Changing daily life during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

The arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 meant significant shifts in the lives of many people, with changes in work, school, lockdowns, mask mandates, and more. While the negative effects of the pandemic are felt by all, it appears that people are finding silver linings amidst the struggles brought about by the pandemic, with early analyses indicating that around three-quarters of respondents may want some aspects of pandemic life to continue.

For many, nationwide lockdowns have led to a newfound appreciation for time spent with those closest to them. Our data indicates that over one-third of respondents have been enjoying more time with their families. On top of that, over one-quarter reported enjoying walking more and saving some money. Being able to take life a little bit slower, cook more at home, and spend more time shopping online are positive changes that at least one-fifth of respondents want to continue pursuing after COVID-19 subsides. While all of these reflect changes in the daily activity of many respondents, some of the most remarkable changes to the average person’s day come through work and travel.

Before the pandemic, working from home was not common or feasible for much of the country. However, in the wake of the pandemic, close to half of respondents cleared off their desks, put on their suits (from the waist up) and began to telecommute. They seemed to like it too, with the vast majority of our respondents to our survey choosing to work from home when given the option. In many cases, telecommuting was good for workers, with more than two-thirds of people reporting no change or a boost in productivity when working from home. As a result, working from home is expected remain prevalent even after the pandemic. Workers spending increased time in the home is likely to have an impact on the market for office space, the demand for office equipment, and trends in daily travel.

Despite lockdowns and encouragement to stay at home, people continued to travel, albeit in a new way, during the pandemic. Bicycling and walking have become increasingly popular modes of transport, while public transit and taxi services are expected to be used less frequently, even after the pandemic. This has major implications for transit agencies, which for years have been grappling with declining ridership, and now are experiencing an even sharper decrease in demand. Moreover, urban planners have to handle an unprecedented increase in demand for walkable and bikeable cities. Bike racks, bike lanes, and walking paths are going to have to become a top priority for city planning departments to cope with these changes.

All of these observed trends and projected changes come from the results of our ongoing COVID-19 survey that began in mid-April. This information is from a representative sample of 8,723 people across the United States. Each of our three planned waves of data collection will yield new findings, but it is already clear that people have been making the best of a challenging situation during the pandemic. They have been enjoying time with their families and taking time for hobbies and leisure they might not have otherwise. Workers are telecommuting at high rates, which may remain the case even after COVID-19 is long gone. Travelers are shifting the ways in which they get around, changing the landscape of city and transportation planning now and into the future. Even as COVID-19 becomes less of a threat, we are likely to feel the rippling effects of the pandemic for years to come.

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