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Home as New Frontier

Tia Castagno
0 min read
Over the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has massively disrupted the world as we knew it. Every person has been directly or indirectly affected by the virus or its consequences on our lives, our relationships, our freedom of movement and our economies. The extended confinement periods enacted by most governments across the world led many of us to take a fresh look at the way we live our lives, from the importance we give to family, to the health-related decisions we make, to the homes wherein we live.

As people reevaluate their homes - not only looking at the roof under which they sleep, but also the planet where they live, the neighbourhood where they belong, the goods they purchase and the technology surrounding them - the pandemic introduces its set of contradictions and trade-offs, often acting simultaneously as a catalyst and an obstacle to pre-existing dynamics and behaviours.

Environmental change is possible, but will it prevail over short-term challenges? The COVID-19 pandemic has even further exposed the world to the impact of human activity on pollution. In early April 2020, as people were confined in homes, daily global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% compared to the mean 2019 levels. With several studies observing strong correlations between air quality and the number of deaths from COVID-19, it has never been more urgent to reconsider our ways of living to limit the impact on our environment. However, while the prospects of cleaner air and fauna returning to cities offer hope for environmental change, it is unclear whether this trend will survive immediate concerns. In early June 2020, as many countries started lifting their stay-at-home orders, worldwide CO2 emissions rebounded to within 5% of mean 2019 levels. We have also seen millions of single-use masks and swabs produced, raising concerns from conservationists about the long-term impact of medical waste on the environment, especially on oceans.

Global lockdown urges us to rethink how cities operate. In 2018, the United Nations predicted that by 2030, there will be 43 megacities across the globe, and that by 2050, about two-thirds of the global population will be living in cities. Although dense urban development reportedly leads to less urban energy use overall, the pandemic showed that metropolises are also the places where restrictions on movement are felt most keenly. The fear of contamination, the realisation that technology can now fully support remote working, and the search for a better quality of life have compounded the existing housing affordability crisis, leading to a renewed interest in rural and small-town real estate. However, with long-term global urbanisation unlikely to reverse, urban planners now need to factor both environmental and public health considerations even deeper in the design of tomorrow’s cityscapes.

Connectivity and technology are both more important than ever, and at the heart of new concerns and controversy. Technology has undoubtedly played a critical role in making confinement more bearable over time by enabling people to connect with family and friends, entertain themselves and their kids, work from home and resupply essential products without leaving their homes. Technology is also playing a growing role in reopening countries, with many governments calling for their citizens to use mobile tracing apps to help contain the risk of infection and prevent the need for total lockdowns.

However, the ubiquity and increasing dependency on technology has raised growing concerns among populations. When 5G networks adhere to guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (the international body assessing health risks of radio broadcasts), there is no scientifically substantiated adverse health effect for people. Despite this, many fake stories about 5G health risks abound online, some even directly linking 5G masts to the COVID-19 outbreak and leading to the destruction of infrastructure. The utilisation of tracing apps is also subject to controversy, with privacy watchdogs raising the alarm about the surveillance risks they pose. Aditionally, as more smart devices find a place in the heart of our homes, many people have mixed feelings about the data we need to share online in exchange for convenience.

Personal space and time are being redefined. As the safe space to wait out the crisis, the home has become increasingly central to personal identity. Research conducted by IKEA in 2019 revealed that, although 70% of respondents saw privacy as important to enable personal growth, 23% were concerned about not getting enough privacy at home and 27% said the need to take care of others was the biggest barrier to achieving privacy in their home. Today, as kitchens have been turned into offices and living rooms into classrooms, many of us are learning to be comfortable with letting colleagues, bosses and teachers virtually into our homes, daily. We can reasonably assume the frustration around the lack of privacy expressed in the survey has sharply increased. Therefore, rethinking spaces to create an environment wherein every member of the household can thrive becomes paramount.

What is true for our relation to space is also true for our relation to time. With home becoming a much more fluid space and the lines between work, family and social life becoming increasingly blurred, such strategies as timeboxing the day to maintain a healthy work/life balance or converting commuting time into exercise/self-care moments are crucial for our physical and mental wellbeing.

Home is in the midst of a metamorphosis that was underway well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the crisis has underscored our rediscovery of the home's central role in our daily lives. Today, with consumers spending more time in increasingly connected indoor environments, the home attracts a renewed focus from brands. The new Vizeum Future of Home report examines some of the key trends at play in the home sphere and what they mean for brands. It serves as a guide for marketers eager to make the most of the home opportunity.

Download Future of Home now for key insights on the trends shaping the home revolution.
Tia Castagno

Tia Castagno

Global MD, Vizeum

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