When was the last time you went through the old, pre-COVID procedures of getting bills from an ATM and paying for lunch or some other small purchase with cash?
You remember–reaching into your pocket or purse for your wallet and pulling cash from it. Then digging into your other pocket or change purse and pulling out coins. Remember doing the math and calculating a little more than the cost of the purchase, figuring to get change back?
Yesterday I was at my doctor’s office, getting a prescription filled. After the clerk got my pills, I reached for my wallet to get a credit card out and asked how much the co-pay was.
That’s when it got interesting, because the clerk responded with a smile, “$2.22.” Marveling at my luck, I thought, “Gee, that’s so small I should pay in cash.”
So, I moved my fingers off a credit card and reached into the part of my wallet where I used to carry greenbacks. It surprised me when I found three bills there, a $20 and two $1 bills. Knowing I had absolutely no coins in my pocket to make up the 22 cents, I did the only thing I could do. I pulled the $20 bill out, handed it to her, and asked if she had change.
Saying “yes,” she gave me back a $10 bill, a $5 bill, and three ones. Doing the math quickly, I realized she was actually waiving the 22-cent part of the co-pay. Assuming she probably also had no coins, I thanked her and walked out of the office.
Walking across the parking lot to my car, I thought about my transaction and how different it would have been pre-Covid. I probably would have paid the full amount with exact change, bills, and coins from my pockets.
Then I began to think about all the other changes we have experienced in our post-COVID world. This minor cash transaction was just one of many.
Major changes would include the location of work. Before Covid, going to an office or other place of work daily was the norm. The daily commute from home to work and back again was the cost.
In the years before Covid, there were ongoing theoretical debates about how the age of computers had made it much more possible to work from home. But beyond debates and even arguments, there was little testing of this new idea.
During Covid, many employers yielded to health fears and told their employees to work from home. Workers realized how much easier it was to manage the responsibilities of life—like work, raising children, and handling home repair visits from technicians—while working from home. On a larger scale, employers were forced to think about all the empty desks and workspaces at their place of business for which they were paying utilities, maintenance, and taxes.
What began as a health necessity—beginning Monday, work from home, folks—has taken a lot longer to sort out as employers and employees thought about the impact on businesses of this location change. All businesses have still not changed back to asking employees to commute again, and some businesses have adopted a hybrid model and split the workweek between home and work. Our U. S. Congress is even considering making a four-day workweek the norm.
And society has put this work location question on the long list headed by the title: The New Normal.