A study followed the lifestyle of 27 Finns during the pandemic: Cautious optimism defines the future

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VTT examined the lifestyles and consumer behaviour of Finnish people during the pandemic last autumn. These exceptional times have shaped all aspects of life. The study outlines different developments in lifestyles after the pandemic. How will this experience change our everyday lives?

The qualitative study followed the daily lives of 27 people of different ages. The participants' attitude towards the future was cautiously optimistic. People did not feel that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would threaten their personal plans for the future, with the exception of financial uncertainty. 

“People's lifestyles have changed at least temporarily, and there are also signs of a longer-term change. For example, increased remote work, more time spent with the family and focusing on health and well-being were things people wanted to carry over to post-pandemic times”, says VTT’s Pauli Komonen, the Research Scientist responsible for the project. 

Four change trends in lifestyle

Four change trends in lifestyle were identified in the research material, giving an indication of everyday life after the pandemic: 
•    stronger focus on a home-centred lifestyle
•    multi-locational workplaces
•    increased virtual interaction 
•    return of social sensory experiences such as tourism, concerts and sports events.

The focus on life at home opens up new opportunities for businesses such as online stores and delivery services. Multi-locational workplaces and an emphasis on virtual interaction are factors that change the labour market from the perspective of both the employee and the employer. Even though people missed travelling abroad, many have also realised that there are many interesting places to visit in Finland. Young people in particular were also very aware of the environmental impacts of tourism.

Consumption under consideration

During the pandemic, life is centred at home. People felt that the home has become a much more important place than before. The spaciousness and remote location of the home were valued differently than before. Many have invested in their homes by renovating, for example, and the importance of the home as a kind of all-in-one centre has become stronger. 

“How much people cook at home has increased significantly, but people have also come to see how much time it takes. People have made their everyday lives easier by services such as grocery delivery and take-out food, which has been a positive experience for consumers. During the pandemic, people have wanted food to be local, healthy and environmentally friendly”, says Anu Seisto, VTT Consumer Research Team Leader and project researcher. 

Consumption has seen a trend of caution and consideration, and people have been investing in the basics of everyday life. The study participants said that they had clearly spent less money on expenses such as restaurants, clothing and mobility; nevertheless, there have been little to no savings. The food costs of households have grown in particular. 

The crisis made relationships visible

The pandemic has tested social networks since it has been more difficult to meet people. The study participants were mainly confident in the strength of their personal relationships, even if there had been less communication or if it had been limited to digital channels. 

“One of the most interesting observations was that people might even feel that the pandemic has had an entirely positive impact on their social lives, even if a large part of communication had been transferred online. People of different ages have quickly adopted new communication channels. People also felt that communication had become more caring in tone”, says Komonen. 

On the flip side, the situation may have been more difficult for people living alone and those in risk groups. Having family members live abroad was seen as one of the biggest challenges. Meeting and getting to know new people was also more difficult than before in the participants’ experience. The pandemic has made social networks visible now that people have had to think about maintaining relationships in new ways. 

Emphasis on health

People have also examined their values and attitudes from new perspectives. 
“The participants particularly felt that their values related to family, communality and health had been strengthened, but they hadn’t observed any changes in their basic values as such. People felt that environmental values will be highlighted in the future, but right now they were relatively less important. They identified climate change and technological advancements as significant forces for shaping the future”, says Seisto.

With regard to health, the pandemic has had many positive effects. Several study participants reported that they had slept better, eaten healthier and done more exercise. For some respondents, the situation had made them passive, their diet one-sided and their daily routine irregular. The pandemic has required a new type of personal initiative in managing your life. Participants believed that the pandemic will increase people's ability to prepare for crises, focus on the essential things of life and take care of their health.

Implementation of the study

The qualitative study had 27 participants aged 18 to 66. The selection of participants was made in such a way that their socio-economic backgrounds and life situations were as diverse and as representative of the Finnish population as possible. Data collection for the study took place between 17 September 2020 and 17 December 2020. Participants reported their lives in online journals and chat group discussions.

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