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Sustainability News

July 13, 2021

As normalcy begins to come back into our lives, what habits that we adopted during the pandemic are we most likely to continue? In a new article released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Arizona State University highlight their findings from a nationwide survey documenting potential behavioral changes Americans see themselves making.

Most notably, many Americans see themselves continuing to have telecommute, or work from home, options. In our pre-pandemic world, only 13% of survey respondents participated in telecommute work. But as this method of work became more normalized, 26% of respondents noted that they will be likely to continue telecommuting at least a few days every week.

“This is a large shift, and it comes with a number of cascading effects, including changes to rush-hour traffic patterns, changing demand for downtown services and changes in where people want to live and what they are looking for in a home and a neighborhood,” said sustainability scientist Deborah Salon, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU and lead author of the article. Co-authors included sustainability scientists Sara Khoeini, Nathan Parker and Ram Pendyala, among others. Read the story in ASU News.

The article's abstract follows.

Human behavior is notoriously difficult to change, but a disruption of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to bring about long-term behavioral changes. During the pandemic, people have been forced to experience new ways of interacting, working, learning, shopping, traveling, and eating meals. A critical question going forward is how these experiences have actually changed preferences and habits in ways that might persist after the pandemic ends. Many observers have suggested theories about what the future will bring, but concrete evidence has been lacking. We present evidence on how much US adults expect their own postpandemic choices to differ from their prepandemic lifestyles in the areas of telecommuting, restaurant patronage, air travel, online shopping, transit use, car commuting, uptake of walking and biking, and home location. The analysis is based on a nationally representative survey dataset collected between July and October 2020. Key findings include that the “new normal” will feature a doubling of telecommuting, reduced air travel, and improved quality of life for some.