13 everyday habits that could (and should) change forever after coronavirus

In a few short weeks, we’ve seen adaptations to living in a world with COVID-19, a novel strain of the coronavirus that has become a global pandemic. Between skipping handshakes, keeping a safe distance from other people, and being (much) more diligent about proper hand-washing, we’re in the process of seeing what kind of impact the spread of the virus will have on our cultural, social and hygiene practices.

According to CJ Xia, a VP of marketing and sales at Boster Biological Technology, a biotech company based in Pleasanton, California, there were three types of people before the coronavirus outbreak: those who were extremely conscious, moderately conscious, and ignorant about germs. “Now the level of each category has risen, and it is difficult to find the third type of folks now,” Xia tells Reader’s Digest. “As a result, we have started seeing far less social interaction. [And] remember, when one thing is done again and again, then it becomes a part of muscle memory.”

Though it’s difficult to find a bright side to the coronavirus outbreak, one positive is that this period of global upheaval may change some of our less-than-desirable public-health habits – and improve our hygiene for good. It could also alter the way we approach work, school and so much more. Here are 13 everyday habits that could (and should) change forever once this crisis has passed.

Handshakes will be out

One of the most visible changes to societal norms since the coronavirus has hit has been avoiding handshakes. “In this new era of the coronavirus and the practice of social distancing, there will undoubtedly be a cultural shift in the way we all greet one another,” Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internist and health expert, tells Reader’s Digest. “Shaking hands, high fives, hugs and kisses are modes of greeting to be abandoned at this point. Social greetings may now entail a hand on the heart, a head nod, or pretty much any action that enables one to avoid direct touch or contact.”

There will be more hand sanitiser available in public places

In the days post-coronavirus outbreak, we’re probably going to see more hand sanitiser made available in offices, public spaces and entertainment events. “For example, sanitisers would be placed at reception or outside interview rooms to make sure candidates’ hands are clean,” Xia says. “We would see sanitisers at the table of interviewers as well. It would no longer be rare.

By placing such products around, everyone would be signalling to other people that their hands are clean.” And though many concert venues, stores and gyms already provide hand-sanitiser dispensers, we’re likely to see this expand to including more restaurants, churches and other establishments.

We’ll get better at responding to customer and client needs

The coronavirus outbreak has forced people to form rapid-response teams that cut across functions and seniority, according to Joanne Cleaver, author of The Career Lattice and a consultant and trainer to employers and individuals on how to use lateral career strategies for sustained growth. “People will discover that their coworkers and employees have talents that are relevant – even vital – to keeping the company operating,” she tells Reader’s Digest.

“It’s up to employees to make the case, post-virus, that their employers should invest in additional training and skills development to develop the abilities that came to the fore in the crisis. And it’s on companies to extract strategic value from how people rose to the occasion.”

Our relationships with restaurants may change

Dining out – or even getting takeout or delivery – is pretty different now compared to what it was like even a few weeks ago. According to Johann Moonesinghe, an expert in restaurant finance and the founder of inKind, a restaurant financing platform, we are already seeing a dramatic shift in how consumers are eating at restaurants. “The restaurants that require their guests to dine in are seeing the largest decline in sales, whereas bakeries that don’t have a lot of dining tables are busier than ever,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “And it is not just where people are going, it’s also what they are eating. We also have seen an increase in the sale of carbs and sugary products.”

Though it’s unclear exactly how our relationship with restaurants will play out after the outbreak, there will likely be changes. For example, delivery and takeout options might be expanded (in case something like this happens again), and more explicit information might be posted in the restaurant about its hygiene practices.

More people will use bidets

Though bidets that attach to your home toilet have become increasingly popular over the past few years, the sales and searches of these products have surged since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, last week, TUSHY – a company that makes attachable bidets – had sales that were 10 times what they were before word spread of TP shortages. And that’s on top of TUSHY already selling well over double what they’d been selling a year ago, according to a rep from the company.

If we’ve learned one thing already from this outbreak, it’s that people are extremely concerned about having enough toilet paper. Given that bidets are an alternative to (or an addition to) toilet paper, it makes sense that more people are interested in them now. Now that bidets are becoming more popular and commonplace in bathrooms, we’ll likely continue to see that trend after the pandemic is over.

More companies will permit employees to work remotely

These days, it’s pretty standard to negotiate some sort of arrangement for working remotely at least part of the time when you start a new job, but after the coronavirus outbreak, even more companies will permit employees to do so. “Once businesses and their employees see that working from home is not only doable but that it might even be more productive, it could cause a big shift in office cultures across the globe,” says Angela Ash, the content marketing manager at UpFlip, a site that assists people through business investments.

“With so many companies allowing their team members to work remotely, and even intentionally hiring a remote workforce in the first place, this could be much more than a solution to the virus.”

We’ll find another way to press buttons

Even before coronavirus became an issue, most of us were aware of everyday locations that are laden with germs. These places include buttons on ATMs, the credit-card swiper at the grocery store (and the attached pen) and buttons in an elevator. According to Dr Okeke-Igbokwe, people might start pushing those elevator buttons with their elbow or even an object like a pen instead of their fingers. “The same goes for pushing your pin number at the ATM or making a purchase at a store,” she adds. “Directly touching the keypads with your fingers will be an action of the past.”

Nikola Djordjevic, MD, co-founder of HealthCareers, agrees that pushing buttons in public is something that could change. “Surfaces are ideal places for transmitting the disease, and a lot of people now have to get rid of the habit of pressing elevator buttons or touching handles with their hands,” she explains. “Ideally, people should cover their skin with clothes or simply press buttons with elbows. In case they accidentally use their fingers, people should avoid touching their face until they get a chance to wash hands with soap.” And this isn’t just a good idea in terms of coronavirus.

It may be the end of communal foods

Free food is great, but let’s be honest: Those bowls of popcorn and nuts at bars have always been kind of suspect. After all, just how many people use the restroom, don’t wash their hands, and then help themselves to a scoop of snacks via their very dirty hands?

But the coronavirus outbreak will cause more people to rethink eating out of communal food containers. “You may also likely notice avoidance of buffets and salad bars to avoid picking up germs from serving spoons,” Dr Okeke-Igbokwe explains. “There [also] will be a greater focus on purchasing ingredients to prepare your own meals as hygienically as possible at home.”

People will take their personal space more seriously

One of the most visible policies in the age of the coronavirus is the idea of “social distancing.” According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this involves staying at least 1.5 metres away from other people. And while we probably won’t see that rule remain in effect after the outbreak is over, a version of it will likely continue, says Dmytro Okunye, the founder of Chanty, a team chat platform using artificial intelligence. “People will start paying more attention to whom they let approach them in their personal space and the socially acceptable personal distance will change in most cultures,” he tells Reader’s Digest.

We’ll be better at washing our hands

If there’s one thing we hear over and over about preventing the spread of the coronavirus, it’s that we should vigorously wash our hands as often as possible for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of at least 60 per cent when we can’t get to a sink. Ideally, once the outbreak has been contained, we’ll keep up these good hand-washing habits.

The guidelines aren’t new, by the way – this is what we should have been doing all along. If something good emerges from this crisis, it will be that more people will become aware of the importance of washing their hands and make it a habit moving forward.

We may stop getting into crowded spaces

It always happens when you’re running late: You get to the train and it’s incredibly crowded, or you finally get an elevator and it’s already full of people. In situations like those, it’s tempting to cram yourself in there – comfort (of you and your fellow passengers), be damned. But since the coronavirus took hold seriously, people are thinking twice about getting into crowded spaces. As a result, there’s a good chance that people will continue reconsider smooshing themselves into a crowded train carriage – now and in the future.

We may have a better understanding of public-health ethics

One of the most common comments from those who aren’t taking the coronavirus seriously is that they’re not worried because it probably won’t affect them. But these people are missing the point when they refuse to stop going to bars or stay away from others. The point of self-isolation and social distancing isn’t only to protect yourself – it’s also to make sure you don’t pass the virus along to other people, especially those who are especially vulnerable (like the elderly and immunocompromised). Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be an asymptomatic carrier and infect other people.

This outbreak has been a lesson of the tenet of public-health ethics that sometimes you have to put your own autonomy on the back burner for the greater good. Once we’ve made it to the other side of this pandemic, hopefully we’ll do so with a better understanding of public health and will continue the habits we’ve learned.

Schools and universities will be more prepared for distance learning

Another one of the more visible ways the coronavirus outbreak has changed our everyday life is how it has impacted education. School districts in major cities around the world are closed, and many universities have sent their students and faculty home in favour of moving to online classes.

This could prompt some changes for the future, like making more university classes available online, or having emergency plans in place in primary and high schools in case something like this happens again. While some schools are better equipped to handle these closures than others, we’ll likely see most schools investing in more equipment and resources needed to move their classroom learning online.