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17 Things Young People Did Before COVID-19 That They Don’t Want to Do Again

What’s one thing that Gen Z and Millennials did before COVID-19 that, even if the world went back to normal, they wouldn’t do again? We asked…


Entering 2022, we told you that two years into the pandemic Gen Z and Millennials have been stuck in a limbo that COVID-19 created. YPulse’s The In-Between trend report explores how they’re still craving the experiences they’ve been missing out on for so long, but have also adjusted in many ways to their new, much-closer-to-home normal. And they also don’t believe that their lives will return to “normal” anytime soon. The majority don’t believe that it will return to the way it was pre-COVID-19 in 2022, and 62% agree with the statement “This is our new normal, we will never go back to the way life was pre-COVID-19.”

The reality is that some things will never return to the way they were, and young people don’t want to go back to everything they left behind: 67% agree “There are changes I’ve made because of the Coronavirus crisis that I would like to keep as part of my life.” There are also some things they’ve stopped doing that they don’t want to return to. Our trend survey asked 13-39-year-olds, “What’s one thing you did before COVID-19 that, even if the world went back to normal, you wouldn’t do again?” and this is what they told us:

The One Thing They Did Before COVID-19 ThatThey Wouldn’t Do Again
Among 13-39-year-olds

  1. Attend large or crowded events / not social distance
  2. Nothing
  3. Be careless about germs / hygiene
  4. Go out to eat / drink  / party too often
  5. Live an unhealthy lifestyle
  6. Be in toxic relationships
  7. Wear a mask
  8. Work in an office full time
  9. Have the same personality traits as before
  10. Attend school in person 
  11. Not spend enough time with friends / family
  12. Spend too much time at home
  13. Spend too much money
  14. Drink too much alcohol
  15. Shop in-person
  16. Trust too easily
  17. Be overworked / Burnt out
  18. Work at the same job
  19. Take life for granted

It’s incredibly telling that the top things Gen Z and Millennials say they won’t do again even if things return to normal are attending large or crowded events, places, parties, or not social distance and being careless about germs and hygiene. The pandemic has made a permanent mark on the behavior and cautions of these generations. While we told you that young consumers miss attending large gatherings, the reality is that many of them still aren’t entirely comfortable going back to them, and may never be comfortable going back to the large-scale events they were more used to pre-pandemic. If they are, they’re taking a much more cautious approach. Our trend data found that 56% of 13-39-year-olds say Coronavirus has permanently changed their personal hygiene practices, and it’s clear this is a pattern that will continue. Brands should understand that some young people will never be at ease in crowded spaces, or might need to have extra assurances that they will be safe or that safety precautions are being taken. Of course this also hints at the longevity in interest in digital experiences: Our Future of Experience trend research found that more than half of young consumers are interested in attending live virtual events in the next six months.

Many young people plan to continue with their scaled back social lives: Going out to eat, drink, or party too often took the fourth spot for things they say they wouldn’t do in a post-COVID era. Our nightlife and drinking research found that more than half of 21-39-year-olds say they are enjoying drinking at home more often since COVID-19 started, while the majority tell us that even when the threat of COVID-19 passes, they will prefer to drink at home than go out. Their desire to keep saving money is likely part of their motivation, but we’ve also found that many young people are just happy to be homebodies.

But their desire to not return to partying too often also dovetails with the desire many have to leave behind living an unhealthy lifestyle Not wanting to go back to drinking too much alcohol also comes in at number 14 on the ranking, and aligns with young consumers’ continued sober-curiosity. Our data shows that 43% of 21-39-year-olds say they make a conscious effort to limit how much alcohol they drink compared to 38% in 2020. Overall, wanting to continue to be more health-focused is also a goal for many, and our fitness survey shows that young people are prioritizing their physical health and working out more during this time.

Working in an office full-time is another thing that many young people tell us they wouldn’t want to go back to when things go back to normal—and while they don’t want to stay cooped up in their homes forever, they like having the choice to work remotely. In fact, we told you that WFH / remote work is a workplace perk that young people say would make them enjoy a job more—and more than half of Millennials told us they plan on working from home post-COVID. Many workspaces are even transforming themselves to accommodate next gen employees who don’t necessarily want to work in a traditional office setup anymore. Meanwhile, attending school in-person rounds out young people’s top 10 rankings. Last August, we asked students and parents how they feel about in-person learning and nearly half of students told us they were afraid to go back to school in-person, while they also say they want schools to require mask mandates and other safety protocols. At the beginning of January of this year, teachers and students began expressing their frustration over in-person schooling in the midst of the Omicron wave post-winter break. Some teachers and students have taken to TikTok to call out schools, while others have staged walkouts in various parts of the country to protest the in-person teaching mandates. And while many experts say that in-person schooling is the best thing for young people as a whole, clearly for some students the shift to remote learning has been a positive change.

In the realm of employment, being overworked / burnt out or staying at the same job are two more things young people say they don’t want to experience in a post-COVID era. YPulse’s recent mental health research found that half of young consumers say their mental health has been negatively impacted by COVID, while our What’s Next For Work trend report found that the majority of young employees say they have felt burnt out because of work. In fact, 43% say the feeling of burn out would cause them to leave a job, and the same report explores how Gen Z and Millennials have been fueling The Great Resignation and leaving their current positions for jobs with better pay and respect.

Young consumers also say not spending enough time with family and friends, and taking life for granted are things they wouldn’t do if things ever went back to normal—and those are pretty self-explanatory. It’s obvious that the virus has changed these generations, and their priorities. While attending large gatherings and crowded spaces may not be things young people care as much about in a post-COVID world, being with the ones they love and enjoying life certainly are. For brands, this is an opportunity to reach young consumers in different ways, including by creating safe and meaningful moments they can experience (and remember) with their friends and family in the future.

YPulse Business users can access The In-Between trend report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.