The light at the end of the lockdown tunnel may now be in sight, but the rewarding new online habits people from the East of England developed during the pandemic, in a bid to remain socially active and stay healthy, will remain with us forever, according to new research.

While we’re all dying to get back to our normal lives, many Brits used the internet for practical tasks for the first time during the lockdown periods, and a significant proportion will never go back to doing them the old way again, including food shopping (26%), clothes shopping (24%), and banking (24%). But an astonishing number of us will continue to keep in touch with friends and family (26%) and socialise with friends (16%) online rather than in person.

That may come as a surprise to some, but the research, which was conducted by ultrafast broadband provider Gigaclear, revealed that 84% of people from the East of England actually feel more connected with loved ones now than they did before the first lockdown, thanks to virtual apps.

As well as staying connected, the research found that the surge in upskilling during all three lockdowns will also outlast the pandemic. Almost half of those living in the East of England (47%) have learnt new permanent skills online, from cooking and crafts to surprisingly practical skills such as building, mechanics and plumbing.

People in the East of England have also permanently expanded their hobbies and activities. One in 10 took part in their first ever exercise classes during lockdown, and around 10% of adults in the region began a love affair with gardening. Even some traditionally ‘in person’ activities have been taken up, such as book clubs, music classes, or joining organising committees, none of which had been done in person prior to lockdown. And only 20% of people in the region said they will go back to doing everything in person once social distancing measures have been relaxed, with more than a third wanting to make even more aspects of their lives digital.

Nick Rawlings, Chief Marketing Officer at Gigaclear, comments: “Spending lots of time at home has put a huge reliance on our internet, and without it, our financial, social and mental health struggles would have been significantly harder. We know that broadband is a platform for good, bringing families together, keeping people in work, and keeping us entertained. If we can take a few positives out of this bad situation, it is that as a country we are stronger and more resilient than we thought. Good internet access is certainly playing a more vital role in our happiness and wellbeing than ever before.”

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