15 Things We Hope Won’t Go Back to “Normal” After COVID-19

From an obsession with busyness to an outdated definition of productivity, here’s what we’ll be happy to leave behind.

Marina Andrejchenko/ Shutterstock
Marina Andrejchenko/ Shutterstock

Amidst all of the disruption we’ve faced as a result of the pandemic, we’ve also seen some amazing silver linings. We’ve learned meaningful life lessons and new habits, and we’ve all had our own epiphanies — big and small — about what we want to take with us going forward into our “next normal.” 

We asked our Thrive community to share one thing from our “old normal” that they’re hoping won’t make a comeback. Which of these would you like to leave in the past?

The need to always be doing more

“This pandemic has shown me how the simple things are truly the most essential to live a happy and healthy life. I have no plans to go back to my previous norm of the constant need to have my feet on the ground and running in several directions, not taking the time to focus on what my mind and body need. We don’t need a constant pressure to be doing more. The new norm is serving me and my family well, and I have no intention of returning to our pre-pandemic way of life.”

 —Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON, Canada

Unnecessary meetings

“One thing I truly hope will not return in our new normal is meetings! I’ve loved moving away from regular meetings and focusing on deeper, more meaningful work — uninterrupted. I truly hope that lessons on productivity that are more based on individual work styles continue post-pandemic and that most meetings are replaced with emails or other forms of communication.”

 —Priya Jindal, transition management consultant, Washington, D.C. 

A lack of quality family time

“For so many of us, life in the past couple months has become home- and family-centric — filled with family dinners, game nights, movies, puzzles, dance parties, and cooking. The home has once again become the center of the family. For years, that was not the case. Families were ruled by schedules, rehearsals, meetings, tutors, and other commitments. My hope is that we don’t swing the pendulum back to where it was; that our kids say proudly, ‘I’m having dinner and spending the evening with my family tonight.’ I also hope that acts of kindness — like checking in on neighbors, donating to charities that support our communities, and making sure food is available to those in need — prevail and let us revisit mid-Century values with a modern twist.”

 —Barbara Palmer, leadership coach, Los Angeles, CA

Nonstop travel

“Even in the shutdown, we’ve found certain freedoms. One freedom I found centers on how much I can do and how far I can truly reach without getting on an airplane. All of my work is done from my home studio. TV and radio segments are done without travel. I have diamond and platinum status from traveling so much over the years, but I certainly do not miss airports and hotels. It’s a joy and benefit not to have to travel.”

 —Dr. Wayne Pernell, breakthrough coach, San Francisco, CA

A reluctance to let employees work from home

“I hope that we will not fall back on old habits and that we will continue to look for innovative ways to support employees who choose to work from home. We can do this through creative employee engagement programs, and offering reward and recognition for remote performance. Let’s showcase inclusive leadership and personalize workplace parameters to meet individual needs. My hope is that we won’t speak about working from home, but rather about working effectively.”

 —Marta Chavent, change and management consultant, France

Working harder instead of smarter

“I hope that we never go back to substituting the quantity of work or time as a measure of its quality. During this crisis, I have watched people realize that working harder doesn’t actually mean accomplishing more, and that when we are pushed to really focus on what matters and what needs doing, we can produce better results in much less time.”

 —Becky M., executive coach, Ashburn, VA

Constant rushing 

“I don’t miss rushing. I don’t miss yelling at everyone telling them we’ll be late — whether to the bus, to the train, to karate, or to church. Our new normal is a slower pace. But, it has more meaning.” 

 —Valerie Nifora, marketing and communications leader, New York, NY

Neglecting what our bodies need

“Before COVID-19 started, I was going to a barre class a few times each week. Now that I’m doing my barre classes online instead, I’m finding that I have extra time without the drive, and I’ve been using that time to stretch after my workout. In order to stretch for five minutes, I have to stop and relax. I have to stop working, watching TV, and eating. I have to feel the intensity of the stretch which I think I can’t sustain for another minute, but I do. I have to feel my feelings brought on by the release. Before the pandemic, I was working my body hard, but I wasn’t nurturing my body by stopping and stretching. When the Barre studios open back up, I’m not going to go back to driving there three times a week. I’m going to continue to work out at home so I can still spend the time giving myself what my body needs.”

 —Shari Smith, eBay seller and trainer, Erie, CO

An obsession with busyness

“As I move toward a new way of living, I realize that I won’t miss our work obsession and busyness, and our focus on outward activities. We had a chance to reassess our priorities and realize that we were putting too much emphasis on work, on business goals, on our careers at the expense of our well-being, our relationships, our humanity. We had a chance to hit the reset button. While there’s always going to be a long to-do list, I plan on working slowly, with intention and joy. I plan on putting my well-being first, going to bed at a reasonable time, and spending time outside each day. Most importantly, I plan on knowing when to say ‘enough’ for the day and unplug mentally from work.”

 —Milena Regos, human potential coach, Lake Tahoe, NV

Putting things on a “someday” list

“I used to reach for my phone so often before the pandemic that I never allowed myself to get bored enough to explore new skills and activities. Between being busy with work and my social life, I never made the space for things I wanted to try. Instead, I put them down on my list of things to do ‘someday.’ After the pandemic passes, I would like to allow myself to feel bored once in a while, so that I can continue to be curious about trying new things today, instead of ‘someday.’”

 —Marjan Oloumi, human resources, Sydney, Australia

Solo dinners

“I truly hope that eating dinner separately is a way of the past in my family. The chance to eat dinner as a family with our two teenage sons has been enlightening, encouraging and something I’m eternally grateful about. My husband has been testing us all with word plays, jokes, and other dad-like endearing snippets that the boys love in spite of themselves. And in turn, our sons have been sharing anecdotes from previous times that we probably would never otherwise have heard. We’re all appreciating these communal moments that we somehow could never make the time for before the pandemic.”

—Suzy Haber Wakefield, design consultant, Montclair, NJ

Making excuses to skip a workout

“As we shift from ‘old normal’ into the next normal, I hope that the time management strategies I’ve developed remain so that excuses don’t make a comeback. So many times before, when I would get home from the office, I would feel too tired, too drained, or too lazy to work out. I am now so much better about working out every day after work. I’ve replaced excuses and laziness with the motivation and effective time management strategies to take care of myself. Let’s commit to saying goodbye to excuses that don’t benefit us!” 

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Outdated ideas about productivity 

“One thing from our ‘old normal’ that I’m hoping won’t make a comeback is the mentality that remote employees can’t be productive. I have a technical role that sometimes requires my on-site presence and interaction with the people and process. However, there are various aspects of my role that require desk work where the distractions of being on-site are actually counterproductive. I hope the amount of productivity and improved quality of work is not forgotten under the guise of returning to ‘normal.’”

—Amal Mehic, process engineer, Syracuse, NY 

Living in a comfort zone

“One thing I hope that won’t return is living a life of complete comfort. As life moves towards ‘normal’, I hope we do not forget to live life with intention and purpose. While these days have been filled with tremendous loss and uncertainty, we have seen people rising up for good in inspiring and amazing ways that light up our hearts and inspire our minds — none of which would have happened if we stayed in our comfort zones. Being stuck at home for two months has forced people to examine excuses, recognize habits they want to change, tackle passion projects, and in many cases, intentionally make shifts in the way they live their lives. Time is our most precious resource and we were made to live inspired and intention-filled lives. Going forward, I hope we do not forget to live the life we want, instead of the life that just happens.”

—Jamie Sewell, technology strategist, Tampa, FL

A lack of prioritization 

“One thing that stood out to me during this pandemic was that being at home made us choose. It urged us to tap into a sense of priorities and importance. While you’re working at your workstation and you have a call going, a dog barking, an email popping up, and either an elderly parent or kids needing your attention, who do you go to, or what do you do first?  When we’re at the office, we get blinded from that reality. This pandemic has shown the real importance of our lives and has given us a glimpse of the priorities we choose, whether or not they’re aligned with what we do during ‘normal’ times. I hope this realization stays with us.”

—Mike Pio Roda, consultant, Vancouver, BC, Canada

What’s one thing that you hope won’t return back to “normal” after COVID-19? Let us know in the comments! 

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