This article was originally published on nomadvoices.com.
Just months into the pandemic it became clear that Covid-19 had cemented the remote work revolution and permanently changed the way we work. Now that a year has passed since the first case was detected, it’s become clear that the way we live, interact, and travel has changed significantly too. In this post we’ll explore seven lifestyle trends that have been accelerated or triggered by the pandemic and look at the ways in which — alongside the human and economic toll — Covid-19 has also been a catalyst for positive change.
1. De-urbanisation/Migration from large cities to smaller towns
Two years ago, the UN projected that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population would live in urban areas— but that was before the global health crisis
It’s no surprise, then, that millions of people are now on the move, or want to be. One in seven Londoners want to leave the city because of Covid-19, while a third want to move to a new home. Of those that want to move, 46% want the home to be out of London. Canada is seeing similar trends.
Alongside the health and economic reasons, there is another major factor at play in migration from metropolitan areas to smaller cities and towns. As the world of remote work grows, the traditional drawcards of urban living — primarily proximity to job opportunities — quickly fade.
More than 11% of American households plan to move to smaller and cheaper locations, while 66% of professionals in technology, finance and other fields would consider leaving San Francisco if they could permanently work from home.
Our verdict: Although some of these numbers may be reversed when the pandemic is finally contained, the popularity of remote work is only going to increase in the developing world, where we believe this trend is here to stay. It will, however, be slower in emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America, as cities with greater connectivity and faster internet speeds remain the easiest areas in which to work remotely. According to global economist James Pomeroy, most of the growth in megacities across the world is in these emerging markets, so de-urbanisation will look quite different across the developed and developing worlds.
2. Slowmadism: slower and more regional digital nomadism
The golden era of booking cheap air tickets and hopping on and off flights as one pleases is over — at least for a while. Travel is unpredictable and subject to a range of immigration restrictions, quarantine measures and health screenings.
There are far fewer planes in the sky as many low cost airlines have failed and large airlines have reduced their fleets, ultimately pushing ticket prices up. The nomadic life of spending a few weeks in each destination is on hold, and location independent workers will slow down, meaning nomadism will evolve into slowmadism.
Our verdict: Digital nomadism is a huge lifestyle trend and the pandemic won’t put an end to it. Nomads will continue to travel but will do so at a slower pace and more regionally, often for the same reasons driving de-urbanisation.
3. Vacations & leisure trips: rural areas, tiny houses and virtual tourism
Travel restrictions combined with social distancing have led to the rise of staycations and rural tourism, with outdoor attractions such as national parks, mountain lakes, beaches and desert escapes among Airbnb’s top ten trending destinations in the US. Its global data also shows a shift in bookings away from urban destinations towards more rural areas and smaller communities.
The need to maintain social distancing when on the road has doubled demand for campervans in the US, while the tiny house movement is growing all over the world. Sales of tiny homes on wheels have doubled in Australia, and coworking villages populated with such units are starting to spring up. In the words of the Australian Tiny Homes Association president: “Maybe living in a small house with a small footprint and having less financial stress means that you’re going to live better.”
As essentially every physical event shifted online this year, the global travel and hospitality industry followed suit, with virtual travel experiences becoming one of its key digital offerings. Government tourism agencies across the world also embraced virtual tours to spark future visits. These aren’t small numbers; almost 200,000 responded to this event in Transylvania.
Our verdict: Travel to outdoor destinations and rural areas will continue to increase, especially as government tourism agencies aggressively promote domestic tourism. Virtual travel experiences are here to stay but will only be temporary on a broader scale.
4. Work From Home massively disrupting the real estate/office lease market
For most of recent history, one of the most important status symbols for a business was its office; an expansive, opulent space symbolised a company’s success. Now that everyone in the tech industry is working from home, expensive office space in the world’s most expensive cities has become a huge liability—as evidenced by companies such as Pinterest spending $90 million to break its lease.
HQs are, in part, finished: according to remote work expert Chris Herd, companies will cut their commercial office space by 40-60%. After leaving the office for most of this year due to Covid-19, a significant percentage of office workers will not be returning.
Like office spaces, coworking spaces are suffering, but in the long term the dramatic shift to remote work will channel more people towards coworking and its benefits, such as flexibility, innovation and lower overheads.
Our verdict: The rapid rise of coworking doesn’t just apply to sole traders and small teams, but will include many companies and larger teams. The coworking industry will emerge from the pandemic as a winner, with increased demand and opportunities. A recent article Lavinia wrote about how to make remote teamwork work has received interest from large companies including BP and the US Air Force Reserve. As the remote work space continues to grow, more people will seek human interactions and community, prompting new ways of thinking about the way we gather and workspace design.
5. Remote work = global opportunities and a global workforce
Remote work has emerged as the great equaliser. Remote or distributed teams entering the mainstream mean that employers can now take advantage of a global talent pool, while employees will no longer be disadvantaged by distance.
Remote work can overcome other disadvantages too; Na’amal partners with leading organizations to support refugees and other vulnerable populations through skills training, mentorship and remote work placement opportunities.
Our verdict: Now more than ever, technology is giving thousands of people the opportunity to telecommute and become part of the digital market, and this will only speed up post-pandemic. Remote work skills will become increasingly important, which is why Livit offers an impact-focused education program, the Remote Skills Academy, to empower Indonesians with the skills and tools required to become a remote worker and build a successful career.
6. Focus on (mental) health and wellbeing, in and out of the workplace
For countless people across the world, living through this health and economic crisis (often in isolation) has delivered a strong dose of perspective, bringing our vulnerability sharply into focus. As more and more people counter this by embracing physical and mental health, demand for foods that improve the immune system, metabolism and mental state have increased, while the plant-based food sector is thriving.
As more and more business leaders recognise the crucial nature of positive and supportive workplace culture, there has also been an increase in CEOs introducing resources to help staff manage mental health issues during Covid-19. Building resilience in the workplace is becoming a priority; Google, for example, is tackling mental health challenges among employees through ‘resilience training’ videos.
Although larger teams and organisations may have the benefit of an HR department and wider range of support services, small businesses actually have an advantage when it comes to supporting employees.
As Jill Mead, CEO of UK mental health organization TalkOut, says: “A positive and supportive workplace can make all the difference when it comes to mental health and now more than ever, businesses have a duty of care to their workforce.”
On an individual level, Covid-19 has increased demand for mental health help, and advances in telemedicine and the desire for more fulfilling work are driving a surge in new therapists.
Our verdict: Health and wellbeing will remain a strong focus post-pandemic, especially as we shift into the phase of closely analysing and addressing the lessons we’ve learned from Covid-19. Telemedical services will continue to advance rapidly, as more people recognise the importance of mental health for professional productivity and personal growth.
7. Remembering meaning and purpose
The trend towards more purpose-driven jobs and companies was well underway before Covid-19, with millennials in particular known for prioritising purpose over paychecks. The pandemic rapidly accelerated this.
A Fast Company article recently declared: “In the wake of the pandemic and the protests, purpose is suddenly a superpower”. The article predicts that companies that have purpose built into their bottom line are the most likely to remain standing.
Our verdict: The fact that purpose-driven work ensures a competitive advantage for businesses as well as people will continue to gain traction and expand to industries not usually associated with purpose, such as this real estate company. A purposeful life is a life worth living, and we’re personally thrilled to see more people and organisations recalibrating towards this.
Post-Covid-19, we are looking at shifting priorities. At more intentionally designed lives, now that we (all) know our entire schedule doesn’t have to revolve around getting to and back from work. At more mobile, lean, flexible, inspiring work environments. At slower and more meaningful travel, and a focus on well-being and purpose. At governments that are slowly waking up to these realities and trying to catch up with some of these ”new trends”.
Sound familiar? That’s because some of us have been doing these things for years, and we should step up and help create what comes next.
The future belongs to people very much resembling the ‘typical’ digital nomad. Let’s make the best of it.
About the author
Adi Cohen is a location-independent entrepreneur, architect, and founder of “The New Movement”, an architecture studio that designs one-of-a-kind projects worldwide. Her design approach aims to fuel creativity and promote wellbeing. She uses her travels as a source of inspiration, a way to connect to ancient wisdom and learn from local communities.
Lavinia Iosub is a future of work enthusiast and the Managing Partner at Livit International, a comprehensive support ecosystem for entrepreneurs and start-up teams. Over the past 6 years, Livit has inspired and enabled over 1,000 entrepreneurs, remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads to build disruptive businesses with a global impact. Earlier this year, Lavinia founded the Remote Skills Academy, an impact-focused education program aiming to provide an opportunity for Indonesians to thrive in the new realities of work.