informative, entertaining, and inspirational e-books, podcasts, social channels, videos, documentaries, articles, news sites, articles, you name it, all available online.  
According to health and safety authorities, a few things that you can do to support yourself are to unwind, take care of your mental wellbeing and happiness, connect with others, and maintain positive thinking. Prepare yourself, but take some comfort in knowing that the digital world has options to support some of your needs and welfare. 

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