Will the new normal look a lot like the old normal?
A new study finds the “new normal” coming out of COVID-19 will likely reflect an acceleration of trends that “would probably have happened anyway.” Other major changes will likely happen as “something positive” is learned from the experience.
Many fear-driven assumptions, according to the report by Avison Young, a real estate advisory firm, were deemed “pure speculation.” The study notes that the 9/11 attacks brought heightened security at airports and office buildings that were “prudent measures to prevent repeat attacks” given the risks. Predictions of people being reluctant to occupy upper floors of office buildings or travel by plane, however, proved far fetched.
The study stated, “The world has never been the same since 9/11 — but the ‘new’ normal is not radically different from the old.”
Similarly, some predictions for solutions to the COVID-19 crisis have not been fully vetted yet for the affordability, viability and practicality. Many assume current virus avoidance measures will remain necessary.
Some predictions are seen as “simply too early to judge”:
- De-densification of office occupation: Once an effective vaccine is developed, lower density occupation won’t be necessary.
- The widespread creation of “disease-resistant buildings”: Calls for enhanced air filtering, bacteria-resistant surfaces and pre-entry temperature checks may be “quite plausible and practical responses” that support healthier working environments, but also “ultimately be affordable or necessary.”
- The suburbanization of economic activity: If people reject crowded urban centers to work, they would presumably also stop visiting shopping centers, drinking in bars or attending theaters or sporting events. Wrote Avison Young, “Once a vaccine is developed and widely available, it seems unlikely that such behavior would persist.”
- A significant long-term reduction in public transport usage: Effective personal protection equipment for using public transport would likely be a “more feasible” response versus the logistical challenges of having urban workers shift to cars and bicycles.
An underlying message was that longer-term solutions to potential COVID-19 challenges should be considered, but pre-COVID-19 priorities shouldn’t be overlooked.
Avison Young concluded, “Claims of a ‘new normal’ that is radically different from the old appear at the very least premature and in many cases misplaced; for now, they should be treated with caution.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What predictions for transformative post-COVID-19 measures involving retail are more speculative in your mind versus those more likely to occur? What insights can you draw from Avison Young’s findings to help with post-COVID-19 business planning?