Author: Lote Steina
As we highlighted in a previous article, Covid-19 has had and will continue to have a significant impact on the world’s economic outlook. However, given the specific nature of the previous article, it was difficult to cover all the important changes ushered in during and by the pandemic.
Think of this as a continuation of the previous article only on a micro-level (i.e. something that heavily impacts the individual or a small group). To make it a bit simpler and digestible, let’s follow a generic family through one of their post-pandemic days to see what they are up to and how much different their day is from what it used to be back in 2019.
Let’s meet the family. John Doe is a 32-year-old city dweller with a wife Jane (of the same age) and a 4-year-old daughter Jenny. John works for an advertising company while Jane is a store manager. Jenny is your typical kindergartner.
With the board set, let’s jump into their average post-pandemic day.
The Doe family rises and shines at around 7 am in the morning. This is a welcome change from when their little girl started attending kindergarten in 2019. Back then to be everywhere on time they had to wake up earlier and rush through their morning routine frantically.
While neither of the parents remembers the pandemic induced lockdown fondly, they at least got one handy thing out of it – John is one of the estimated 25-30% of adults in the United States who can continue working remotely. Sure, he has to stop by work about two days a week for brainstorming sessions, important meetings, and some practical tasks (photo shoots, video filming), but like his colleagues and the majority of his friends Joe feels quite happy about the change. After all – a degree of flexibility that comes with home-working lets him take Jenny to kindergarten thus taking off the load from his wife.
The family lives about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Jane’s work. Her commute used to take about an hour (walk-bus-walk), but as the pandemic hit she decided to cycle to work. While she opted for a bike due to her anxiety about the virus, she would be hard-pressed to go back to the way things were. The cycling infrastructure is improving everywhere to the extent that her trip to work is half of what it was before. In addition, she feels better than ever health-wise.
Jane is not alone in taking up cycling as an accessible, healthy, and fast means of transportation. As the pandemic hit, the retail sales for bikes were up 75% in the US and 63% in the UK. And the good news is that this is not a New Year’s resolution gym membership kind of thing either – the increased sales actually translated into more bike rides.
Not all is good on the cycling and the environmental front, however. As Jane heads to work every day, she is also starting to see a greater uptake of private cars reminding her that it is not enthusiasm for bikes, but rather skepticism about the safety of the public transit system that has caused people to switch to other means of transportation.
The four-year old Jenny is doing very well back in her kindergarten group. The effects of isolation and lack of socialization on her development and mental health were negligible as her parents were able to stay with her and take up the duties of her teachers and play-mates during the lockdown.
This, however, was not the case for everyone. While kindergartens remained open at least to some degree during the pandemic (and remote-working parents were able to briefly take up the mantle when they were closed), most schools shut their doors and switched to remote-learning for extended periods of time. Countless school-goers were hit hard by a number of things – not receiving the best education from unprepared teachers, not getting a nutritious meal (maybe the only one per day), not having the necessary tools to study (computer, internet etc.), and not being able to socialize with their peers.
Alas, there is always a bright spot in the darkness. As with all crises, change and innovation is not far behind. By the time Jenny starts school, the education technology and new approaches to teaching will have been entrenched allowing for a higher quality, more personalized education experience.
As highlighted before Joe’s flexible working arrangement really makes him quite happy. He feels and actually seems to be more productive when he is working. At the same time, the new schedule allows him to take a step back when he feels his attention and performance are waning. Instead of meaninglessly scrolling his phone as he did back at work, he can use his rest moments to do some menial tasks around the house. This seems like bliss, right?
Well, not quite. Like many other companies (including some of the top investment banks), Joe’s advertising company is unlikely to switch to a full remote working model. Most employers realize that instead of being a panacea, remote working and isolation from colleagues can negatively impact cooperation, increase the risk of depression, reduce innovation, harm communication, and lead to burnout. Joe, like many others, has seen his workload increase since the start of the pandemic and the flexible working arrangement has made it harder for him and 56% of workers like him to switch off after the end of the regular work hours.
Jane’s life has been changed quite drastically too. Not to be among the stores that are left in the dust, Jane and her colleagues have had to adapt to the new reality of e-commerce. Many buyers are switching to online shopping for good and any business that wants to keep the edge in this economy has to follow. This includes (but is not limited to) building their own or adopting an existing e-commerce platform, establishing a social media presence, and creating both the physical and digital infrastructure to back it all up.
One thing Jane has noticed both as a store manager and consumer herself is inflation. Whether it is putting up a new wardrobe in their apartment, buying groceries, or ordering a new laptop – prices have gone up for a number of product groups. This, of course, increases the price tag for most goods which makes consumers not particularly happy. As a consumer herself, Jane is painfully aware of this.
In the evenings Joe has his hands full. First, he wraps up his workday, which unfortunately tends to drag longer than usual. Second, he picks up Jenny from kindergarten. Third, with Jenny in the back he collects groceries from the local supermarket. While back in 2019 Joe spent about an hour cruising through the aisles of the very same store, the pandemic has taught him and tens of millions of Americans the convenience of online shopping and curbside pickup. Now he saves time and energy by ordering online.
When back at home, Joe indulges in his new hobby – cooking. Back in the pre-pandemic days the family liked to go out and grab a bite at one of the local restaurants. Alas, with over 110 000 restaurants having shut down temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic, Joe, like many other Americans, has learned the joy and economy of home cooking. As for the restaurant industry itself – while it may never recover in its pre-pandemic shape, what will emerge is a safer, more technologically savvy, and efficient service that is more accessible to everyone.
While dad’s immersed in his culinary adventures, Jane and Jenny have an interesting way to connect and have fun together – fitness. Just like the restaurant industry, the fitness world has been changed permanently by the pandemic, with a greater focus on a more holistic approach to health, which includes virtual fitness (i.e. online classes) and greater focus on mental health. In the case of Doe family, Jane has opted to retain the virtual component of her workouts and Jenny playfully joins along. Of course, that does not mean Jane won’t go to the gym at all, but a hybrid version will become more common not just in the Doe family but around the world.
After dinner and before Jenny’s bedtime, the family takes a stroll around their neighborhood. Despite the conveniences of city life, during the pandemic both parents realized the benefits of owning a house in the suburbs – more space, a backyard, cleaner air, less noise etc. Many young professionals seem to have had the same idea, so the demand has pushed prices to beyond what Doe family can afford. Who knows – as young and fairly mobile individuals they might consider moving to cities with more affordable and accessible housing.
After Jenny has gone to bed, both parents want to rest by watching a movie. They used to love going to the cinema, but with the pandemic, they started relying more on streaming services. Sure, the fragmented streaming market is a pain given how expensive it is to subscribe to more than two providers. However, with more and more new releases now being instantly available online as well as high quality shows from all over the world pouring in, ordinary people have never had the level of access to quality entertainment they do now.
It is impossible to do justice to all the most important changes Covid has brought to our everyday lives in such a short article. You could write a detailed study on each of these topics and their implications on our societies, politics, and economics. Indeed, much smarter people have already done so! Hopefully this article will help as a starter guide in your own exploration of these trends.