With vaccinations underway, hope abounds that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon come to an end. After enough people are immunized, restrictions imposed to preserve life will ease, and we'll put our masks aside as we socialize again, eat out again, watch movies on the big screen again, attend celebrations with extended family once again, and more. It's uplifting to anticipate a return to activities we used to take for granted.
We're all thirsting for normal life. But what will our new normal look like? What will change and what will remain the same as we move forward? Other than masks, what will we want to dispense with? And what should we incorporate into our work and personal lives as the future unfolds.
Observers in the retail sector predict that merchants who ran strictly brick-and-mortar operations and pivoted to develop online channels during the pandemic will continue to devote resources to offering diverse combinations of in-person and online shopping.
Whether shoppers will return in great numbers to in-person shopping when restrictions are lifted is unknown. Some people experienced the convenience of online shopping for the first time in 2020 and may want to continue to do more of it. Others have said they miss the personal touch of neighbors working at their favorite retailers and will return if the shops survive.
The restaurant sector has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. Many eateries have gotten by inviting patrons to dine outdoors where it is permitted, as well as encouraging online ordering for pickup or delivery. Sadly, such initiatives were not enough to sustain others. I hope those business owners will be able to regroup and revive former or start new ventures in the new year.
In payments, many experts believe the boost the pandemic gave to contactless payments will mark a permanent shift, and contactless technology will take hold among an even greater number of merchants and shoppers going forward.
Employers have voiced differing opinions on what their post-pandemic offices will look like. Some feel people are more productive when working on site, as well as easier to monitor. Others find that Zoom meetings and other forms of electronic communications do a fine job of keeping people connected; many have downsized offices, thereby saving money on overhead.
Given that most parents are also workers, it is expected that families with children will welcome the opening of schools. It will take time to determine how successful online learning has been. If advantages are found, some forms of online learning will likely remain in place to supplement in-person instruction. Some have joked that in colder climates, there will be no more "snow days" when heavy winter storms make travel to and from school impossible. This would be a likely disappointment for youngsters who have traditionally enjoyed those mid-winter days off.
So there are many unknowns right now about what our new normal will look like. Some of our new ways of interacting will survive, augmenting in-person events as it becomes increasingly safe to gather without risking anyone's life. I can't wait to see what the future will bring.
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