Friday, April 12, 2024

COVID-19 Will Change The Way We Do Business Forever – And You’re Going To Like It.

April 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Health, Money/Business, Weekly Columns

( The last time the world dealt with a major pandemic was more than a hundred years ago. And back then, economies were far less integrated than they are today. If you wanted to go from China to the US, you had to hitch a two-week ride on a giant ocean liner. Passenger jet aircraft barely existed. 

Over the last century, however, things changed enormously. The world got smaller. And people could hop on a plane as easily as they could visit their local shops. 

For viruses like SARS-CoV-2, this is an opportunity. It took years for the Spanish flu of 1918 to make its way around the world in the aftermath of WWI. COVID-19 spread to more than 150 countries in just a matter of weeks. Fortunately, it appears like it is less deadly than its historical analogue, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to cause suffering and death. It is already. 

There are, however, some upshots to our current situation. Even though the government is asking us to “shelter in place,” the positive changes in the business world are well underway. And there’s every reason to suspect that they will remain in the future.

COVID-19 Is Going To Make Companies Rethink Remote Working

Data suggest that employees don’t want a serf-like existence, commuting on packed trains to dingy offices five days per week, especially if there’s no real need. What they want is flexibility and the ability to work from any location, so long as the work permits it. 

Old-school managers, however, seem to have a reluctance to adopt new patterns of working. They fear that it will lead to worker malaise and a collapse in work ethic. Unless they’re right there cracking the whip, they worry that their employees will simply put their feet up and eat ice cream all day. 

Of course, that’s not how it would play out in the real world. After a short period of adjustment, people would get used to working hard in their homes and find ways to block out screaming kids in the background. It would take a little effort, but it is happening already. 

COVID-19 will prove to employers that mass remote workforces are viable. It’s 2020, for goodness sake. We should have been doing this years ago!

COVID-19 Will Increase The Need For Outsourced Services

There are, of course, consequences to shirking traditional offices. Businesses that operate from home don’t automatically get secretarial services or even assistance with basic clerical tasks.

For that reason, we’re likely to witness a seachange in the way that firms allocate work. Instead of getting rid of the office setup altogether, more and more entrepreneurs will use a virtual assistant – somebody who provides a supportive role. This way, they get all of the services associated with a traditional office setup, just minus the overhead of the building. 

COVID-19 Will Make Being “Antifragile” A Top Priority

For years, business bloggers and journalists have lambasted companies for failing to put in place systems that will allow them to weather the storm. So-called “tail risks” seem so unlikely that most firms don’t consider them a serious threat to their operations. 

But this mode of thinking is more indicative of the failings of human psychology than physical reality. Think about it. Over the last twenty years alone, we’ve seen the 9/11 terror attacks, the popping of the dot-com bubble, the emergence of swine flu, military confrontations with Russia, China and Iran, wars in Iraq, and North Korean nuclear missile tests. Trump has done his bit to push back the tide and reduce risks. But the idea that it is out of the question that something couldn’t go catastrophically wrong is false. It takes very little to bring the world to its knees, as we’ve seen. 

Companies are going to rethink their antifragile strategies dramatically. We’re likely to see a massive reduction in imports and global supply chains. We also expect to see an end to the hegemony of just-in-time delivery systems. Having zero inventory has hurt a lot of companies badly in this crisis. Firms will also abandon their dependence on physical interactions with customers. And online business will soar. In many ways, the virus is accelerating trends that were already underway. 

COVID-19 With Usher In A New Era Of Contactless Payments

Before the new coronavirus hit, technology had advanced to the stage where you didn’t actually need to make contact with anything to pay for your goods. No longer did you have to type in your PIN using the same keypad as everyone else (for most purchases). 

But in the aftermath of this crisis, that sort of thing is likely to go up a notch. We’re likely to see a whole host of new technologies arriving that allow us to pay for things without touching surfaces. 

What this means for cash isn’t entirely clear. Estimates suggest that somewhere around 20 percent of the US economy is entirely dependent on money as a means of exchange. But with the coronavirus surviving on surfaces for more than 30 days in some instances, will coins and notes ever be the same again? Who knows? 

COVID-19 Is Creating Segregated Opening Hours

Businesses know that they have two very different kinds of customers. There are regular people, and then there are a group of people over the age of 70 and with pre-existing medical conditions who are at particularly high risk. Superstores have already begun innovating, therefore, with their opening hours, changing their store hours to cater to different groups. Some groups, for instance, are only providing seniors-only shopping times in an attempt to protect them as much as possible from the virus. It is likely that if the pandemic rolls on, this sort of thing will become the new norm, much like disabled parking. 

Crises are bad while you’re going through them, but they often lead to long and lasting improvements. Civilization learns from its mistakes and puts in place measures to prevent the same thing from happening again. The next disease that comes our way probably won’t be as bad as this one. And that’s something to celebrate. 

Staff Writer; Bobby Jackson

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