Most states in the U.S. are relaxing their stay-at-home restriction orders. Likewise, phased returns of commercial activities are occurring with an obvious note of caution. While no one knows what things will look like after lockdown, one thing is certain: It won’t look the same. Noticeable changes will be everywhere with some enforced and some simply due to changes in our behaviors. It’s therefore understandable to wonder what type of impact this will have on companies. What will the post-COVID business of the future look like?
In states where economies are reopening, post-COVID business changes are already evident. Restaurant tables are strategically placed to accommodate social distancing. Hair stylists are in full body armor with masks, gloves, and sometimes, even gowns. And the amount of tape applied to customer waiting areas has likely doubled this item’s sales in a short time. But from a broader perspective, businesses will experience much more profound changes after lockdown ends. For those wishing to survive, this is a subject worth exploring in greater detail.
“We want employees to be able to work where they feel most creative and productive…Over the past several weeks, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go.” – Jack Dorsey, Founder of Square
Accommodating Remote Work from Home
It’s no secret that many businesses had to devise new policies and procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. The most notable ones pertained to working from home strategies. Social distancing and lockdowns made this the best option for many workers and employers to survive. But for the post-COVID business, these same approaches will need to be considered. Even after lockdown ends, the benefits remote work offers everyone will likely perpetuate its existence. Companies like Square, Twitter, Facebook, and Google have already acknowledged this. In fact, these companies are extending remote work options for many until the end of the year of after. Unquestionably, this will be an obvious change that post-COVID businesses will face.
Investing in Contactless Encounters
The post-COVID business of the future will also be one that embraces contactless transactions. During the pandemic, this was a necessity and will continue to be until a vaccine is developed. But at the same time, many customers realized the convenience these contactless interactions allowed. For example, virtual meetings were more likely to start and end on time. This is naturally more efficient in many ways and saves precious time. Likewise, many are now accustomed to e-commerce transactions and expect expedited delivery. After lockdown is over, these expectations are unlikely to change, even if in-store experiences resume.
“People are being forced to work from home [and] forced to adapt digitally. These behaviors will not disappear once the quarantine is over, it’s very likely that people who have been forced to adopt digital practices will continue these.” – Joe McDonnell, WGSN Insight
Adopting Social Responsibility Practices
One of the most significant impacts of the coronavirus pandemic was its ability to create fear and insecurity. The rapid spread of the virus and its health effects created a sense of panic for many. This was most evident in the decline of global financial markets as the pandemic spread. Understanding this, a good post-COVID business practice to consider will involve dedicated social responsibility practices. Businesses who prioritize their customers, their employees and their communities will naturally improve their social capital. And social capital fosters trust, which will be appreciated in the marketplace after lockdown ends. In fact, companies who commit to socially responsible practices have been found to perform better in the marketplace. Given economic predictions ahead, these types of investments may make a tremendous difference in survivability.
Redesigning More Equitable Employee Policies
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed many things that had previously gone unnoticed. Among them include the inherent inequalities that exist socially and economically in many areas. This has been particularly true for essential workers placing themselves at risk while receiving low incomes and minimal benefits. Health aides, grocery clerks, delivery personnel, and first responders can all be included in this group. Understanding this, it is highly likely workers will demand pay and treatment that is more equitable and just. A post-COVID business that addresses employee wage, benefits, and work flexibility will therefore attract better workers. Even with rising unemployment rates, such practices will make a difference over the long term in pursuing success.
Cultivating Resiliency Safeguards
Notably, the pandemic has tested all of us in some form or fashion. While some businesses have thrived during this time, many have not. Therefore, moving forward after lockdown, businesses will actively pursue resiliency measures to help protect them in the future. A typical post-COVID business will look at costs more closely. They will look to find efficiencies and an ability to improve their use of resources. And most importantly, they will look to risk mitigations that might help them survive a number of setbacks. No longer will these pursuits be something a few businesses consider. Resiliency practices will become the norm for the post-COVID business.
“Brands need to be asking themselves what really matters. That covers everything from workplace practices to how they approach consumers. A good question to ask now is, ‘How can brands empower consumers to be more self-sufficient?’” – Devon Powers, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media & Communication
Turning Back Is Not an Option
In all likelihood, a coronavirus vaccine will eventually be developed and will protect us from the infection’s effects. If or when this occurs, the opportunity to return to our prior way of life will exist. But the pandemic has taught us many things and revealed areas for improvement. It is clear that businesses are already adapting. Therefore, after lockdown is over, the ability for us to simply revert back to our old ways is not likely. Instead, we will be looking forward to improve and adopt new behaviors that work better. This will certainly be true for the post-COVID business of the future.