As lockdown lifts and social distancing eases, there will be a new “normal”. Some of the changes we’ve made and behaviours we’ve adopted will stay. Some aspects of life will have changed forever - and that change may even embrace improved and healthier ways of life. Here are some of the areas where the world might have changed for good.
Hand hygieneHand washing, which proved to be the most effective defence against the spread of disease, is likely to become second nature and remain a frequent daily habit. Meanwhile, handshakes might well be gone forever! Expect more contactless interaction in all areas of life, for instance, tapping your credit card, or swiping your own gym access card in a scanner instead of handing it over to a person.
Home is the new officeThe lockdown has been a huge experiment in working from home. It’s likely that this will be a more widely accepted phenomenon as companies have seen that people can meet work expectations without spending five days a week in an office - and that there are huge savings to be made in terms of travel time and cost, and office space rental. And now we’ve wrangled the technology and protocol for online meetings and the like, they are likely to play a bigger role in our lives.
Online shoppingMore people will have tried and tested online shopping during lockdown and found it to be a reliable, convenient and less risky alternative to going to the supermarket or the mall.
New exercise regimesWith the gyms, pools and parks closed, we’ve tried all sorts of different ways to keep fit, from online yoga to YouTube pilates to health and fitness apps, in group classes and with individual trainers, alone or with family members. If exercise was on the backburner for some before, the lockdownmight havecreated the opportunity to make time for it and underlined its importance. Regular exercisers have been forced to experiment with new sports or workouts and some of them will stick.
Wholesome hobbiesFacebook and Instagram have been awash with homemade sourdough loaves, and bread-baking has been so popular that at times flour was hard to come by. It’s not just that baked goods are delicious to eat - there’s something calming about this and other useful, non-digital hobbies like gardening, knitting and crafting that appealed in this stressful time. With outside help unavailable and fewer distractions, people will have done more house and garden maintenance, more cooking and cleaning, more reading and music making. Having rediscovered old skills and talents, some will maintain them even as isolation eases.
Living spaceBeing confined to home has made us keenly aware of our living spaces and how well they work for us. Many of us have experienced how a small garden, balcony or courtyard - somewhere to grow pots of herbs or sip morning coffee - has been a life enhancer. Some people might be drawn to smaller towns, or semi-rural areas where they have space, some self-sufficiency in growing food or moving partially off-grid and are perhaps less exposed to viruses and diseases. Others might consider multi-generational or more communal living. But one thing is for sure - we will think differently about how and where we live.
Education will be transformedThe pandemic has changed how millions of people around the world were being educated, as attendance at schools and universities was suspended and learning moved rapidly online. Outside of formal education, regular folks have used their downtime to learn anything from a new language, to computer coding to meditation. The lessons learnt in this rapid adoption of online learning will be useful in designing innovative educational solutions that operate online, or that rely on a blend of online and in-person teaching and learning.
A healthier digital lifeThere’s no denying that connectivity, social media and devices make lockdown life bearable. There were loads of funny memes and cat videos (and we needed them!) but the quality and breadth of content was simply extraordinary. Many thousands watched singer Andrea Bocelli perform in Milan one evening, famous art galleries offered virtual tours, publishers released free children’s books online. We have also used our devices for authentic connection, for fund-raising for needy causes, for offering our own skills and talents and for building communities.
Together and apartWe’ve felt the pain of being separated from friends and loved ones, and the joy of spending time with our closest family. We will appreciate even more intensely the value of our relationships, and recognise that building connections takes commitment and time. Our Zoom or Houseparty get togethers with people far away (and even not so far) may well continue.
A revolution in healthcareIn facing a pandemic, we’ve seen firsthand the inadequacies of our healthcare systems. The search is on for safer, more convenient and cost-effective ways to deliver medical care. We will likely see a rise in telemedicine - consulting over video or phone, in some instances, rather than rushing to sit in the waiting room of other sick people in order to see a doctor. There will be economic and policy challenges too - people around the world will increasingly demand universal healthcare.
Change of (travel) plansThe travel industry was brought to its knees by COVID-19. What will it be like when it gets up again? There’s no doubt that people will think differently about when, where and how often they travel. Domestic travel will probably be more appealing, at least in the shorter term, and travelers will feel more comfortable in open spaces rather than busy cities, and in their own cars or bicycles rather than tour buses or cruise liners. Business travel is likely to be reduced in favour of digital conferencing.
Moving forwardWe are going through a period of change and crisis. In the coming months, as lockdown and social distancing eases, we will find ourselves in a different world - perhaps one that has changed for the better in some ways.