The homebody economy

Amy Hamilton-Chadwick
The homebody economy

Staying in is the new going out – why leave the house when everything you need could come to you? There are a lot of upsides to staying home: wear your trackpants, avoid the traffic, hang out with your pets, save money; you can feel completely relaxed and in control. 

The rise of the ‘homebody economy’ means you can have all your food, alcohol, clothing and entertainment brought to your door.

You can talk to an online therapist and even get prescription medication delivered. 

You will still need to leave the house at some point: you can’t renew your drivers’ licence online right now, but that might change soon.

You’ll need to leave the house to visit the dentist or doctor, or take your dog to the vet, although in Auckland there are some house-call medical services for both you and your pets.

You do need to vote in person – trials of online voting have been scrapped due to costs and security concerns. But the list of what you can’t do and order from your home is vanishingly short.

“The homebody economy is an outcome of the digital economy,” says Laurence Kubiak, CE at the NZ Institute of Economic Research.

“People are constantly finding new business models online. It’s created whole new industries, like Uber Eats and My Food Bag.

"It’s all coming to you, and you’re using your resources more efficiently. It’s like you have a remote control in your hand for your whole life – with your smartphone you can do anything at all.”

According to Paymark’s 2019 report, New Zealanders are embracing online shopping, particularly in regions like Gisborne, Taranaki and Northland.

E-commerce grew by 12.2% in 2018, compared to only 4.2% for bricks-and-mortar retail. Two-thirds of New Zealanders are already shopping online and that number is predicted to increase to 83% by 2026.

With almost half of Kiwis now spending at least some time working from home, it’s feasible that you could design your life so you never needed to leave your property.

Would that be a good idea? Not really. While you could maintain your physical health, your mental health would probably suffer.

Social interaction, spending time outdoors and travelling are all linked to better mental health.

“The social consequences of the homebody economy aren’t all positive,” Kubiak says, although he cautions that he’s not a psychologist.

Evidence does seem to be mounting that spending all your time at home in front of a screen is implicated in rising levels of mental health issues.

"Maybe this is a temporary blip and people will again see the value going out into the real world again, or as my kids call it, ‘the outernet’, but right now it looks as if the homebody trend is going to continue gaining momentum.”

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