13 Everyday Habits That Could (and Should) Change Forever After Coronavirus

It'll be a whole new world.

1 / 14
Woman In Town Wearing Protective Face Mask.
ArtistGNDphotography/Getty Images

Cultural changes ahead

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.

2 / 14
Business people greeting during COVID-19 pandemic
martin-dm/Getty Images

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.”

Watch out for these coronavirus symptoms.

3 / 14
Automatic alcohol dispenser in the hospital
Zephyr18/Getty Images

There will be more hand sanitizer available in public places

In the days post-coronavirus outbreak, we’re probably going to see more hand sanitizer made available in offices, public spaces, and entertainment events. “For example, sanitizers would be placed at reception or outside interview rooms to make sure candidates’ hands are clean,” Xia says. “We would see sanitizers 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-sanitizer dispensers, we’re likely to see this expand to including more restaurants, churches, and other establishments.

That said, you can have too much of a good thing: check out these times you’re overusing hand sanitizer.

4 / 14
Confident female professional discussing with colleagues
alvarez/Getty Images

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.”

Learn how the coronavirus is affecting everyday life across Canada.

5 / 14
Minimal bread cafe decorating with white wall and wooden chairs. Warm, cozy and comfortable.
Artit_Wongpradu/Getty Images

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.

Just FYI, this is the dirtiest thing on restaurant tables.

6 / 14
toilet with electronic seat automatic flush, japan style toilet bowl, high technology sanitary ware.
Ratchat/Getty Images

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 North American bathrooms, we’ll likely continue to see that trend after the pandemic is over.

Find out if you should be disinfecting your mail.

7 / 14
Senior woman at home
Eva-Katalin/Getty Images

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.”

Here are four household products that kill coronavirus, according to Consumer Reports.

8 / 14
Neon elevator controls
hatman12/Getty Images

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.

Check out this list of diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.

9 / 14
Bowl of halved cashew nuts in a wooden bowl
etiennevoss/Getty Images

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.”

10 / 14
Crossing the street in San Francisco's Mission District
georgeclerk/Getty Images

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 six feet away from other people. And while we probably won’t see that six-foot 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.

11 / 14
Wash your hands regularly to keep the germs away
Jay Yuno/Getty Images

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 sanitizer 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.

12 / 14
Woman waiting for the subway in Toronto
Photo: IVY PHOTOS/Shutterstock

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 Canada really started taking the coronavirus seriously, some cities have issued guidelines against getting into crowded spaces. As a result, there’s a good chance that people will reconsider smooshing themselves into a crowded subway car—now and in the future.

Whether you’re in a crowded space or not, you should always wash your hands immediately after touching these 10 things.

13 / 14
Waking up with his dog, looking through the window
NoSystem images/Getty Images

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 on spring break. 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.

14 / 14
Teenage boy listening to music while doing homework
damircudic/Getty Images

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 like New York City and Los Angeles 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 college classes available online, or having emergency plans in place in elementary 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.

Find out how much the coronavirus is costing the world so far.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest