The New Normal

As we start a new year with (once the death rattle shenanigans peter out) new leadership, it’s tempting to think that things will slowly start returning to normal. For the most part this will (hopefully) be true, but one of the many ripples of 2020 on American society has been a great “Band-Aid ripping” effect that’s caused many slow but inevitable changes to happen years before anticipated.

As a result, a lot of things are never snapping back into place. Here are my predictions for a few of them…

Commuting and remote work: While it’s possible that we start seeing permanent closures of physical offices (for jobs that allow it), we’ll almost certainly see a lot more flexibility for and acceptance of remote work for a significant portion of the workweek. Future generations will find it jaw-dropping that many people once filled a personal car with gasoline, only to drive to another location five days a week, sit there at a computer for hours, then drive back home.

Our interactions with stores and restaurants: Online/app-centered ordering, delivery services, curbside item pickups and digital in-restaurant menus are here to stay. Who knew that QR codes would finally have their moment?

New movie releases: With Warner Bros. already leading the way, we’ll see same-day streaming releases for new movies, with the number of movie theaters shrinking as the theatrical experience becomes more of a “few times a year” social experience. Spielberg and Lucas were way ahead of the curve on this.

Streaming church services, theatrical performances and other live events: Obviously nothing beats an in-person experience, but the convenience and wider accessibility provided by live streams (augmented with text, audio or video discussion rooms) is powerful, and will become a vital leg on the live event/community stool.

The attitude of American exceptionalism: From the massive bungling of our nation’s COVID response to the long overdue reckoning on institutional racism, many people have experience a forced recalibration to their sense of America’s place in the world. Let’s move forward with an attitude of humility and a desire for cooperation.