What’s next for consumers, workers, and companies in the post-COVID-19 recovery
 

Many changes in business models and consumer behavior during the pandemic will stick, but action will be needed to ensure the rebound is not uneven.

COVID-19 changed how we live and work in ways that will alter our behavior long after the pandemic subsides. Companies moved rapidly to deploy digital and automation technologies, dramatically accelerating trends that were unfolding at a much slower pace before the crisis. Work went remote, shopping, entertainment, and even medicine went online, and businesses everywhere scrambled to deploy digital systems to accommodate the shifts.

These changes in consumer behavior and business models will persist in advanced economies after the pandemic recedes, although perhaps not with the same intensity as during the crisis. They promise big benefits in terms of higher productivity, efficiency, and innovation—but also could lead to an uneven economic recovery, with rising inequality among workers, contrasting outcomes for consumers depending on their age and income levels, and a growing gulf between outperforming companies and the rest—unless business leaders and policy makers take action to mitigate these unwanted effects.

Here we draw on insights from three recent McKinsey Global Institute reports to offer a perspective on how the pandemic may reshape the future of work, consumer behavior, and productivity and growth over the next several years. The research focuses primarily on changes we have observed in advanced economies in Europe and North America. In Asia, where countries controlled COVID-19 more rapidly and effectively, the behavioral changes are less pronounced.