Exploring what the ‘new normal’ might be post COVID-19

30 Mar 2020

A Discover.ai exploration of the long term impact of isolation, loneliness and separation


COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on our society and lives. We find ourselves living in a new lexicon of experience from ‘social distancing’ to ‘self-isolation’ and these profoundly new ways of living are having a very immediate impact on us all. 

But we are most likely at the beginning of a journey of change…a journey that will be determined in the long term by how this experience actually changes our behaviours, our attitudes and our needs. Like many people we wondered what might lie ahead once the immediate impact of COVID-19 has hopefully faded…will there be a ‘new normal’?

There is no crystal ball and we can’t expect people in the middle of such intense times to be able to help us predict what might happen. Perhaps though we can instead learn from the isolation, separation and loneliness that people experience in other areas of their lives. Could these exceptional experiences that people share online in difficult times offer us insights; guide and help us as we try and make sense of our current exceptional experience? 

The experiences we chose to explore in this research included divorce, imprisonment, losing your life partner, suffering from severe illness, mental health issues, working in isolating jobs, self-isolating through adventure, retirement and ageing and loneliness. These are not easy experiences for anyone, and from the shared online conversations and resources we saw, there were very human stories of trauma, uncertainty, loss…but also of coping, resilience and renewal.

Through our Discover.ai platform, we carefully and sensitively analysed these stories and experiences, and identified 4 human insight themes that may provide us with clues for what a post COVID-19 future may be like. A brief overview of these areas and springboards follows. If you are interested in getting a full report then follow this link here


The new normal might be… 1. BEING STRONGER IN YOURSELF - Having a stronger well of strength and resourcefulness to draw on having been through tougher times

Because people navigate the challenges of isolation, loneliness and separation by...

  • Learning to navigate big changes
  • Coping with more personal pressure
  • Building resilience and positivity
  • Avoiding health & wellbeing traps
  • Drawing strength from memories

We learnt that once people have been through more extreme & challenging experiences in their lives, survived and come out stronger the other side, they have the knowledge and experience to shape their lives. So, post COVID-19 people may be more self-reliant, creative and resourceful, with less need for governments, companies and brands to point the way on what ‘right’ looks like and how to live their lives


The new normal might be… 2. RE-DEFINING WHO YOU ARE - Making discoveries about who you are and how you want to live your life that shape your future

Because people navigate the challenges of isolation, loneliness and separation by...

  • Finding the freedom in time alone
  • Revisiting the past to shape the future
  • Finding out who you really are
  • Seeing hard times as a way to evolve
  • Seeking a simpler way to live life

We learnt that confronting difficult times forces you to confront yourself, get to know who you really are, and use this knowledge to take you forward positively into the future. So, post COVID-19 people may have a stronger sense of self-identity, and be less defined by what they consume, impacting how brands should build relationships with them


The new normal might be… 3. FORGING POWERFUL SOCIAL BONDS - A greater reliance on others and your relationships with them as a means of survival and enriching life

Because people navigate the challenges of isolation, loneliness and separation by...

  • Challenging the stigma of loneliness
  • Finding a place in a busy world
  • Getting support from other people
  • Sharing time and stories together
  • Finding meaning in life through love

We learnt that in difficult times we rely on other people more than ever, giving us support and enriching our lives in all kinds of ways… social connection becomes key to our lives. So, Post COVID-19 people may be evaluating everyone around them (including brands) in the context of their social connections and ability provide support and love to others


The new normal might be… 4. FINDING MORE MEANING IN EXPERIENCES - Experiences (big and small) playing an important role keeping people emotionally engaged in their day to day

Because people navigate the challenges of isolation, loneliness and separation by...

  • Overcoming silence and inactivity
  • Cherishing small, precious moments
  • Filling life with fun and experiences
  • Finding activities that give release


We learnt that life is lived in the day to day, and extreme circumstances can lend even more significance to how these experiences play out and so how we feel about our lives. So, Post COVID-19 people may not just value experiences above objects, they may value the experiences brands can give them based on the meaning they bring to their lives


This summary has been a glimpse of the key insights into the long term impact of isolation, loneliness and separation and the implications for the ‘new normal’. If you would like to learn more, please do get in touch for a full copy of the report here.

Written by Jonathan Williams
25+ years in the insight and brand strategy industry as a consultant, company director, and entrepreneur.

More from our blog

A Cringe World

We all know how cringe feels, but what does cringe really mean? What in our online worlds can make...

Stories From the Edge

There has been a well documented impact on financial behaviours due to the pandemic and lockdown...

Dave the Robo-Cleaner

We bought a Dyson robo-cleaner recently and unsurprisingly it’s proved to be a really useful...

Fandoms - Freaks and Geeks

While fandoms and subcultures are by no means new phenomena, social media and online culture have...

Alternative Diets

Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring the world of ‘Alternative Diets’, and why people...

The Future of Immersiveness

The pandemic has turned everything upside down in the past year. During the crisis, people were...

Key trends in sustainability

Over the last 3 years, we’ve worked on over 50 projects for clients, where the central question has...

Buckle up

by Cathy Maisano In 1886, Carl Benz patented the first three-wheeled automobile. A couple of years...

Making the invisible visible

As we begin to emerge from the shielding of locked-down homes, there are inevitably questions of...

How our homes are being physically & emotionally re evaluated under the shadow of COVID-19

What lockdown could mean for our lives at home, during C 19, and beyond… In many ways, our homes...

Essential Reading

Written by Nikki Crumpton, Chief Strategy Officer at BeenThereDoneThat There’s a lot of talk about...

How COVID is transforming our relationships with media (and each other)

As the weeks have stretched into one another, and many countries reach different stages in their...