As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, it’s hard to envision an end in sight. But with vaccines moving forward and new treatments emerging, there will be a day when we can get back out into the world and resume our lives.
What will those post-pandemic lives look like? A majority of U.S. adults (86%) polled by Pew Research Center say there is some kind of “ lesson or set of lessons ” to be taken from the pandemic, like the importance of wearing a mask to protect others, the value of spending time with family and loved ones or the need for universal health care.
Here are nine pandemic changes that might just become part of our future survival guide:
1. Mask wearing
In Asian countries, face masks are an accepted part of everyday life, which might be one reason death rates from the coronavirus there are relatively low . It’s common in those nations to wear masks to control respiratory droplets especially during cold, flu and hay fever seasons. In Japan, face masks are nearly universal in public areas, despite not being mandated.
Though relatively new to our culture, masks have now morphed into fashion statements (just look at Nancy Pelosi’s matching masks and outfits). The company Second Wind, whose masks include decorative chains, recently told the New York Times that within just 24 hours of announcing a pre-sale on Instagram last July, the company sold 10,000 products.
When rules that require mask wearing are eventually lifted, it’s possible the habit may become permanent, at least when people are indoors in crowded spaces like bars, restaurants and arenas.
In a recent white paper , the professional consulting services firm Deloitte reports “A short-term regulatory intervention, like compulsory face masks, can trigger a settling-in period which influences the ‘new normal.'”
2. Our personal approach to wellness
The pandemic has inspired many people to take a more active role in their health.
In its recent trend report , the marketing communications agency Wunderman Thompson notes that companies are recognizing a rising need for technology that allows us to track our health status in our homes — like blood pressure monitors, sleep sensor patches and devices that measure lung function and respiratory rates.
“We have witnessed the reinvention of our homes as a core element of the health care pathway with telehealth, virtual and remote care technologies as the key drivers for change during COVID-19,” Deeptha Khanna, chief business leader of personal health at Philips, a global health technology company, said in a statement.
He predicts the changes will be permanent.
The urgent need to practice social distancing combined with fear of seeking medical care has sped up the adoption of telehealth by many patients and practitioners. During the first quarter of last year, as the pandemic was starting, telehealth visits increased by 50% compared with the same period the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“By allowing for generous reimbursement policies at the public and private level, providers quickly had to pivot, and patients quickly acclimated,” noted Dr. Howard Forman, a practicing physician and professor of management and public health at Yale University.
As patients grow more comfortable with the technology and regulations evolve to make it easier for providers to get reimbursed, widespread use of telehealth may stick after the pandemic is over.
4. Home fitness
While home fitness was popular before the pandemic, the closings of gyms and fitness clubs have driven sales of home workout programs and exercise equipment, like Peloton, /zigman2/quotes/208035743/composite PTON +0.31% to an all-time high. And when gyms reopen, nine in 10 people say they will continue their home workouts, according to fitness company Beachbody in its The Future of Fitness survey .
Many people have adjusted to the convenience and ease of home workouts. In the future, gym-going might become more of a hybrid activity, like employees who split their time between home and the office.