As we get ready to bid goodbye to one of the toughest years of this century, it’s hard to look forward to the new year without feeling a bit anxious about what’s to come. Although it looks like most of the world has successfully transitioned to the new normal, there’s still much uncertainty on how the COVID-19 pandemic might play out. For one thing, it seems like the current crisis is playing out differently from place to place. While countries like Germany and New Zealand are currently handling the crisis swimmingly, others such as the US and Brazil don’t seem to be faring too well. With these in mind, what could we possibly look forward to this coming 2021?

Health and Safety

One of the things we can be certain of is that health and safety will become important aspects of life. People in face masks will remain a common sight, and social distancing in public spaces will be imperative. Sanitation procedures will be enhanced, and physical contact in public will decrease.

Another thing we can hope to look forward to is the distribution of an official coronavirus vaccine. According to Bill Gates, the first round of vaccines could be approved as early as the first half of 2021. This is thanks to the advances in testing and therapeutics.  

“I think the therapeutics is actually the most promising thing and not talked about as much as the vaccines because if you have multiple therapeutics that, between them, are reducing the death rate and the amount of serious sickness by over 80%, probably over 90%, that does start to reduce the horrific burden,” Gates said.

Although a vaccine may be available, it will still take some time before it gets distributed to the rest of the world as it has to undergo testing and will likely have a limited supply.

Future of Remote Work

Home-based or remote work will experience a surge in 2021. Many companies may make the shift to purely home-based positions, even if lockdown is finally lifted. In fact, companies such as Twitter have told their employees that they have the option to permanently work from home if they want to. Twitter has strongly encouraged working from home since March 2 and has required all employees to work from home on the 11th.  

“The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” the company said. 

Ecommerce businesses will grow, as online shopping takes over completely. Big companies are focusing their attention on digital enterprising. This will not bode well for smaller companies with a flawed business model. So, startup owners, beware!

Even as quarantine measures are slowly eased up, expect an increase in demand for private venues. Public places such as parks, pools, and shopping malls may experience a permanent decrease in visitors.

A Permanent Shift to Digital?

By next year, the world will have completed its shift to digital. Virtual meetings and events will become the norm. Cashless payments and online banking will be the go-to service when it comes to managing finances. All enterprises—big or small—will be forced to update their services in order to accommodate cashless payments. At the moment, online learning is on the rise. It may likely remain even after the pandemic is put under control. This is due to some research that suggests that online learning actually increases knowledge retention in students. That is, compared to classroom learning. 

If ever a vaccine remains to be out of reach by next year, a lot of long-standing industries could eventually fall. This includes movie theaters and theme parks. As well as shopping malls. Restaurants may eliminate dine-in services completely and operate on delivery or take-out. As companies close, the rate of unemployment will rise.

There will be a decrease in international travel, but each country’s local tourism will likely flourish. Because of the continued health risk of public transport, expect a rise in private vehicle usage even after the crisis ends. 

It’s been a hard year for everyone. And with how things are currently going, the future seems bleak—but that’s not a valid reason to completely give up. As a species, we have survived many other disasters before and we have always come out stronger and wiser than ever. So, cheers to a better 2021!

Read: Business Trends That Will Stay After COVID-19

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