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  • Writer's pictureChaz Vossburg

8 Things Covid-19 May Have Changed Forever

Covid-19 has changed our lives in the moment. But, like all seminal events in history, it will also change us beyond the present.

Here are some changes that range from the mundane to the profound that may be here to stay. 

  1. Handshakes are Passé

Some eastern cultures (Japanese, Indian etc.) have never embraced the idea of handshakes, and between bows and folded hands, they are able to greet each other just fine. Not only is that more hygienic but it allows you to practice safe distancing as well.  

Going forward, look for all handshakes to be looked at with suspicion. Elbow bumps? I am not sold yet. Time will tell.  

  1. Digital Transformation on Steroids

If you did not think that you were a technology company before the crisis, today you must. Digital platforms and environments have been key to operations during this time and they will continue to be a priority focus of investment.  

During the pandemic, businesses have worked faster, and been more innovative than what they thought was possible only a few months ago. As we restart into the new normal, keeping that sense of momentum will be an enduring source of competitive advantage. 

As a result of the pandemic we are making decisions quicker, we are using technology to collaborate and plan together, and we are embracing new paradigms for the future of how we work. The workforce will require continuous upskilling which will require an investment in training for new digital tools. Small, cross-functional teams achieved a lot during the crisis. They are likely to be more in demand in the future.  

Those companies that see these changes as part of a permanent change and their competitive advantage will survive and thrive. Those that revert to the ‘old’ normal, will struggle.  

  1. Remote Work is Here to Stay

Remote work became an overnight global experiment. The massive dislocations that many predicted, did not occur. After a week or two, most organizations were able to successfully move to a remote working environment. Now, as countries open up again, an increasing number of companies have announced either an extension of remote working or like Twitter, announced a permanent switch to remote workers.  

JPMorgan, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and scores of other companies have already extended the work from home plans through 2020. By some estimates, 56% of all employees have a job that can be done remotely. If more companies continue down this path, there will be serious questions about commercial office space concentrated into ‘downtown’ areas across the country. Will we need all those offices if employees are remote? 

Additionally, many companies, not all, will also realize that hiring and recruitment of employees need not be a local preference anymore. Remote can be anywhere in the world. In this respect, most companies will now be global companies.  

  1. Virtual Conferences – The New Normal

The events industry is huge. The industry employs approximately 6 million people in the USA and was expected to grow 11% between 2016-2026. In 2016, there were 1.9 million meetings with over 251 million attendees in the USA, generating over $325 billion.  

That was before coronavirus. The in-person event market has evaporated overnight.  

Microsoft has announced that all its conferences through July 2021 will be virtual and free! And while Microsoft’s rich coffers will hardly notice the revenue losses, for smaller companies who rely upon annual events to bring in the bulk of their revenues e.g. associations, these are existential losses. The Drupal Association, as one example, had to cancel an event that normally brings in 3,000 attendees, and now there are questions about the association’s survival.  

The new normal is likely to be more virtual meetings. In-person meetings will be different with someone checking your health vitals, while another checks your bags before you are allowed in. These will be more exclusive and require more justifications for the much higher costs.  

  1. Supply Chains

PPE is now part of our lexicon in the post COVID world. Why did we have so much trouble with getting PPE? Like much of our supplies we realized that we have been literally ‘putting all our eggs in one basket’. Manufacturing has tended to move to the lowest price points, and much of our supply chains are now in China and Asia.  

One needs only to walk down the aisles in a Walmart or Costco and look at where the merchandise comes from to realize that we manufacture very little in this country.  Thus, we are dependent on the global supply chains and when they are disrupted, we have no recourse. That is what happened to PPE. This will not be acceptable anymore. 

Look for companies to investigate changing the supply chain ecosystem and consider nontraditional collaborations, and carefully considering partners with disruptions in mind. We are likely to see more regionalization of supply chains. 

  1. Education

The biggest change in education may be the respect and gratitude that teachers will rightfully deserve and receive. A couple of months of trying to teach your own kids should be enough to convince most parents that teachers do yeoman’s work and deserve to be paid more. 

The value of online tools during this crisis has been paramount. However, even school districts in counties with bigger budgets suffered catastrophic distance learning failures. The digital divide remains a significant concern and must be remedied. Governor Cuomo, working with the Gates Foundation is seeking to “reimagine” education in the new paradigm.  

With an increasing number of colleges and universities contemplating online classes, many parents and students are filing petitions against virtual learning, both for refunding the costs, and the perceived lowered levels of experience this entails. Other institutions are being forced to make significant budget cuts. As many as 54 university leaders have taken voluntary salary reductions for the coming fiscal year. 

Many universities with slim margins before the pandemic, will not survive. Those that remain, will be harder to get into. Others are likely to try and expand their offerings by selling still more online classes. This will create a tiered experience going forward, making the in-person classes more expensive and exclusive. 

  1. Healthcare

Telemedicine was a fringe endeavor before coronavirus. Most states in the USA did not even license it or reimburse practitioners for it. Not anymore. Post-Covid, it is now a bonafide use for medical access for patients and providers. Reimbursement and inter-state telemedicine are now allowed. Expect to see a further broadening of telemedicine.  

“Would you like to come into the doctor’s office or be seen via televisit?” is a question you will now be asked. As 5G comes more into play, this shift will accelerate. 

We should also expect a new and fast-tracked infectious disease diagnosis and vaccine creation eco-system brought online. The response to future epidemics cannot be at the chaotic and siloed levels that we have experienced. That will be simply unacceptable.  

In the USA, the COVID post-mortem will require us to revisit the federal and state responsibilities in a pandemic, and how our celebrated healthcare system failed in comparison to many countries who spend a fraction of what we do. Our healthcare system and insurance schema have proven to be completely inadequate and will need a thoughtful reworking.

  1. Travel and Vacations

After 9/11 travel changed forever. Going forward, expect to see changes due to this epidemic.  

The UK government is already contemplating Immunity Passports which would be needed in addition to your passport and a visa. Also expect to have to answer many more questions about your health and whereabouts before you are allowed into a country. In some cases, you might be asked to agree to heightened and intrusive surveillance as a condition of entry. 

Health checks before you board your flights and check in to hotels are also likely, if only to increase trust in the traveling public. Legal liability if a traveler on a plane, or patron at an establishment, gets sick, is going to create higher insurance costs that will surely be passed on to consumers. 

Expect to see innovative ways in which the gig economy and companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb strive to restore the trust of those using their services. Demand is only likely to be restored after a vaccine (still at least a year away) or if the customer can be assured of safety.  

There is a high likelihood that small airlines will have a difficult time surviving the extended 90%+ decrease in traffic. The Boeing CEO recently stated that he expects to see a major airline go out of business. Delta has just announced that it will be retiring all of its 777 aircraft due to the tepid demand expected over the 3-5 year horizon. Add the spacing guidelines in the cabin – resulting in fewer passengers – and ticket prices will inevitably be going up when travel resumes.  

Pivotal events like 9/11 have a lasting impact on how we work and play. We experienced that. There is no reason to believe that this pandemic will be an exception.


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