One question seems to be on the forefront of everyone’s mind: “When will this pandemic be over? When can we get back to normal?”

In late April, we introduced the concept of The Long Haul of Suppression and suggested that we would all be living in a COVID-19 world with the need for social distancing, personal protection, remote work, and school for the rest of the year and likely into the first quarter of 2021. Many  executives at first dismissed this and believed that people would be back in the office and students back at school by the end of the summer. The end of the summer has passed.

Eventually, people started to accept that we would likely be in this for a longer period and got comfortable with a mental model of the fourth quarter or year-end. While there are still many uncertainties about vaccination timeline, efficacy, coverage and distribution speed — as well as government health policy and individual compliance — our recent analysis shows that the Long Haul will be even longer than we first conjectured six months ago. In our discussions with executives, we still see many making planning decisions based on a notion that by year-end 2020, or at least the very beginning of 2021, things will get “back to normal.”

We believe that the fourth quarter of 2021 is likely the earliest we get close to “back to normal” in the US and that companies may need to consider if what has been working for the past seven months can be sustained for the next 12 to 15, and what they may need to adjust.

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