5.12 The Final Pulse Of Covid-19: One Last Look At The Trends Of The Week (for now)

We can’t believe it’s been nearly two months since we started this newsletter. So much has accelerated in this ‘groundhog day’ existence, and yet we see a downshift as businesses start to steady themselves for the long-term marathon we described last week.

This week, we were inspired by these poster artists featured above, especially the idea “let’s make a world where we tell our children about how bad things were before Covid-19.” Thus, we’ve decided to highlight the ways businesses are positioning themselves to sprint ahead, the cultural taboos that were questioned during this time, and macro-shifts in consumer behavior and overall optimism. 

We’ve also decided as we downshift to the next normal that this will be our last newsletter for a while. In case it’s useful, we’ve made a PDF of all previous newsletters (just DM me, and I’ll send you the attachment) and even added a timeline at the bottom of the email to track the trends overtime.

Finally, we’ve found from our recent study that 93% of Americans are interested in non-COVID-related content — are you one of them? We’d love to hear from you what we should do next with this newsletter, please take this super short survey.

As always, we’ve woven Harris’ latest data throughout the trends, highlighted in bold.

Businesses Positioned To Sprint Ahead: In a two-month period, business leaders have transitioned from ‘filling the gaps,’ to ‘action heroes,’ to ‘zonkey hybrids’ and finally into ‘marathoners’ in it for the long-haul, proactively seeking opportunities to sprint ahead in the future as we settle into the next normal. In fact, according to our bi-weekly study with PwC, the COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 72% of CFOs say the pandemic will cause their company to have ‘better resiliency and agility’ in the future. Sowhat’s getting businesses prepared to sprint ahead?

Taboos Questioned: In two months, this pandemic has accelerated huge social experiments that were once seen as taboos or ‘nice ideas’ into realities for many Americans. The results are fundamental perceptual and behavioral shifts that will have long-term implications around what life should and will look like post-crisis.

Taboo: Remote working not a practical solution

Today ⇨ Flexi-Work For All: In less than two months, companies have shifted into remote working and are seeing real value in incorporating more flexible workplace strategies in the future. According to our bi-weekly study with PwC, COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, 68% of CFOs say crisis-driven transitions to remote work will make their company better in the long run. And over 4 in 10 (43%) report their company is planning to make remote work a permanent option for roles that allow it.

  • In fact, JPMorgan reported traders were able to handle as much as three times the normal trading volume in the first quarter, even as 90% of the corporate and investment bank’s staff worked from home, and Barclays says this could be the end of physical locations for company HQ. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook are allowing all employees to continue working remotely throughout 2020.
  • In fact, as Quartz points out, WFH policies can contribute to high impact climate change outcomes (e.g. less commutters, less traffic, less travel, etc.) and reduce wasted time, as the average American who drives to work spends 54 hours per year stuck in traffic.
  • From our research with Zapier, we found that WFH has it’s benefits as 65% of Americans who have been working remotely feel their productivity has increased, 80% said they can better manage interruptions from coworkers, and 80% enjoy being able to see their family during the day while working from home.
  • Even though parents are struggling without childcare/school today, about half desire a more flexible WFH future. 83% of parents were working in offices before Covid-19 (vs 66% of non-parents) and when they think of the future re-opening, 50% want either more flexibility (e.g. only working a couple of days from the office) or want to work from home until it’s completely safe to be close proximity to others.

Taboo ‘Church & State’ separation of work life vs parental life

Today ⇨ Embracing Whole-Self Employees: After two months of WFH, there is no more putting the genie back in the bottle, parents will refuse to go back to the workforce and pretend they aren’t parents. 

Taboo: Productivity propaganda

Today ⇨ Drawing New Boundaries For Happier Lives: Do more, be more, and show off more of who you are: this productivity propaganda has been a cornerstone of our cultural beliefs for at least the past decade, but it’s also been creating an epidemic of burnout across the population. In fact, last year with Meredith we uncovered that 3 in 4 American women were suffering from burnout and 81% said that ‘American society glorifies being busy.’ Now all Americans are pulling back and reflecting about where their productivity really comes from. 

  • Many people say this pandemic provided a much needed break in their lives, especially parents and young Americans. 60% of parents and 58% of young Americans (18-34 yrs old) said they are ‘grateful for the break from work to be at home with my family’ (vs 46% of the general population). 
  • While healthy habits have been embraced during the pandemic, we see people are cooking more, eating more fresh meals, meditating more, exercising more, and spending more time with the family, which ultimately will probably make healthier people and likely more productive thinkers. And new rituals are also being created that are good for the body and soul, such as these kids that transformed into restaurateurs to give their parents a once a week ‘date night.’

Taboo: Tech-Lash, rising backlash against tech and social media platforms

Today ⇨ Tech’s Purpose Reignited Around Togetherness: In 2019, we saw a huge rise in tech-lash due to concerns over privacy, social isolation, and alt-news. However, during this crisis, big tech has been repurposed as a bloodline, bringing us closer together and re-introducing us to our neighbors and communities. 

Taboo: Higher education costs outpacing students ability to pay for college

Today ⇨ Higher Education Revalued & Democratized: There has been a rising reassessment of the extraordinary costs parents and students pay for education, and now there is a growing opportunity to flatten the gap between our brightest teachers and resources through remote learning.

Taboo: Telehealth is a distant future

Today ⇨ Telehealth Transformation Is Here: Telemedicine was always seen as that platform that was a bit untouchable: how would it work, who would figure it out, etc.? But now, in light of current realities, we might have entered a world of wondering why we ever waited in the doctor’s office. 

  • From our latest research we see nearly a third (32%) of Americans have tried telehealth, with 15% now using telehealth for the first time during the pandemic. Over 8 in 10 (82%) of those who have used telehealth services say they love/like it. Even nonusers find the idea of telehealth services appealing with six in ten (61%) saying they like/love the idea of using telehealth services. Of those using telehealth during the pandemic, three quarters (76%) are very/somewhat likely to continue using these types of services. 
  • During Q1 of 2020, global VC funding in digital health firms hit a record $3.6 billion, pumping fresh capital into those now confronting the pandemic head-on. FutureLoop audience predicts Apple will lead in-home healthcare practices by 2026Meanwhile, the FCC funded a $200M telehealth initiative during this timeframe, Forward launched ‘Forward At Home’ COVID-19 at-home-kit, and companies like Uber partnered with telehealth company Ro to offer free health screenings for drivers.

Macro-Lifestyle Implications: As taboos are taken off the table, major lifestyle shifts are happening overnight, these are the trends we plan to watch as we continue through 2020 and beyond:

  • Open offices shift towards spaced-out-serenity units: As WSJ documents, the future of office space will be a mix of musical chairs, one person elevators, and one way hallways until there is a solution for Covid-19. And this change is reversing decades long push for ‘open office’ design. Ultimately, this might be a good thing, as many studies pre-Covid highlighted the productivity drain of open office environments for all workers, and especially womenFrom our data, we see 61% of people are concerned about going back into the office, but that number has decreased by 4% from last week. And from our PwC study, two-thirds of CFOs are “very confident” their company can create a safe workplace for employees to return to work
  • A beauty break, self-care prioritized over everything: During these last two months, people have basked in the glow of not-giving-a-crap about their appearance, while reprioritizing their more superficial beauty habits into interfacing wellness habits. In fact, LA Times writer Jessica Roy, says, “I have been blissfully, gleefully throwing off the shackles of worrying about what I eat or how much I ate or whether I’ve made it to spin class recently. Prioritizing a gentler style of self-care moving away from punishment to movement, sleep, and meditation.” We saw the polish come off celebrities as they went make-up less, joining the 48% of women who say they aren’t applying makeup at all right now. Virtual skincare consultants are telling consumers they need less products, while make-up sales have gone down by 22% and beauty filters have gone up. Many are prioritizing self-care habits, with 25% of Americans using more wellness apps (e.g., meditation, fitness apps) since the outbreak, including 36% of parents.

Macros Moments Of Optimism: During this time, we’ve seen – and continue to applaud – an outpouring of compassion and a resilience of human spirit. Here are a few of the highlights:

Thank you for riding with us every week over the past two months. Based on the results of the survey, we will aim to produce content that is most relevant to our readers in the future. 

As the ultimate sign of hope, I will be out on maternity leave soon, dedicating my attention to a brave little one born in these times. So if you have any follow up questions please follow up with my partner Abbey Lunney- abbey.lunney@harrisinsights.com running thought leadership and trends at Harris.

That’s it for now. 🙂 Stay safe, be well, and look out for the good news.