Is there a silver lining to the pandemic? It depends who you ask.
For the executive director of the Mass Cultural Council, Michael Bobbitt, it is about the “forced” use of digital art spaces, a tool which he said artists and cultural centers had not capitalized on before the pandemic.
“Most of us, the only way to consume art was to go to this space, which meant that some people didn’t have access to it because they lived too far away,” he said. he declares. “We are seeing some audiences increasing their customer base through digital media. “
128 Business Council chief executive Monica Tibbits-Nutt said businesses and employees have proven they don’t need to be in the office five days a week.
“I think we’ve proven that not only is it better for people’s lives, like Michael said, we can spend more time with our kids, we can spend more time being able to go to dates. you to the doctor and not having to take a whole day off, ”Tibbits-Nutt said. “And I think people understand that the productivity is actually higher, we see that people are able to do more.”
Arts and culture, transportation and higher education were all represented at a webinar Thursday hosted by the Newton Needham Chamber that explored how nonprofits and businesses can successfully re-emerge from the pandemic.
Each of these sectors has been particularly affected due to public health measures aimed at ensuring the safety of people during the pandemic. Performance venues have closed, residents have stayed away from trains and buses, and college campuses have shifted to hybrid learning models, which has taken its toll on the mental health of individuals.
A survey of 473 members of the Newton Needham Chamber found that 62% were concerned about the impact of COVID on employee mental health in regards to the company’s success in 2021.
William James College President Nicholas Covino said the prolonged periods of social isolation experienced throughout the pandemic have resulted in heightened symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
“We have seen secondary trauma, pick the area, we have seen a man die on television several times. We have seen many examples in the evening news of truck mortuaries,” Covino said. “We have been through a very difficult time. And so I think the message for us is that while we can be optimistic, we have to be extremely considerate of our employees and of ourselves frankly.”
Public transport workers, for example, have experienced mental strain while adapting the sector to ensure the safety of passengers and themselves throughout the pandemic, Tibbits-Nutt said.
“It was really, really hard on the frontline workers and that’s before you came in, their coworkers were positive, their families were getting sick,” she said. “And they were put in the same stressful situation as a lot of other people, except they still had to go to work every day.”
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said the administration “tried to make what we thought was the right decision from both a public health and an economic perspective.”
“It was incredibly difficult work and incredibly consequential decisions, and literally a body of work and decisions that have never been done before, by definition, trying to figure out what should be opened under which protocols and what should. remain closed, ”he said. during the webinar.
The House investigation also found that 74 percent of their members were concerned about attracting and retaining workers. Another statistic: 80% of those polled said they were optimistic about the financial performance of their business or nonprofit for the remainder of 2021.
While there are reasons to look to a brighter future, Bobbitt explained how the pandemic has impacted the culture and artist industry. A survey carried out in March by the cultural council showed that there had been a loss of more than $ 588 million in the arts and culture sector, Bobbitt said, adding that around 30,000 jobs had also been lost.
As the industry seeks to reopen, he said consumers still lack the confidence to return to great artistic or cultural settings.
“And most of the individual artists who are struggling to raise enough income to live have lost a third of their income. So the industry has been devastated. Some people call it a cultural depression, it will take a lot of work to get it back,” he said. “I think we’re going to have another three or four really tough years before we really see a recovery.”