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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After nearly a year and a half of COVID-19, Americans are looking to prioritize living and playing over work in the post-pandemic age.

The big picture: What Americans choose to focus on will have downstream impacts on where they choose to live, how they want to work and what they'll want to spend money on. Cities that were built around supporting work first and foremost will need to adjust.

By the numbers: In data first provided to Axios, the PR agency The Brand Guild surveyed about 1,000 Americans about their attitudes toward work-life balance, and found that just about a quarter ranked work as the most important aspect of their life, down from nearly a third before the pandemic.

  • Work in fact came last, with 43% of those surveyed prioritizing living and 31% prioritizing play.
  • Americans are willing to relocate to find what they want, which turns out to be space and amenities. About 50% of those surveyed reported COVID-19 made them at least think about moving to a new area, and 82% said suburbs were better than cities — a fact that a majority of city dwellers surveyed agreed upon as well.
  • "We see this as a shift to live, then play, then work," says Jayne Sandman, the co-CEO of The Brand Guild. "It's a new normal, and it's going to affect where people live and how they want to spend their time."

Details: The survey focused on four real estate markets in transition — New York, Washington, D.C., Miami and Houston — and found differences in how residents were looking at the post-pandemic period.

  • In relatively wide-open Houston, living ranked highest because of its "more affordable quality of life," says Hannah Josi, brand strategy manager at The Brand Guild.
  • In more space-constrained New York, urban amenities were the biggest draw, especially as city life begins to return to normal, while Washington residents — where office life may have changed less — still prioritized work at higher levels than elsewhere.

The bottom line: With remote work eroding the value of downtown office clusters, cities that want to thrive in the future "need to create exciting urban clusters that people actually want to go to work in," says Sandman.

Go deeper

Aug 3, 2021 - Health

New York City to require vaccination proof for indoor activities

New York City will require proof of vaccination to participate in indoor activities, including visiting gyms and restaurants, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The mandate is the first of its kind for a major U.S. city, according to de Blasio. France and Italy announced similar requirements last month.

2 wildfires ravage Northern California homes as thousands evacuate

Firefighters monitoring the scene as flames from the Dixie Fire jump across highway 89 near Greenville, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the town of Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County Wednesday night. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Team USA's Ryan Crouser competing on Thursday in the men's Olympic shot put final in Tokyo, which he won. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

🥇: Ryan Crouser breaks his own Olympic shot put record to win gold for U.S.

🏐: U.S. Olympic beach volleyball duo one step away from realizing gold medal dream

🤼🏿‍♀️ "Making history": Mensah-Stock first Black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold

🛹: 2 teens and girl, 12, sweep board at women's park skateboarding

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage