Verizon Look Forward study reveals lifestyle changes driven by COVID-19
Americans expect work and school flexibility, streaming and gaming growth, and more convenient shopping in 2022
Farewell cubicles: Adults who’ve worked remotely in the last year would prefer to be working in a remote or hybrid capacity a year from now.
Endless stream of content: Traffic on major streaming sites is currently 21% above pre-pandemic levels as Americans plan to spend more time streaming.
“Hello, it’s me”: Phone calls are lasting longer than pre-pandemic, and more adults are embracing video calls to stay connected with their friends and family.
Retail therapy: Adults anticipate that a year from now, they will be splitting their shopping equally between in person and online, compared to most shopping “mostly in-person” pre-pandemic.
BASKING RIDGE, N.J. - Verizon today released findings from its Look Forward study on how Americans have adapted to life one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and what they think it will look like a year in the future. Our study, conducted with Morning Consult, combined with Verizon network data suggests permanent lifestyle changes in the workplace, a sustained larger appetite for streamed content, a comeback for phone calls, and a more equal mix of online and in-person shopping as the new norm.
“The pandemic has forced all of us to face challenges we never considered,” says Kyle Malady, Chief Technical Officer at Verizon. “A year into the pandemic, data usage on Verizon networks remains at almost 31% above pre-pandemic levels, a clear indicator that internet consumption and the acceleration of technology adoption are major byproducts of this moment. We’ve seen the shift to digital jump ahead 5-7 years.”
As companies shifted from in-office to work-from-home, many have invested significant resources into technology to ensure the continued operations of their business. Survey data suggests that many employees who have acclimated to remote work are not in a rush to go back to an office full-time. In fact, half agree that they would consider changing jobs to continue remote or hybrid work.
Use of collaboration tools like video conferencing on Verizon’s networks, is still a remarkable 2872% above pre-pandemic levels. Traffic across secure networks (VPN) also remains 91% higher than pre-pandemic volumes.
Over half of employed adults say they are currently working remotely at least part of the time (54%), nearly twice the share who say they were doing so before the pandemic began (28%).
Among those who’ve worked at least partially remotely at some point in the last year, about 7 in 10 say they would like to be working remotely at least 1-2 days per week a year from now (69%). Just 1 in 4 hope to return to in person work full-time (25%).
Remote workers largely say they tend to be more mobile when they’re working remotely (75%). 2 in 3 say they plan to take advantage of remote work to travel or work from places other than their home when the pandemic has subsided (67%).
This shift in worker preference has one major implication: the reliability of networks is even more important today and going forward as workers are increasingly able to work from places other than home.
"The pandemic has forced all of us to face challenges we never considered... We’ve seen the shift to digital jump ahead 5-7 years."
Kyle Malady, Verizon Chief Technical Officer
Kids and Learning
Parents are optimistic about their children’s return to the classroom next year. One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic on education could be the availability of different options for how children attend school.
A large majority (77%) say it is likely that most children will be attending school fully in-person a year from now, and nearly half (49%) expect K-12 students will have the option to attend classes online at least part time even when COVID-19 is no longer a concern.
This flexibility may not be well received by everyone though: 58% expect K-12 schools to move classes online during inclement weather, rather than canceling classes. For many, “snow days” may soon be a relic of the past.
Parents with children under 18 overwhelmingly express that they have been more lenient with screen time throughout the pandemic (72%), and most say they will keep more relaxed screen time rules even after the pandemic ends (57%).
Today, traffic on major streaming sites is currently 21% above pre-pandemic levels according to Verizon network data, supporting the finding that the nation has a larger appetite for streaming. Discussing TV and streaming content has helped adults connect with friends and family during the pandemic (44%). Those who currently stream content largely anticipate that they will be spending more or the same amount of time that they are now watching content through streaming services a year from now (82%).
2 in 3 US adults say that recently they have been spending at least 3 hours per week watching live TV (67%). More than half (59%) say the same about watching content through a streaming service.
Nearly half of adults (47%) say they have subscribed to a new streaming service since the start of the pandemic. Most say they have binge watched shows at least once or twice (70%).
While there is no final verdict on American’s preference to “binge watch” versus watch episodic content, Gen Z prefers to binge (47%).
Most US adult households currently subscribe to a cable or satellite television service (62%). Nearly 1 in 4 say they’ve cut the cord (23%). Among millennials, 1 in 5 say they have never subscribed to a cable or satellite television service (21%).
Mobile gaming really took off during the pandemic. 46% of respondents report that they have purchased or downloaded a mobile game at least once since the pandemic started; while 36% report doing the same for a computer or console game.
Nearly a third of respondents said that they spend 3 or more hours a week playing games on their mobile devices (31%)
About a third of adults who’ve spent time online gaming (32%) and talking to friends or family via video calls (32%) say they were spending more time doing these activities in the early months of the pandemic than they are now, while nearly half say they were spending about the same amount of time as they are now (45% and 46%, respectively).
Newer technology may get the headlines about record data usage, but the old fashioned telephone call spiked during and after lockdowns. As the pandemic first took hold, Verizon network data showed phone calls increase by 20% as people were connecting more over the phone than in person. That percentage has remained steady with current phone calls coming in at almost 19% above pre-pandemic times. Today the duration of those calls also remains significantly higher, with people talking almost 29% longer on calls.
Nearly 1 in 3 adults say they either upgraded or considered upgrading both their home internet bandwidth (32%) and their mobile data plan (32%) within the last year. Younger generations and those who are working remotely are more likely to say so compared to their counterparts.
Among adults who use messaging apps, video calls, and social media to communicate, nearly 1 in 3 anticipate they will be using each respective form of communication more a year from now than they are now.
The strongest increase in reported usage from before the pandemic to during the pandemic is observed for video calls (21% to 26% for friends; 25% to 31% for immediate family).
While online, contactless payments and non-traditional shopping experiences were not born of the pandemic, the last year has expanded Americans' familiarity and use of them. Most adults say they were shopping mostly in person pre-pandemic (60%), while just over a third say the same now (37%). Adults surveyed anticipate that a year from now, they will be shopping in person and online equally (42%).
1 in 4 adults say they’ve recently shopped mostly online (24%), while 1 in 3 say they’ve recently shopped through an equal mix of in person and online (34%).
About 1 in 3 adults say they either used or heard about contactless credit cards (36%), contactless mobile payments (33%), and grocery delivery services (38%) for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1 in 5 adults anticipate they will be using self-checkout (23%), contactless credit cards (24%), and contactless mobile payments (22%) more a year from now than they are now.
Only 16% expect they’ll be shopping mostly online a year from today, a 6-point increase from before the pandemic, and an 8-point drop from today.
Verizon commissioned this poll conducted by Morning Consult on March 12 to March 14, 2021 among a national sample of 3,000 adults in the United States. The interviews were conducted online and the data was weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race, and region.