How we live – into 2021 and beyond

Our second How we live report looks at how so many of people’s decisions and plans for the future are being influenced by the COVID aftermath.

It follows on from the first report published in September 2020, comparing data and surveys conducted before and during the pandemic. Here are some key highlights. 

Your house might not be worth as much as you hope

The way a lot of us see our homes hasn’t changed — we still see our properties as our own little (or big) gems, often believing they’re worth more than official figures. The UK homeowners’ average valuation is £285,470 — a little down on July’s figure (£288,263) — noticeably higher than the Government’s average of £235,673. Does this suggest that after staying in their homes for so long people are more emotionally attached to them, and as a result more optimistic about their values?

  Homeowners' average valuation July 2020 Homeowners' average valuation Feb 2021 % increase / decrease Government average (Dec 2020) Average % above / below true average
All £288,263 £285,470 -1.0% £251,500 +14%
East of England £326,653 £338,490 +3.6% £310,912 +9%
Greater London £454,764 £436,760 -4.1% £496,066 -12%
East Midlands £231,268 £242,034 +4.7% £215,046 +13%
West Midlands £261,518 £250,389 -4.3% £216,950 +15%
North East £187,533 £199,791 +6.5% £141,154 +42%
North West £242,449 £216,357 -10.8% £183,727 +18%
N. Ireland £177,454 £249,562 +40.6% £147,593 +69%
Scotland £189,844 £187,445 -1.3% £162,983 +15%
South East £375,201 £374,490 -0.2% £341,007 +10%
South West £304,387 £305,035 +0.2% £282,388 +8%
Wales £224,068 £243,166 +8.5% £184,195 +32%
Yorks / Humber £216,749 £223,504 +3.1% £182,907 +22%

Around a fifth (18%) of people living with family say they plan to buy their own home in the next 12 months, up from 13% in July 2020. This could be down to people desperately wanting their own space after being cooped up with others — or maybe they’ve managed to save more while shops and restaurants were closed. 

Home is where the office is 

Working from home agrees with many people. The study 1 discovered almost half (48%) found it less stressful, mentioning the lack of commute (57%), more time with the family (29%) and not having to worry about what to wear (42%) as benefits. Just one in five (19%) people said they found home-working more stressful, saying that they struggled to switch off (43%), they missed colleagues (36%) and didn’t have suitable space (27%).

Although 34% of homeworkers have a home office, one in 10 use either a converted shed, summerhouse or outbuilding — and this appears to be a popular trend as this figure’s expected to raise to 13%. Some 43% are also thinking about adapting their rooms or extending for a home office. 

Perfecting skills and hobbies — lockdown was the perfect time  

People have proved creative, motivated and resilient during the pandemic with 68% of UK adults spending time either learning or improving practical skills. 28% got to grips with video calls, 22% focused on cooking or baking, while 22% found their way around online shopping. 

Sports and hobbies were a new outlet for many. Some 13% of adults relaxed with yoga or meditation, while one in 10 began running. Five per cent honed their musical talents with an instrument and 7% tried learning a language. Some unusual hobbies also flourished, from astronomy and French plaiting to dog training and web design. Refreshingly, 69% of those who learned a new skill or started a hobby have kept up with it. 

lockdown learnings table

Lockdown let us appreciate the little things that mean a lot  

Two fifths (38%) of people said the pandemic has helped them appreciate what they already have, while a third (31%) learned to be more patient, and a fifth (21%) felt more resilient. But almost half of the population (49%) had some regrets — mostly about poor eating habits (22%) while others related to arguments and impulse buying. 

Younger vegans, older recyclers 

More than half (52%) of UK residents felt the pandemic has made them more environmentally conscious. But actions didn’t necessarily speak louder than words here — research finds people are taking less ‘green’ action than before the restrictions. But this may be down to them simply wanting to focus on getting through the situation.

Older people tend to carry out more environmentally friendly actions and are more likely than youngsters to recycle waste locally, buy seasonal produce and avoid single-use plastic. Under-25s are the least likely to adopt these behaviours but they’re the largest proportion of people becoming vegan (9%). 

Compared to December 2019, the latest research also shows a dip in the use of environmentally-conscious products and services around people’s homes, such as energy-saving light bulbs and compost bins. This could be linked to people having different priorities right now — focusing on the day-to-day, rather than future planning. 

Green behaviour February 2021 All ages 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Recycling through local bin collections 51% 26% 36% 41% 52% 67% 73%
Giving unwanted items to charity shops 43% 25% 31% 33% 44% 55% 61%
Avoiding single-use plastic items 36% 22% 29% 29% 36% 47% 47%
Turning down the thermostat at home 27% 16% 19% 22% 30% 37% 32%
Reducing how often you use your car 26% 14% 21% 23% 25% 32% 38%
Eat local/seasonal vegetables/fruit to reduce food miles 25% 18% 20% 21% 24% 31% 34%
Reducing the amount of meat eaten in your household 21% 16% 20% 18% 23% 24% 20%
Buying second-hand items / up-cycling 20% 20% 21% 19% 23% 22% 15%
Reducing how often you travel by plane 17% 14% 13% 10% 16% 20% 25%
Becoming vegan 4% 9% 7% 5% 3% 2% 1%

But green living is certainly still on our minds, with more households being powered with solar panels (13% vs 8% previously) and wind energy (10% vs 4% previously).

Working from home sweet home 

Even more people want to make some career changes because of Covid (60% vs 53% in July 2020). The most popular wish was to work from home (10%). 

The under-25s are most likely to want to change their work plans in the next 12 months, with a staggering 87% of them wanting to re-evaluate their careers. This age group is also more likely than any other to want a role where they can work from home (13%). 

Career aspiration Percentage of workers July 2020 Percentage of workers February 2021
I plan to find a role which will allow me to work from home 10% 10%
I plan to retain / learn new skills 9% 10%
I plan to gain more academic qualifications 8% 8%
I plan to follow a completely different career path 7% 9%
I plan to find a role which helps others / makes a difference to those in need 6% 8%
I plan to set up my own business / work for myself 6% 8%
I plan to increase my working hours (e.g. part time to full time) 6% 7%
I plan to reduce my working hours (e.g. full time to part time) 6% 7%
I plan to move companies but stay in the same industry/role 5% 6%
I plan to find employment after losing my job 4% 4%
I plan to retire 4% 6%
I plan to find a new role but with the same organisation 4% 6%

More people aged 25-34 want to retrain (14% compared with 10% across all age groups) or follow a completely different career path (14% compared with 9% all ages). 

Even more people are likely to want to retire because of the pandemic, with 14% of workers aged 55 and above saying it’s brought their retirement plans forward, compared with 11% in July 2020. 

More people also plan to make money from their hobbies. Around 10.8 million UK adults plan to add to their incomes or make a full-time career from a hobby.

There’s an electric buzz happening 

People are becoming more environmentally-conscious when it comes to their cars. A study in June 2020 found many more people were predisposed to buy a greener car next time than they were in July 2017. More than a quarter (27%) were thinking about buying hybrid models (from 10% in 2017) and 11% were considering fully electric cars (up from just 2%). Nearly a year on and almost half of UK drivers (46%) say their next buy will be at least partly powered by electricity.

pie charts of driving and electric vehicles

Government plans to ban new diesel, petrol and hybrid cars from 2030 and the price reduction of greener models is probably swaying motorists’ plans. But a third of motorists say the pandemic has also affected their decision. Of the group planning to buy a hybrid/electric model next, one in five (18%) say they won’t be driving as much in the future, while 6% say they don’t need as many vehicles, so they plan to invest in one greener model. 

There are many drivers who are still not ready to jump on the electric bandwagon just yet. Of those planning to stick with petrol or diesel next, 49% say that the cost of going green and the limited charging points are their main worries, while 37% say lengthy charging time and limited range are also problems. These concerns have lessened since the previous study, but the numbers are still significant.

More people say they would be open to the idea of an electric vehicle if greater financial incentives were available. A fifth of drivers who plan to buy a hybrid or electric model next want to take advantage of the Government grant available for low-emissions vehicles. Significantly, two thirds of all drivers say they would be more likely to buy a greener vehicle if they were cheaper or subsidised.

We’re looking for a home away (but not too far away) from home

People are still cautious about travel, particularly overseas (37%) — only marginally above June 2020. However, more people were planning a UK holiday (53% compared with 38% in June). While the figures are far below those in December 2019, it seems some green shoots are emerging for UK holiday destinations. 

Plans for camping and caravanning trips are back up to pre-pandemic levels with 13% planning one in the next 12 months, while self-catering cottages are climbing in popularity (16%). City / short hotel breaks, the most popular break before the pandemic, fell considerably, but spa breaks seem popular, suggesting people are keen to relax and look after themselves. 

It’s not surprising that the report revealed 80% of UK adults felt that the pandemic has affected their attitudes towards travel. A fifth (20%) say it has made them less keen on going overseas, and the same proportion say they’re worried about becoming ill abroad. Sadly, one in 12 (8%) UK adults don’t think they will travel abroad again. 

The vaccination programme is bringing some hope. In March 2021, 41% of UK adults reported they would be more likely to travel overseas, now that  a Covid vaccine is available, suggesting a more optimistic outlook for the industry.

Type of UK break Dec 2019 July 2020 November 2020 February 2021
City breaks / hotel short stay 35% 16% 13% 17%
Visit family and friends 28% 11% 11% 12%
Cottage/apartment/Villa (e.g. self-catering) 19% 15% 13% 16%
Beach holiday 19% 9% 10% 14%
Camping / caravanning 13% 10% 8% 13%
Theme parks 10% 1% 4% 2%
Spa break 8% 2% 4% 5%
Driving tour 5% 3% 4% 4%
Coach tour 4% 1% 3% 3%
Cruise 3% 1% 2% 4%

Getting things done, just in a different way 

Gareth Hemming, MD, Personal Lines, Aviva, says: “Adapting, learning and evolving are the messages that come through loud and clear in this latest How We Live study. 

“The last year has been one of constant change and even though there is hope on the horizon, we are still getting to grips with new ways of living and working. In all walks of life, the expectations set at the start of 2020 were dramatically disrupted. Property plans, holidays, working schedules and career ambitions were thrown into disarray. But the last year has shown that people are incredibly resilient and there have been positive outcomes for individuals and communities. They have embraced new modes of working, learned new skills and made beneficial changes to their lifestyles. 

“As this report series develops, we will continue to monitor the transformations in people’s lives; their highs and lows, their set-backs and aspirations. And at Aviva, we will follow the changing needs of our customers and we will continue to modify our products and services to meet their lifestyles.”

See the report in full