Our familiar habits and rituals changed in 2020—hopefully forever

Learning lessons.
Learning lessons.
Image: Reuters/Jeenah Moon
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For most people, this pandemic is (hopefully!) a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The human experience for all 7.5 billion-plus people on earth has unified by the coronavirus. Much of quarantine was plagued with pangs of anxiety for people across the globe. Most people’s livelihoods have been hit. Many were separated from loved ones for months on end. Dialysis and chemotherapy patients struggled as hospitals got overburdened. More than 1.6 million people have so far lost their lives to the pandemic.

However, with vaccines getting deployed in the UK and the US, the finish line to go back to “normal” seems closer than before. And amid all the bad news, people have also discovered big and small joys that they wouldn’t mind carrying into the future. From attending live concerts via social media to discovering the inner baker and from spending time with ageing parents to being able to wear pajamas all day, here are things that Quartz employees want to take with them into the post-pandemic world:

🏋🏽‍♀️  Working out without a gym

This pandemic, I finally got weights for home workouts, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel as comfortable going back to the gym. I can literally tumble out of bed and onto my yoga mat, in whatever clothes I want, and without worrying about looking like a rookie at the gym. Of course, nothing compares to the equipment at gyms, but there’s no match for the consistency one can achieve at home without needing to battle too much inertia. —Manavi Kapur, reporter (New Delhi)

I’ve always enjoyed exercising outdoors—particularly running, which I do year-round, rain (snow) or shine. But I used to rely on gyms for other kinds of exercise, like spinning, weight lifting, or yoga. All that’s shifted now; the whole city is my gym: I’ve picked up cycling in earnest (instead of just commuting), played more tennis, and adopted more bodyweight exercises for strength training. I’ve even started running with a metronome app around the Mall to replace interval training on the treadmill. I can’t imagine ever going back to the gym to work out. —Katherine Ellen Foley, reporter (Washington D.C.)

🚗 Cutting commutes out

It would take me two-and-a-half hours commuting to and from work during peak hours in Mumbai. Now that I end up saving that time, I utilise it to read and do online courses. This wasn’t possible before the pandemic. It has immensely helped me maintain a work-life balance. —Prathamesh Mulye, reporter (Mumbai)

💍 Smaller weddings 

India capped wedding guests at 50 at some point and I have been hoping this limit sticks going forward. (Unfortunately, it’s already up to 200 in some places.) Sometimes, weddings in India can have upwards of 500 guests and the bride and groom don’t even know half of them. Such extravagance, in my opinion, feels like a colossal waste of money and resources. Especially now that the economy is in such dire straits. It seems better to save it for a rainy day, invest it somewhere, or use it to travel the world. —Ananya Bhattacharya, reporter (Mumbai)

🎧 For more intel on how covid-19 changed tradition, listen to the Quartz Obsession podcast episode on Indian weddings. Or subscribe via: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher.

🥼 Calling the doctor

Telemedicine—I went on a picnic, got several tick bites, joked about Lyme Disease, and then got Lyme Disease. Turns out, that’s not a big deal if you catch it very early. If telemedicine hadn’t been so easy to do, or if I’d had to go to a doctor’s office, I’m not sure I would have bothered to check out what seemed like it could just be a really innocuous symptom. I plan to use telemedicine much more often than I would normally have gone to an actual doctor’s office. I will also never walk through grass ever again. —Susan Howson, Daily Brief and Weekly Obsession editor (New York)

🏡 More family time

My nephew is four and lives nearby. If not for the pandemic, I’d see him only occasionally. But I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with him, teach him stuff, and generally be present as he moves from nursery to kindergarten. We are a close family, and although it can be challenging being in such close proximity so often, I’m grateful to have been around. Also, thanks to me, he’s going to win gold in taekwondo at the 2036 Olympics. —Hasit Shah, news editor (London)

Being home with my pre-teen while also working full-time has forced me to force her to start doing more things for herself around the home—things I probably should have stopped doing for her before. It’s making my daughter more independent and saving me from at least a few moments of distraction each day—a win-win that I want to not only continue but expand upon as she’s able to take on more responsibilities for herself. —Heather Landy, executive editor and Quartz At Work editor (New York)

In the past, I rarely visited my parents in the summer (even though they live on a lake and it is a delightful place to visit) because it wasn’t convenient to use my vacation time for that. But now that we will be less tied to the office in the future, I hope to spend some time there every year while also working. And I will definitely keep pickling onions at home! —Liz Webber, deputy email editor (New York)

I never thought I would feel comfortable living with my parents as an adult. But having lived at home for five months during the pandemic, and survived to tell the tale, I feel much more at ease with the idea there might be times in my life where I will have to move back home—and not only is that okay, but I am lucky to have that option. —Annabelle Timsit, reporter (London)

📲  Rekindling friendships

My friends from school are scattered all over the US, and though I’m generally pretty good at keeping in touch, it was mostly via individual phone calls and texts pre-pandemic. Quarantine introduced me to the joys of group hangs on Zoom. Two friends from grad school and I started having regular happy hours together, while my high school friends and I recently gathered for an online reunion—the first time we’ve all been together (albeit virtually) in years. I’d love to keep up video hangs going forward: It’s not quite the same as hanging out in person, but it’s pretty darn close. —Sarah Todd, senior reporter (New York)

It’ll sound weird but I have never felt so connected with my friends or family ever. The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, which is why my people and I are making sure to check up on everyone. While we have created a safe space for ourselves, I love how each one of us tries to cheer the other with small but important things. Like one of my friends loves to paint and she sends these beautiful handmade cards which I think is really sweet. Another one makes sure to video call every day so that all of us can talk to her poodle. While the one staying in the mountains updates us with beautiful shots of the Himalayas. And weekends are now much more than just an excuse for partying or to break the monotony of the work. Sometimes my mom plans a family Bollywood trivia night and other times we will all be on the terrace watching fireflies and shooting stars. —Niharika Sharma, reporter (Delhi)

🙅‍♀️ Learning to say no to socialising

I felt a perverse relief when the lockdown forced an end to all social commitments. I suffer from major FOMO (fear of missing out), which means I overcommit to events and activities. Add a little kid into the mix and I was feeling overwhelmed and overextended when the pandemic hit. I hope that when we can freely meet up again, under normal circumstances, I’ll be able to be more selective about what I say yes to, and not feel guilty for doing so. —Jackie Bischof, deputy membership editor (London)

👨🏽‍🍳 Chef-ing it up

Before the pandemic, I was the type of person who would make instant noodles at least once a week. But during the pandemic, I’ve really gotten into cooking—coconut curry chicken, homemade noodles, chicken francaise, chickpea stew. My favourite thing to do is to just be impromptu with my meals—sardines + bacon in pasta is a great combo, or I love doing my take on traditional Chinese food. I find that cooking is a great creative outlet where anything goes, and I look forward to continuing that in a post-Covid world. —Michelle Cheng, Quartz At Work reporter (New York)

🌻 Putting yourself first

I started regularly attending a weekly mental health chat on Zoom that a friend set up. It is a safe space to talk about how everyone was dealing with the pandemic, challenges with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, and offered the kind of environment you normally only hear about in other support groups or AA meetings. It made me realise how important it was to do, on top of regular therapy, to learn how I wasn’t alone and find out other people’s best practices. —Karen Ho, reporter (New York)

I’m taking better care of myself. The (very) predictable schedule makes it very easy to plan the days when I exercise and the days when I fast, and the lack of commute means I’m not getting up as early and so I’m getting more sleep. We also rearranged our vacations to avoid flying, which meant driving trips to the Adirondacks and to the Maine coast, both of which were wonderful. Who needs airplanes?  —Oliver Staley, culture and lifestyle editor (New York