Nextcontinent study: 7 major trends emerging out of Covid-19

24 December 2020 Consultancy.eu 6 min. read

The majority of Europeans have adapted well enough to life under the pandemic to dream about the future, according to a new study. While fears over health and social instability remain, many are still optimistic that their work and well-being will find innovative new ways to come in the coming period.

As the Covid-19 pandemic looks set to continue well into 2021, Nextcontinent – a network of leading independent consultancies in their respective markets by an entrepreneurial vision – polled businesses around the world on what they think the future holds. Polling 2,410 individuals between September and October 2020, including respondents from Portugal, Germany, Luxembourg, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, the researchers were able to extract seven major international trends from the answers give.

7 major international trends

Fears

Most immediately, people revealed they were concerned about the future on a variety of fronts. Only 2-7% of those polled said they were “not afraid” of what is to come.

While understandably the biggest fear among respondents amid a global pandemic was for their health – something highest in Portuguese respondents at 32% – around one-fifth of respondents in all regions said that they were afraid of a reduced income amid the current economic turmoil wrought by Covid-19 and a number of other mounting systemic crises, something which led the same number to list violence and social conflict as a fear for the future.

Solidarity

At the same time, the spiralling fears many people have for the approaching years have not dampened their resolve to help each other out. Most respondents consider that the confinement of 2020’s lockdown months has generated a greater sense of responsibility and mutual help among them.

This desire to help was highest in Northern Europe, where 81% of respondents said as much, however it manifested itself in similar ways around the world. Indeed, ‘social justice and equity’ were listed as what should be the government’s second-top priority in all surveyed countries.

Conscious consumers

Following on from an on-going trend which has been growing consistently in recent years, Nextcontinent has found that conscious consumption has accelerated amid the Covid-19 lockdown. This trend was most pronounced in Europe.

Further reading: 10 charts from Bain on how consumer behaviour is changing.

While 28% of those in South America made a voluntary reduction of consumption and purchases a priority, 54% of those in Norther Europe did, while the continent as a whole also saw 50% of Europeans implement structural changes about reduction, reuse, and recycling of plastic.

Is a more conscious concumer citizen born?

Health and well-being

Not surprisingly, Nextcontinent also found that people are looking to boost their health and well-being in the wake of their lockdown experience. As many studies have already found that working from home has seen people’s work-life balance drastically improve over 2020, the researchers found that many people expect positive transformations to continue in the period ahead.

Almost half of Northern Europeans expect structural changes in their health and sports regimes, while a further 36% said the same about their personal balance and mental health support. Meanwhile, more than 60% said they anticipate that healthy food and local supplies of nutrition would see structural improvements.

Work is transforming

Maintaining the normal office routine was out of the question during the bulk of 2020, and it looks to have had long-term impacts on the expectations many people have of their employers moving forward. While the absence of physical contact and a blurring of the lines between work and life were difficult for many staff, few actually said they leaving the house to go to work.

Further reading: Six charts on attitudes towards remote working and back to office.

Fewer than one-in-ten respondents said they missed going to the office and seeing colleagues, with that falling to 6% in Portugal and Northern Europe. Looking ahead, many are looking to develop their skills to further permit remote working, with starting a training course being the biggest commitment most respondents were willing to take in terms of accelerating digitalisation.

Homification

Following on from this, a large majority would like to work from home in the future, if possible, over 50% of the time. While this was highest in South America, where 90% said so, 85% of Northern Europeans would also like to work from home half of the time at least.

Further reading: Research: 40% of employees will work from home by 2025.

The home has not only become a hub for work however, it has also taken on an added importance for shopping and recreation. According to Nextcontinent, 27% of Northern Europeans have considered changing their place and type of residence, especially in order to be closer to nature. Meanwhile, despite consumers still preferring an in-store experience, online shopping boomed throughout the 2020 – and will likely continue to do so next year.

A higher degree of optimism

Dream

Finally, despite all the anxieties and challenges thrown up by the last year, many respondents still said that they were well-adjusted enough to the ‘new normal’ to have hopes and aspirations for the future. Northern Europe once more saw the highest positivity, with 63% of respondents saying they had somewhat adapted to life during the pandemic, and a further 15% saying they were already comfortable with it.

Leading on from this, while the majority of respondents were cautious, 6% of North Europe’s citizens were already optimistic, while 7% anticipated they would be optimistic in the coming 12 months. Among the aspirations most commonly cited were a rise in civic feeling and social responsibility coming from awareness that “we are all connected, for better and for worse and that we’re not isolated,” more ethical consumption with less pollution, and new technological developments enabling new modes and methods of work.