There’s been an endless outpouring of rhetoric about what the “new normal” might look like, to the extent that it’s already become a rather tired cliché. The phrase itself is a loaded idiom, feeding into the need to feel in control of our world, and designed to assure that current dystopic circumstances will settle back into something resembling a pleasant and orderly existence.

Are the changes we’ve witnessed so far permanent or temporary? Will they remain ingrained if and when a vaccine frees us from social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown restrictions? Or will they continue to grow and evolve of their own accord, regardless of how the pandemic eventually plays out?

There are fundamental philosophical issues within these questions, but the answers also have crucial implications for businesses of all shapes and sizes. As employers who pay the wages that feed families, provide the goods and services we both need and desire, and pay taxes to support public services, business leaders are obliged to take at least a brief break from immediate struggles to consider longer-term implications.

Hardly any aspect of life has been untouched by Covid-19, and thus nearly every enterprise and profession is experiencing significant market shifts. When lockdown restrictions eased in the summer, releasing pent-up demand in the housing market, estate agents reported a surge of interest in homes outside of urban centres. After months of being cooped up in relatively small quarters, many buyers are craving the additional space – both outdoors and within – that comes with suburban or country living.

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This could pose problems for those looking to re-purpose properties within city and town centres, many of which were already struggling prior to the pandemic. A sustained drain of interest in urban living puts a serious dent in plans to revive these areas by replacing retail units with homes and the accompanying amenities their residents would require.

Meanwhile, the challenges faced by the travel industry have received high-profile coverage, with airlines slashing jobs amid warnings that the sector is on the brink of collapse.

The idea that the British population is set to revert to some 1970s style of holidaying, where travel abroad is a luxury reserved by the elite, seems rather far-fetched. Budget travel worked as a business model because there was sufficient demand – fuelled by a desire for guaranteed sunshine and a drive to discover new destinations – to generate the passenger volumes required. The widespread appetite for that isn’t going to simply disappear.

The question often asked in this context is whether enough consumers will overcome health concerns associated with the close confines of air travel, and if so, when. This is a legitimate point, but the more lasting impact will likely come from the supply rather than the demand side.

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Reduced capacity will inevitably drive up the cost of an airline seat – this has already been the case as carriers and package holiday providers have slashed both the frequency and variety of routes on offer. If current travel restrictions in place in many parts of the world continue into the summer of next year, it’s a pretty safe bet that some airlines will go bust, permanently reducing both capacity and competition.

That’s a scenario for a sustained hike in the cost of air travel that could well put it out of reach for many, no matter how much they might wish to jet off for a change of scenery. The same will be the case for inbound visitors, with knock-on effects for Scotland’s tourism industry.

Although yesterday’s confirmation of the extended closure of restaurants and pubs across central Scotland came as no surprise, the dismay within the hard-pressed hospitality sector was palpable. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) described the decision as “cataclysmic” for hospitality operators, with “hundreds” now facing permanent closure.

During the first round of lockdown restrictions in March, those who could scrambled for new ways to generate income. This resulted in what seemed to be viewed at the time as a temporary move into takeaway and home delivery services, but there are signs this could become an enduring feature within the trade.

As reported earlier this week, the high-end Six by Nico restaurant chain is making its dine at home service permanent with the launch of a new platform delivering “at home experiences” throughout the UK. Though its backers don’t say as much, the move appears an acknowledgement that at least some segment of the population will continue to prefer this option over dining out, even after trading restrictions are lifted.

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In addition to social distancing and the 10am curfew, town and city centre establishments are also contending with a lack of passing trade as most office-based employees continue to work from home.

The rapid and widespread rise of remote working has kicked off an extended debate about how and where white-collar staff will earn their livings in the future. Despite a widespread belief that home working is here to stay to at least to some degree, others such as those in the commercial property sector are understandably keen to proclaim that the “death of the office” has been over-hyped.

Until the default position moves away from home working – which is unlikely to happen in the next few months – it remains difficult to gauge what the lasting impact might be.

A recent survey from the Institute of Directors found that 74 per cent of nearly 1,000 UK business leaders questioned said they would be keeping increased home working after the pandemic subsides. More than half said their organisation will be reducing its long-term use of workplaces, with more than one in five stating their usage would be “significantly lower”.

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On the other hand, there are studies such as that earlier this month from technology group Barco, which found that on average employees only want to spend a maximum of two days per week working from home. Nearly half said they enjoy working from home less than they did at the start of the pandemic, while 42% said remote working stifles their creativity.

How this shakes out will again have profound implications for the future of urban areas, along with the retail, hospitality, entertainment and property businesses therein. While not a death knell, neither does it paint a particularly encouraging picture for town and city centre advocates.

Urban planning is a notoriously protracted and complex process. If coronavirus does in fact cast the “new normal” in this sort of mould, then now is the time to start taking account of the potential long-term implications.