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Opinion
Allison Schrager

We’ll Return to the Office in 2023 But Not to Stores

Three years after Covid-19 panicked the world, we’re beginning to see that many of the painful changes the pandemic made to our lives will be permanent.

A permanent neighborhood fixture.

A permanent neighborhood fixture.

Photographer: UCG/Universal Images Group Editorial

Certain events change the course of history, or at least the trajectory of the global economy. To name a few: the Black Death, the invention of the steam engine and World War II, and now the scourge of Covid-19. It's been nearly three years since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic that changed the world as we knew it. You can’t pause economic and social activity for more than a year and go back to normal. It's hard to know in the moment, or even a decade later, what will change for good. In 2020 people thought they might never go to the office again, or leave home without a mask, or that they’d finally maintain their sourdough starter. Now many of our pre-pandemic behaviors have returned, but we're also starting to see what's unlikely to ever go back to the way it was.  

Some of our habits are still different from before the pandemic, but they may eventually revert. For example, Americans and Brits aren't eating in restaurants as much as they did in 2019. That may because they still fear disease, or inflation has made it too expensive, or people have just rediscovered the joys of home cooking. But eating out, which had been trending upward over the years, will probably come back. People enjoy it too much to stop.