COVID-19 is here to stay – but is this the 'new normal'? 

Pardon the Interruption

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COVID concerns have registered a small increase over the past two weeks, with professional worries rising the most – by 17%. While vaccination rates are improving, some pension professionals question whether vaccine efficacy is decreasing given the spread of the delta variant. 
However, the government continues relaxing rules, leaving some members of our research panel less confident that people can act responsibly. For those who have had the virus months ago – and have not yet made a full recovery – this is all a reminder that COVID-19 remains a threat no matter how careful we are. 

COVID-19 is here to stay 

Despite many aspects of life returning to some level of normalcy, we have not beat COVID-19 yet. Vaccines may have increased protection against bad disease or death, but this does not mean the coronavirus has become endemic like the common flu yet. As a result, the minimum expected duration of the outbreak has extended once again, suggesting we will not be out of the woods until at least June next year. 

Is this the new normal we have been waiting for? 

According to our COVID research panel, working from home is here to stay – with nearly three-quarters continuing to do so despite offices reopening. This statistic contrasts the two-thirds who now say they would be comfortable attending in-person events if protective measures are taken (e.g. mask wearing, social distancing, good ventilation). 
This suggests that pension professionals still strongly believe in the efficacy of digital communications and remote work – and are comfortable with some in-person contact, but at limited times. Some still shy away from public transport for these reasons. 

Selective social contact or a reluctance to return to work? 

Pension professionals are choosing carefully whom to socialise with, and for how long. For example, many are already seeing family in person and attending family gatherings. Those holding off on travelling within the UK, meeting friends, seeing colleagues in person or going to the pub are likely to engage in these activities in the coming weeks – but they all tend to be one-time occasions with a select group of people. 
In contrast, our COVID research panel suggests we should wait until at least November when it comes to holding in-person meetings or working from the office on a regular basis, if not later. These tend to be activities that involve longer and much more regular social contact, as well as commuting – all things that still make some pension professionals uneasy.  

Further economic disruption  

If the 'new normal' involves selective social contact, continued social distancing and mask wearing, further disruption in economic activity may lie ahead. Some pension professionals warn that the long-term effects of working from home on innovation and productivity remain unknown. Additionally, with the next wave of infections approaching rapidly, self-isolation will lead to staff shortages in various industries. As a result, the effects of the pandemic will still be felt until Q3 2024 – a year and a half later than the most pessimistic initial projections of our COVID research panel. 
Has the pandemic changed our personal and professional lives forever, and will the government be blamed if deaths start rising again? Click here to tell us in our bi-weekly survey. 

Previous articles in this series: 


About the COVID Concern Index 

This short survey helps gauge sentiment of our community on the pandemic. The results are distributed via the community newsletter. Until 31/08/2020, this was a weekly survey. From 01/09/2020, the survey shifted to a bi-weekly cadence. 
The COVID Concern Index values should be used as indication only and do not constitute advice. Their values are bound by the choices available in the survey on which they are based. 
COVID Concern Index: 
  • 0 = respondents are not worried at all 
  • 100 = respondents are extremely worried 
Expected minimum duration of outbreak: 
A methodology change took place on 06/10/2020, affecting data from 20/10/2020 onwards. 
Prior to 06/10/2020: 
  • Lowest possible value = 1 month 
  • Highest possible value = 6 months 
Following 20/10/2020: 
  • Lowest possible value = 1 month 
  • Highest possible value = 12 months 
Expected minimum duration of macro effects: 
A methodology change took place on 15/04/2020, affecting data from 21/04/2020 onwards. 
Prior to 15/04/2020: 
  • Lowest possible value = 3 months 
  • Highest possible value = 12 months 
Following 15/04/2020: 
  • Lowest possible value = 3 months 
  • Highest possible value = 60 months 
Macro rates index: 
  • -100 = all respondents think rates will fall 
  • 0 = all respondents think rates will stay the same 
  • +100 = all respondents think rates will rise 
Sector sentiment index: 
  • -100 = all respondents think the sector will be a ‘loser’ in the pandemic 
  • 0 = all respondents see a neutral outlook for the sector 
  • +100 = all respondents think the sector will be a ‘winner’ in the pandemic 
Concerned about the coronavirus outbreak and its macro implications? Click here to take part in the bi-weekly COVID-19 survey.