Our Charting the Path to the Next Normal series was launched in 2020 and offers a daily chart that helps explain a changing world during the pandemic and beyond. Here we’ve curated 21 of this year’s best data visualizations that have illuminated some of the key themes and trends covered in our publishing during year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they capture a lot of what our collective next normal looked and felt like in 2021. Browse through the charts below to learn more about the lingering pandemic, the future of work, the impact of climate change, and digital’s ever-evolving landscape.
The pandemic lingers
While the quick arrival of vaccines buoyed optimism, the persistence of COVID-19 and the rise of variants continue to pose stumbling blocks toward achieving herd immunity. In this new normal, people are learning to live with an endemic disease.
A new talent crisis emerges
The future of work is at a pivotal crossroad—with many workers reassessing their options. During the pandemic, people grappled with finding meaning and purpose in their work. Will the future of work be hybrid, purposeful, inclusive, and built for balance?
Sustainability gains steam
Wildfires, lethal heat, flooding, and more: the effects of climate change became increasingly visible in 2021. The COP26 meetings drove a number of commitments as leaders reckoned with what it will take to achieve energy-related sustainable-development goals. Now is the time for action that safeguards Earth and beyond.
Digital dominates the growth agenda
The pandemic greatly accelerated the embrace of digital technologies, and leading companies that had a digital edge pulled even farther ahead of laggards. Up ahead, clean tech, e-commerce, and increased focus on cybersecurity measures will dominate the digital agenda.
For more on the pandemic and the world’s response to it, see McKinsey Global Publishing’s full collection of insights on the next normal beyond the coronavirus.
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Our data-visualization editors, Nicole Esquerre-Thomas, Richard Johnson, Matt Perry, Jonathon Rivait, and Jessica Wang created all the charts featured in this collection and choose the best of their creations daily for our Charting the Path to the Next Normal series. This collection was assembled by Mike Borruso, Richard Johnson, Stephen Landau, Charmaine Rice, Katie Shearer, Amanda Soto, Mark Staples, Sarah Thuerk, and Nathan Wilson.
This page is just part of our full year-end series celebrating the best of McKinsey Global Publishing in 2021. See the full collection at, 2021 year in review: Envisioning sustainable, inclusive growth.