Obviously, the fight against Coronavirus has not stopped, but it’s hard not to look ahead to what’s next. How will having the world on lockdown affect our society in the long run?
Here are a few trends I think we’ll see going forward:
1) Work from home is here to stay—at least partially.
Absent the additional, albeit temporary, task of having to educate your own kids while at home, many people have reported being a lot more focused and productive while out of the office—not to mention the two hours a day they’re getting back. While some people report actually missing their commute—and the act of seeing new strangers every day—it wouldn’t be surprising to me if everyone who formally worked in an office does at least a day or two out of the house going forward. That’s going to significantly alter the way offices will be set up, making them less about personal space, featuring more flexible storage, and more adaptable to different groups of people coming in every day.
2) Video connections are here to stay.
Video chat isn’t new—but the concept has now been “microwaved”**—heated up for just long enough to reach that optimal temperature for mass consumption. Whereas it previously felt like a bit of a fringe use or even a bit of awkward overkill, I think now we’re once again seeing the value of faces and live human expression in our digital communication.
Expect video calls to replace audio conference calls permanently and for use cases like video dating and doctors visits to become more of the norm, especially as people grapple with the lingering societal effects of coronavirus pre-vaccine. People need more data on the quality of a connection to decide whether going outside for a stranger is worth it.
3) American voters move left on domestic issues.
Healthcare for all. Worker protections. Teacher pay.
So many policy shortcomings that left far to many people who are keeping our country running vulnerable or unappreciated are sure to be addressed in the next few years. Joe Biden may not have been as left as many were hoping—but he’s sure to be forced left by masses of people left very exposed and in need of government assistance during this pandemic.
4) American foreign policy to shift towards nationalism.
I forget who is supposed to be on what side of globalism these days—whether or not free trade is a Republican thing or a Democrat thing, but it doesn’t matter now. Expect borders to get tighter and critical manufacturing to get domesticated—because what definitely didn’t happen was the world as a whole coming together to solve this crisis. Every country seemed to retrench into fending for itself, with very little cooperation, undoubtedly costing lives. Many politicians seized upon globalization and “foreign invaders” as a scapegoat for their own shortcomings in responsiveness—but the crisis did lay bare a lot of issues with a just in time global supply chain.
5) Privacy and security under siege.
Google and Apple are going to help the authorities figure out where you’ve been and who you’ve come into contact with for the “greater good” of society.
We used to think of certain aspects of our data, like our health status, as private information. Just wait until you need to get your temperature taken to walk into an office building.
I’m not saying that’s a bad idea—but it’s a very scary slippery slope.
6) Universities are effed.
Scott Galloway wrote the take on this here but sufficed to say that if you’re not a top tier university, your days were probably numbered anyway. Going into a recession, a lot more students are going to reconsider whether mortgaging their life really makes sense economically in a world where online education has become the norm.
7) Working out from home—will be temporary for most people.
Home workouts, this may surprise you, aren’t new. Jane Fonda’s home workout VHS sold 17 million copies in the 1980’s—compare that to less than a million Pelotons currently in circulation. Sure, this quarantine is going to be a huge sales boost to connected fitness products and Peloton seems like the clear winner, but most urban dwellers will find that the gym experience is superior to turning their tiny studio apartment into a home gym. Not only that, but home workouts aren’t particularly social and classes are too much of a water cooler experience to completely go away. The quarantine may get more people working out who didn’t before, but don’t expect the boutique fitness gym trend to end anytime soon. Think of this as just a delayed defeat of New Year’s Resolutions.
8) Peak City.
New York City quickly turned into a ghost town during the quarantine. Those who could escape to family or second homes did—and quickly found that the suburbs weren’t actually that bad of a place to live. With the rising cost of urban housing and the limited space for kids, I think you’re going to see a serious migration of families, especially those with jobs that could work from home at least partially, into the burbs. Part of this will be driven by space issues, but also I think in times of crisis, families come together. Anyone who grew up in the burbs that could work from home is seriously considering going back right now—especially when it comes to issues like childcare and eldercare. With the rising costs of both and the aging of the Boomer population, a lot of people are realizing that life is more manageable when extended families are closer together.
This will also continue the trend of turning purple suburbs blue. As Democratic urban dwellers head home, the shift of the suburbs left because of healthcare and gun control will only continue.
9) The Loosening Grip on Real Estate
Imagine this thought experiment. What if we decided that the Native Americans had it right—and that “ownership” of land didn’t make any sense any more than ownership of air and water. Imagine all of the land was essentially put in a public trust, and if you wanted to use it, you could, but you paid rent into it.
If we were all renters now, essentially renting from each other, we could all put our rent and overall housing costs on hold, instead of worrying about crashing the whole economic system. Pausing evictions are only going to be the tip of the sword in a world where everyone at the same time asks for a break. How long before WeWork tenants unionize, forcing a landlord already teetering on the verge of bankruptcy to come to the table for relief? Tenant associations are going to get a major leg up post-coronavirus and into this recession and landlords will have to contend with a new economic normal.
10) New and improved kids.
Kids kind of like doing the opposite—so when you force them in front of a screen all day for school and tell them they can’t go out and play with their friends, all they’re going to want to do is go outside and play with their friends instead of more screen time.
Even if your kid does have an increase in overall screen time, there are still large swaths of the day that need filling—and kids are going to have to become a bit more creative to entertain themselves. Passive consumption of media is going to get replaced by large scale in person organization and coordination of family TikToks—where the creation is just as fun as the viewing. Kids are getting much closer to their families as their main source of connection and entertainment during this time—and more parents are appreciating what it means to be home for dinner. Some of those meals, in fact, are under kid supervision. I’ve now been on several virtual networking lunches where parents were eating lunches made by their kids who probably learned their way around the kitchen on Youtube or TikTok.
Expect to see a lot of positive trends coming out of this for kids—an appreciation for being outside, more connections to extended family, and increased creativity. Couch fort construction is definitely on the rise.
What are your predictions for #postcoronatrends? Post this article and hashtag on social media with any additions you’d like to share.