What happens when things get good again?  What happens when most who want a vaccine have gotten one, and the public health limitations are lifted?

What happens when people come out to play?

Clearly, we aren’t there yet. With the American death toll likely to hit a half-million this Spring, we are still counting on people to stay home, wear masks, and wash their hands to avoid viral transmission.  And, the economic devastation has been awful – millions facing food and income insecurity, a third of the nation’s restaurants closing, staggering unemployment, and healthcare workers stretched to the limits.

However, it’s smart to start thinking about what lies beyond. Are you ready for the biggest rollercoaster year in recent history? If history is any teacher, Americans will quickly transition from lockdown to euphoria.

Are we on the brink of The Soaring Twenties?

By some reports, middle and upper-class Americans (those who were able to maintain higher salaries and work from home) have saved more than $500B. Like a pressure cooker, Americans are ready to spend – poised to travel, celebrate, and purchase anything that brings joy back.

A few things to watch for.

Getting out of the house. When the pandemic no longer restricts them, families will prioritize reconnecting with family and taking postponed vacations. Everyone knows someone who had to cancel a milestone birthday or anniversary celebration in the last year. That means full planes, busy restaurants, packed nightclubs, more cars on the road, and more demand for entertainment.

Fundraisers galore!  Festivals, charity events, concerts… the calendar will be packed as event producers make up for lost time and lost revenue. You won’t want for things to do, if you’re willing to spend.

Inefficiencies gone forever. Those patterns that made life easier and more efficient?  They’re here to stay. People who have successfully learned to work virtually won’t be interested in going back to a cubicle. Business travel and in-person meetings will be challenged. Consumers who got used to having necessities delivered to their door in 24 hours will expect that to continue, meaning ongoing challenges for some local retailers.

Entrepreneurship boom and baby bust. The U.S. birthrate was already way down prior to the pandemic, and historically, birthrates decline in almost direct proportion to increasing unemployment rates. So, 2021 is predicted to have a much lower rate of live births. Meanwhile, the creation of new businesses usually surges as the economy turns up. Watch for more people to take the leap, causing more disruption and competition for small business owners.

Tech tsunami.  The pandemic sure didn’t slow down technological development. The idea of developing a vaccine in less than a year is a medical miracle. When you log onto a website these days, it seems to know what you want before you do. Expect to invest heavily in technology in the coming years. Things are going to move quickly.

Impatience for social change.  Millennials and the generations behind them now dominate the professional world, and that means a great deal of motivation to address issues like climate change, racial and gender equity, workers’ rights, and ending hunger and disease across the globe. Find the places where your business and community can show initiative to make the world a better, more fair place.

The smart move right now is to consider where your industry will be in less than a year when things feel utterly different than they do today.  We aren’t going “back to normal.” We are poised to accelerate into something better.