In anticipation of the changes coming in the new year, we dusted off our crystal ball to see what lies ahead. Well, actually it's a snow globe — the store was out of crystal balls by the time we got there — but it doesn't matter because we then asked our staff to weigh in on what they expect to happen over the next 12 months in the areas they report on. They came up with an extensive list that explores the upcoming trends in everything from food to travel, movies to stage shows and office use to our social lives — and, yes, we are confident that we will have social lives again. Rather than having to wait a few months to see what 2021 has in store, take an early look at the year ahead.
Tom Cruise didn't release a major movie this past year, but he did turn in a significant performance. Last month, he tore into crew members on the set of the latest "Mission: Impossible" movie for not following social-distancing rules. Some interpreted his tirade as an ego trip, but the superstar also delivered a critical message: Movies can move forward, if everyone proceeds with caution.
The same could be said of other forms of entertainment.
Twin Cities stand-up Robert Baril believes comedy clubs will soon reopen their doors, but with limited capacity for much of 2021.
"Unfortunately, the best venues for comedy are also the best for the virus — small spaces packed with people — so it will likely still be a while before it will get back to where it once was," said Baril, who just released an album titled "2020," a look back at the unprecedented year with fellow comedian Bryan Miller. "But anything with a live audience is better than Zoom."
Smaller theater venues will also continue to suffer, but bigger rooms such as the 576-seat main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres may be back in business by summer. If that happens, the repercussion of George Floyd's death and the subsequent protests will be on artistic director Michael Brindisi's mind.
"I am personally focused on creating a more diverse company," he said. "I wish to be deliberate about the way we come back as it relates to a personal quest for social justice and equity."
Want to know what the future holds for American pets? Take a look at what the future holds for Americans — and then add a few treats for such a good boy!
Pet owners (many of whom refer to themselves as pet parents) are going whole hog into natural pet care products, toys and food. In addition to high-quality meat-and-vegetable mixes, some pet parents are even springing for made-to-order meals customized for breed and size, said Phillip Cooper, president of the California-based consulting firm Pet Industry Expert.
Like their work-at-home parents, pets have been going virtual, with "at-home" pre-adoption visits and training being shifted to online platforms — and likely to stay there. And end-of-life preparation isn't just for people anymore. Now that pets are living longer and considered part of the family, more veterinarians are being asked to handle everything from counseling to cremation and funeral services.
One worrying trend that hasn't materialized is an increase in pet surrenders. Shelters were braced for returns when the pandemic first began. But it seems that people are hanging onto their pets. "People are still at home and they're still needing the bonding," said Azure Davis, founder of Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minn.
Exotic animals are growing in popularity, most likely because they require relatively little care. Dogs, however, remain the darlings of the pet world, with the demand for puppies staying as high as it was when the pandemic first hit.
And you think humans like their CBD? Pet parents are using oils, lotions, laced treats and paw tinctures to treat joint pain. Many veterinarians, said Cooper, remain on the fence about cannabis for canines or felines.
Some people will surely dive right back into their pre-pandemic lives ASAP: packing bars and clubs, crowding indoor music shows, theaters, sports and wedding venues.
But many of us will re-enter the social waters with more caution, gradually incorporating riskier activities over the course of many months, or years. Or doing away with them entirely (see ya, handshakes).
A recent New York Times survey of 700 epidemiologists suggested that our former routines would not return to normal until most Americans are vaccinated, with half of the respondents saying they would not change their behavior until the country's vaccination rate hit 70%.
The general public is similarly wary, not expecting a sense of normalcy to resume until fall 2021 or later, according to a recent consumer trends survey conducted by Gartner. The findings of the research firm suggest that our formerly outward-focused culture — flush with in-person, public experiences shared with large groups — will shift to smaller, private activities.
And masks will likely remain a fixture for quite some time. (It's still unclear if those who have been vaccinated can spread the virus or how long immunity from a vaccine lasts.) At least the masks will help conceal whatever social awkwardness we've developed after being isolated so long.
Even when the pandemic is tamed by a vaccine, working at home will continue. In a survey by the Pew Research Center, a third of respondents said they want the option to work from home — at least part time. Similarly, in a University of Chicago study, 70% of respondents expressed a reluctance to return to some pre-pandemic activities that they now consider dangerous, including riding buses and sharing crowded elevators.
During the pandemic, employees who were working remotely discovered they had more flexibility, which they are unlikely to want to give up. That means the traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday workday will become less prevalent as employees continue to flex their schedules.
The pandemic also is expected to accentuate a movement that started a couple of years ago to incorporate more casual décor (one might even say residential) in offices. Meetings that used to be held around a table likely will move to sofas and lounge chairs. Recreational areas including such amenities as pingpong tables and fitness centers will become even more commonplace.
After an exhausting and overwhelming year of juggling work, child care and distance learning, many families are hoping for a safe return to pre-pandemic routines as soon as possible. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 65% of all parents of school-age kids were very worried about them falling behind, and that 72% of low-income parents were concerned.
Still, some of the positive habits formed in this upended time will stick — like regularly spending time together at home for family movie nights, playing board games or working on puzzles. And media analysts have found that viewing trends are shifting away from kids watching short videos on their own devices toward entire families watching movies together on a big screen.
Mindfulness practices for kids and at-home art and science projects will also endure. Pinterest, which makes predictions each year based on what their more than 400 million users are pinning to the social media network, says that "outdoor education," "cardboard toys" and "moral lessons" will be big in the months to come.
A hybrid home-and-gym workout schedule is likely after the pandemic ends. Streamed workouts have become very popular, in part because of the versatility they offer. But that doesn't mean that gyms will be empty. While sales of home exercise equipment have risen, the gyms still have a much wider variety of gear and offer more workout options.
In addition to just working up a sweat, there will be an increased focus on mental and emotional health. The stress of the pandemic raised awareness of overall well-being, including healthy diet and lifestyle. Hard-core exercise programs will continue to attract a segment of the market, but the biggest growth is likely to be seen in yoga, meditation and stretching.
Wearable fitness has made huge gains, going well beyond watches to include everything from shoes and legwear to jackets and caps. As the range of products grows, so does interest in them.
One surprising outcome of the pandemic — one that industry experts applaud — is a jump in the number of people who work out during the day. Numerous studies have shown that getting physical activity during the day (rather than morning or evening) makes people more productive and creative.