It’s practically two years because the prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced the primary nationwide Covid lockdown and, for a lot of Britons, life feels near regular.

As of Thursday, there are now not any restrictions in England – no authorized requirement to put on masks or to self-isolate after a optimistic Covid take a look at. However have our lives modified in different methods that can outlive the pandemic? Have our habits modified for good?

Working from house

The pandemic has given us a brand new shorthand: WFH. And it’s right here to remain, with one-third of individuals nonetheless working from house at the very least a number of the time. Many corporations at the moment are planning to introduce a hybrid mannequin that mixes days within the workplace with time spent working at house.

The federal government’s steerage that Britons ought to work at home the place doable was scrapped in January after a few false starts. However not everyone seems to be in a rush again to conversations across the water cooler.

Folks within the UK are nonetheless spending extra time at house and fewer time in workplaces, in accordance with knowledge from Google’s community mobility reports.

There was some restoration in footfall at stations and workplaces because the first lockdown. Nonetheless, the most recent figures for the week to 11 February 2022 present that exercise nonetheless stays 29% and 21% under pre-pandemic ranges.

Google mobility line chart

ONS knowledge reveals that round a 3rd of working adults did their jobs from house in 2022. That determine fell from 36% on the finish of January to 31% in mid-February, suggesting that some employers are encouraging their staff to return to the workplace.

Many employers plan to implement a hybrid mannequin in future to answer their staff’ calls for for extra versatile schedules following the pandemic. Daniel Wheatley, a researcher specialising in work-life stability at Birmingham College, thinks it is a good thought, since staff profit from additional private time and employers from improved morale and retention.

However he stated this is able to solely work in the long run if employers redesign jobs, as an example by focusing workplace time on collaboration and teamwork and home-working on process completion, and in the event that they belief their staff to carry out.

ONS line chart of % WFH

Some employers are more likely to be resistant, particularly those that are pushed by “micro-management and assumptions that effort needs to be extracted from staff reasonably than them providing it willingly”, he stated.

Though the precise mix of house and workplace is a private choice, one factor is evident: working from house will likely be a function of some jobs for a very long time after the pandemic has ended.

Escape to the nation?

The pandemic prompted an exodus to the nation as individuals working from house turned longing for greater dwelling and backyard areas, which resulted in rural home costs and rents taking pictures up. Nonetheless, there are early indicators that individuals are returning to cities.

Covid and lockdowns made many rethink their work/life preparations. Rural home costs in England and Wales soared, leading to fears of an affordability disaster in some areas.

This was very true of London-dwellers who fled the capital in massive numbers and helped push costs outdoors the capital to report ranges. Londoners spent a median of £487,000 on properties outdoors the capital final 12 months, in accordance with property brokers Hamptons.

Bar chart of Londoners moving to countryside

Additionally they benefited from a brief stamp duty holiday launched by the federal government to buoy the housing market after the primary lockdown, which gave would-be movers an incentive to purchase in late 2020 and early 2021.

David Fell, a senior analyst with Hamptons, stated 2021 marked “the one largest migration out of London in a technology”.

He predicted that this 12 months numbers would return nearer to 2019 ranges because of fewer gross sales happening and a scarcity of obtainable countryside properties, however that they’d stay greater than pre-Covid occasions. “We’re additionally anticipating the worth hole between London and the commuter belt to proceed shrinking, which means London fairness will go much less far than 5 years in the past,” he stated.

Fell says early knowledge from 2022 signifies that London’s first-time patrons are extra open to shifting additional out to reap the benefits of cheaper property costs as they spend extra time working from house. Just below half of first-time patrons dwelling in London have purchased outdoors the capital within the 12 months up to now, greater than double the proportion 10 years in the past.

Whereas a long-term exodus from large cities may not materialise, the shift from workplaces to house working might form the way forward for the housing market.

Struggling or saving?

Whereas lockdown allowed individuals in secure workplace jobs to work at home and get monetary savings on commuting and sandwich-shop lunches, others burned via their financial savings. The result’s a rising divide within the monetary well being of the nation, with extra households than ever dwelling within the purple.

With lockdown spelling a brief finish to eating places, pubs, golf equipment, cultural venues and international journey, numerous individuals unexpectedly discovered it simpler to save lots of.

Estimates by Capital Economics and Refinitiv counsel Britons collectively saved £4.6bn a month in 2019. However between March 2020 and the tip of 2021, the common quantity saved every month climbed to 2.6 occasions the 2019 common.

Bar chart of UK excess savings

Nonetheless, these good points had been removed from common. A Bank of England survey from autumn 2020 discovered that 42% of staff in high-income households had elevated their financial savings because the starting of the pandemic in contrast with simply 22% of these on low incomes.

Jonquil Lowe, an economist specialising in private finance on the Open College, stated the rationale for this disparity was that low-income households spend the next proportion of their earnings on necessities, which might’t be in the reduction of. ONS data suggests the poorest tenth of households often spend 43% of their earnings on meals, housing and payments, in contrast with 24% for the richest tenth.

This has “exacerbat[ed] the inequalities that already existed within the UK financial system” and the financial savings hole would solely develop wider within the coming years given rampant value inflation, she stated.

Bar chart of pandemic savings change by socioeconomic group

Lowe stated that constructive options to the financial savings hole could be for the federal government to pay for the pandemic by taxing the earnings and wealth of richer individuals, as a substitute of replicating the response to the 2008 monetary disaster and reducing advantages, public companies and public sector pay, or providing “hole recommendation” to poorer households to construct up their financial savings.

“Regardless of being battered by Brexit and the pandemic, the UK remains to be one of many wealthiest economies on the planet and it’s shameful that 11.7 million reside in absolute poverty,” she stated.

Worldwide journey

Overseas holidays had been banned or curtailed for a lot of the pandemic, whereas enterprise journey floor to a halt. Will our style for home holidays and Zoom conferences endure?

Alongside hospitality, journey was one of many sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, underlined this week by Heathrow’s passenger numbers falling to their lowest level in almost 50 years.

Planes had been grounded in early 2020 as international locations imposed powerful worldwide journey restrictions. This was adopted by consistently shifting worldwide journey insurance policies, equivalent to testing regimes and the UK’s traffic-light system, that confused many travellers.

Day by day UK flights – each worldwide and home – stood at a median of 664 between April and June 2020, in accordance with ONS knowledge. This was simply 10% of the day by day common for a similar months in 2019.

Two years on, flight numbers haven’t returned to earlier ranges. The most recent ONS knowledge reveals that within the month to 13 February 2022, there was a day by day common of three,067 flights. Whereas that is an enchancment on 865 in that very same interval in 2020, it’s nonetheless simply 61% of the pre-pandemic stage of the 2019 determine of 5,039.

Line chart of UK international flights

Certainly, business predictions counsel that there gained’t be a return to pre-Covid numbers till 2023-24. Leon Davis, an educational at Teesside College researching the impression of Covid on tourism, stated that though the UK authorities was predicting an earlier return, shopper confidence had been knocked by the Omicron variant, and other people stay confused by international locations’ differing entry guidelines.

“It will proceed within the winter of 2022/23 as it’s extremely unlikely there will likely be a full world lifting of restrictions, and notably if circumstances rise in numerous elements of the globe,” he stated.

A number of individuals opted for UK-based holidays throughout the pandemic, and a 25% improve in guests is anticipated this 12 months in contrast with 2019, however Davis expects that the price of UK journey and lodging, and its restricted availability, will encourage individuals to return to abroad journeys.

Whereas numerous companies have tailored to hybrid convention fashions, many will return to in-person attendance since this tends to be higher for advertising and marketing and promoting, he added.

Procuring habits

The pandemic has modified the way in which we store. Extra individuals do grocery buying on-line and demand for supply companies has shot up. Since lockdown has lifted, footfall in retailers stays under pre-pandemic ranges.

Brits already beloved to buy on-line pre-pandemic, however throughout lockdown – when non-essential companies had been closed and we had been suggested to keep away from leaving house – ordering groceries and luxuries on-line turned much more fashionable.

Whereas official figures present a latest fall, online sales still account for over a quarter of total retail sales. In line with the ONS, on-line gross sales jumped from 21% to 31.5% of whole retail gross sales between the primary and second quarter of 2020. This peaked at 36% in early 2021 after England’s third nationwide lockdown. This was the best stage recorded because the knowledge was first collected in 2007.

Line chart of internet sales as a share of total retail sales

In January, the share of web gross sales inside retail fell to 27%, persevering with a broad downward pattern since its peak in January 2021.

Retail analyst Bryan Roberts stated the recognition of on-line buying was plateauing as individuals returned to their pre-pandemic behaviours. “An honest chunk of consumers will proceed to allocate extra of their spending on-line, however we have to do not forget that buying can also be a basic leisure exercise, with journeys to excessive streets and buying centres nonetheless a part of individuals’s routines,” he stated.

“A few of the on-line shift, each in meals and non-food, will likely be everlasting. Many patrons tried on-line meals for the primary time and may have preferred what they discovered when it comes to comfort. Different consumers may have joined schemes like Amazon Prime and can proceed to buy the vast majority of common merchandise via Amazon and different retailers.

“That stated, on-line will proceed to decelerate as individuals return to pre-pandemic behaviours equivalent to trawling around the retailers on the weekend. Additionally, on-line is supremely handy in case you’re at house seven days per week, much less so in case you’re again within the workplace three or 4 days per week.”

Not going out

We watched extra TV than ever earlier than, and business specialists warn that cinemas and theatres might by no means be as fashionable once more. In the meantime, individuals changed pubs and eating places with house cooking and takeaways. Will they ever return?

Lockdown massively disrupted our social lives, with after-work pints, restaurant visits, cinema journeys and music gigs all ending abruptly.

Data printed by the ONS from OpenTable present that bookings evaporated in March 2020, then rose as lockdown was lifted and reached a 2020 peak on the time of Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to assist out” scheme in late August. They dried up once more in December as Delta hit, earlier than recovering slowly however steadily as summer season 2021 approached. In mid-December 2021, there was a pointy dip when individuals cancelled Christmas bookings as a result of Omicron variant.

The most recent knowledge signifies that Britons have totally regained their urge for food for indoor eating, with bookings exceeding 2019 ranges earlier than and after the Omicron peak.

Cinemas additionally suffered throughout the pandemic. After a number of months of no attendance because of their compelled closure, knowledge from the UK Cinema Association reveals that they loved a bounceback in December, with month-to-month attendance figures exceeding 13.5m. But this represents simply 73% of the viewers cinemas attracted in December 2019, and ticket gross sales in January had been solely 49% of these offered in January 2020.

Line chart of cinema attendances

Cinemas’ losses had been streaming platforms’ good points as viewers shifted indoors.

Streaming was already rising in reputation pre-pandemic with a complete of 24m subscriptions to platforms in 2019, rising to 33m a 12 months later. Projections by Ampere counsel that determine will rise additional, boosted by the UK launch of Disney+ within the first nationwide lockdown in March 2020.

Bar chart of streaming subscriptions

As TV critic and broadcaster Scott Bryan notes, “the pandemic resulted in 5 years’ price of tendencies in about one 12 months”.

“Streaming companies noticed substantial development as many people had been having to spend our days staying in. Disney+ and Netflix had been clearly large winners and there’s additionally been a change of mindset. We’re now extra used to watching tv when it fits us, reasonably than rotating our lives across the tv schedules.”

Nonetheless, he famous that value of dwelling will increase, plus the truth that individuals at the moment are going out a bit extra, imply we’d not be keen to pay for this into the long run.

“Regardless that it’s simpler to unsubscribe from streaming companies reasonably than cable or satellite tv for pc, it might grow to be prohibitively costly to pay for all of them individually. The expansion of some streaming companies has additionally slowed to a crawl, with Netflix asserting underwhelming development in late 2021 and projecting equally underwhelming development in 2022.”

Zooming in

Bodily distancing guidelines meant that we socialised loads much less throughout the pandemic. Video calls changed face-to-face conferences for work, whereas numerous social actions moved outdoor or on-line. However was any of this good for us?

When the primary lockdown hit and other people had been requested to remain indoors, most individuals drastically minimize down the variety of individuals they encountered until they labored in a frontline job.

A few of the greatest winners on this courageous new world had been video-conferencing platforms, with one firm ruling all of them: Zoom. As individuals had been requested to scale back face-to-face contact, the company’s fortunes went via the roof, though they’ve since declined as regular life has resumed.

Whereas many individuals have been capable of proceed socialising throughout the pandemic by shifting communication on-line, psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee warns that this was not the case for everyone, which may have a long-lasting impression on psychological well being.

“Know-how enabled individuals to attach no matter the place they stay, thus increasing social circles. However for these sheltering completely alone, uncomfortable within the digital area or missing dependable entry to it, emotions of loneliness have grown since Covid,” she stated.

Line chart of share of people socialising indoors

She added that as our work and social exercise migrated to Zoom, the strains between our in-person and digital lives more and more turned blurred.

“We’ve been capable of toggle between digital areas – between college or work screens, video video games and Netflix – however doing so impacts the way in which our mind can assist us get settled and deal with one factor at a time. We’ve additionally overstimulated ourselves, when what we actually thought we had been doing was soothing ourselves.”

Many individuals had been glad to see the again of Zoom catch-ups as restrictions on socialising had been eased, since most individuals don’t take into account them a real substitute for in-person contact, although people who find themselves weak or anxious about Covid have been left with no different choice.

Two years later, most individuals are step by step returning to face-to-face contact, in accordance with ONS data. Though no comparability is on the market with ranges earlier than the pandemic, the figures present that most individuals are glad to fulfill with family and friends indoors.

However Darian Nugent, senior strategic foresight author at futures consultancy the Future Laboratory, says {that a} widespread shift in our work, dwelling and socialising routines implies that “the way forward for our working lives is a hybrid one”.

“Throughout Europe, the vast majority of people who adopted a hybrid routine notice big enhancements of their flexibility, free time and leisure, and its know-how – and the rising sophistication of platforms like Zoom and Groups – that’s actually facilitating that.

“IRL conferences and conferences will return – these are nonetheless essential to {our relationships} and wellbeing – … [but] companies know that digital processes have allowed them to make big strides in accessibility, inclusivity and world attain.”

Seeking to the long run

Many individuals deliberate for the worst throughout the pandemic, with a pointy rise within the numbers writing a will. With restrictions lifted and the prime minister heralding a brand new period of dwelling with Covid, ONS knowledge reveals individuals are nonetheless not optimistic in regards to the future, with a 3rd saying they count on the pandemic to proceed for an additional 12 months.

With the vaccine rollout firstly of 2021 got here hope that the pandemic would quickly come to an finish. Nonetheless, an ONS survey designed to seize the general public’s attitudes all through the pandemic reveals that this optimism has since dissipated. The latest data from the ONS reveals that, by the 12 months’s finish, extra individuals thought it might take over a 12 months for all times to return to regular than in 2020.

ONS data additionally revealed that, within the two weeks resulting in 13 January 2022, 13% of British adults thought life would by no means return to regular, whereas simply 7% thought it might take lower than six months for all times to return to regular.

ONS pandemic polling chart

One indicator of the pessimism felt by individuals throughout the pandemic was what number of wrote their wills to make sure that in the event that they died individuals would know what to do and the place to distribute their financial savings.

In line with Farewill, which says it’s the UK’s greatest will author, the variety of Britons making monetary plans for after they die nearly tripled in 2020. The largest improve was amongst under-35s, with a 23% improve in will-writing amongst Era Z, these aged 10-25.

Dan Garrett, CEO and co-founder of on-line will supplier Farewill, stated: “Writing your will is a process individuals all the time need to delay – however the pandemic gave individuals a purpose to plan their will and funeral, as a result of they had been apprehensive about dying. It will have an irreversible and optimistic impression on individuals’s attitudes in the direction of dying, dispelling the stigma.”

Farewill evaluation discovered a robust connection between information occasions and can writing. For instance, Prince Philip’s admission to hospital final 12 months resulted in a 148% improve in individuals penning their wills, and the day probably the most wills had been written in 2020 was when Boris Johnson was taken into intensive care. Charity donations in individuals’s wills surged, too.

“Persons are being extra beneficiant and selfless than they had been earlier than. Through the pandemic, most conversations had been about defending different individuals,” stated Garrett.

Methodological notes

Working from house: Google’s community mobility reports evaluate every day’s motion to a “baseline day”, which represents a standard worth for that day of the week. That is the median worth from the five-week interval from 3 January to six February 2020.

Not going out: the streaming platforms coated by the Ampere evaluation had been Lovefilm, Netflix, Now TV, Amazon, Disney Life, ITV Hub+, Discovery+, Disney+ and BritBox.


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