Rhythms, Routines and COVID19

December 14, 2020

When COVID struck there was a lot of confusion.  Getting people to change routines and adopt new practices became government’s role in most countries.

People needed to wear masks, wash hands, keep social distance and be aware.  None of those were habits anyone but a surgeon followed.  Countries whose leadership were successful in getting their populations to follow those new habits were also successful in reducing the impact of the virus in terms of lives lost and economic activity.

We are all creatures of habits, rhythms, and routines.  They make our lives easier.  They allow us not to have to problem solve every minute.  When we get up out of bed, we start moving through a routine without thinking too much about it.

We might arrive at work with little or no memory of how we got there, unless there was a disruptive incident along the way.  While we drove we might have thought about some other problem on our minds, mortgage renewal, relationships, weekend activities…

With COVID, most of our routines have been disrupted. Fewer are driving to work, for example. We have developed a whole new set of routines – more than wearing sweat pants all day or never wearing shoes.  Teaching our kids at home. Not going to restaurants. No movies at theatres.  Line ups and direction arrows in stores.

When we finally finish with COVID, which new practices will stick?  Buying on-line, wearing masks, reducing trips to stores, paying down debt?

Will retail stores convert enough business to on-line or curbside pickup?  Will home delivery continue to grow for restaurants and retailers?  COVID has accelerated the growth of delivery services and forced retailers and restaurants to rely on web presence for sales.

Will many closed businesses hurt commercial real estate values?  Will reduced commuting will improve air but make electric vehicles need longer payouts as we drive less?

COVID has also tested business management and planning.  Only those businesses that have retained sufficient earnings to weather this difficult storm will survive.

Restaurants, a particularly volatile sector, will experience closures if their operation relied on sit down or buffet styles and could not adapt to take away or curbside pickup.  Depending on their premise arrangements, some may not get enough revenue to survive.

People will slowly return to eating out of home once the pandemic subsides, but they will be cautious when they do, despite assurances to the contrary. It won’t happen all at once.

Business closures will leave unpaid bills, more debt – it is a lesson that the ants have learned and the grasshoppers not.  Be prepared for a rocky future, you will be pleased if it does not come and prepared if it does.

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