What will the post-COVID-19 new normal look like for business?
COVID-19 has wrought major change on a global scale. It’s clear that with the devastation to the economy, the post-COVID-19 new normal is going to be different from the life we knew prior to the pandemic.
So what will the post-COVID-19 new normal look like for business? Since the start of lockdown, in an attempt to mitigate some of the problems caused by the pandemic, I have facilitated several free no-commitment groups that run for an hour every Wednesday and Friday.
A regular discussion piece is all around what the new normal looks like because there have been quite a few benefits from working from home both for employees and businesses alike, and even if you did want to get back to ‘normal’, it’s clear you’re going to have to wait a while.
So, what will the post COVID19 business environment look like?:
- More working from home (WFH)
- Smaller offices and hot desking
- Less travel
- Technology supporting WFH
- Team and project management
- More Self-Service (Telehealth, Insurance, Online Purchasing, etc.)
- A change to the local economy
- Economic recovery planning
But what do each of these look like in more detail?
Many businesses have had to be adaptable during the pandemic, and one of the most significant shifts businesses have had to take is moving to a work-from-home setup.
While the world around us continued to change drastically, businesses and employees began to realise the benefits of home working. Factors such as improved work-life balance and reduced costs have demonstrated why WFH works, and are some of the reasons why businesses are thinking about making the change more permanent.
Smaller offices and hot desking
Even with the benefits that working from home brings, it comes without its own set of challenges, and things like communication and collaboration can be the first to suffer.
As a result, some businesses will be reluctant to make working from home the only option for working. Instead, there’s likely to be more demand for businesses to offer roles that have more flexibility in terms of hours and work environment as we move towards the post-covid-19 new normal.
As lockdown restrictions continue to loosen, more businesses are choosing to downsize on office space as some staff continue to WFH. Businesses with over one thousand employees indicate a much higher likelihood to downsize, at 73%, to downsize office space than those with fifty or fewer workers at 33%.
As a result, businesses will save on the usual office costs they were used to paying pre-lockdown. However, it also means workers who are venturing back to the office are more likely to have lost their desk and will move to a shared workspace.
If you want to find out how you can work more effectively with your team from home, read our article here.
Of course, if there are more people working from home, there’s also going to be less travel, meaning less traffic on the roads and fewer people on our public transport systems.
This is obviously a good thing for the environment, as well as the health of ourselves and our teams. In fact, the British Lung Foundation reported that the drop in air pollution has helped relieve the symptoms of two million asthma sufferers in the UK, showing how extensive some of the health benefits have been.
But commuting isn’t the only travel we’re going to do less of in the post-covid-19 new normal. For lots of businesses before lockdown, travelling to and from the offices of clients, or driving to attend networking events or seminars was day-to-day practise.
Only when we made the shift to remote work did it fully dawn on us that the hours and money spent on fuel and travel could be removed from the equation, as clients, webinars and networking became just a Zoom call away.
The success of speaking to people on video call, whether speaking one-to-one with a client or sharing thoughts and ideas amongst a group of peers, really has been one of the game-changers to the viability and practicality of remote working.
Technology to Support Working from Home (WFH)
Speaking of the practicality of working from home, it was arguments around such that kept WFH as a concept, as opposed to a tangible reality.
Those arguments weren’t without their merit. If the lockdown happened fifteen years ago, when seven million homes were still crawling on dial-up connections, there’s no way that we’d have had the technology to support a successful transition.
We’ve only recently reached a point where working from home on a mass scale is feasible, and the sudden pivot in business practises sparked demand for the right technology so that businesses can support remote work.
This isn’t something that’s going to change anytime soon. Businesses that had to update their technology and move online to cope with the demands of WFH will have seen improvements in things like workflow and CRM, making them reluctant to go back to old, less productive ways of working.
Project and Team Management
While technology gives you and your team the capability to work from home, it’s down to the individuals to get the work done.
With WFH, employees will be managed by the output they produce, rather than simply being present in the office. As a result, businesses will ultimately have less staff, as any poorly performing employees will have nowhere to hide.
However, businesses will also have opportunities to offer their employees ongoing development. Since the lockdown, there’s been an explosion in easy-to-access online training, so motivated staff can progress faster by building on their skills.
More Self-Service with ChatBots and Artificial Intelligence
With larger companies having to get their technology to work for WFH and the challenges that brings, more companies are looking at how customers, both consumers and businesses, can help themselves.
Advances in chatbots (via messaging you talk to a machine but feels like a human) and artificial intelligence means that systems are getting better at handling day to day enquiries leaving resolving the more specialist queries to humans.
There is already evidence in the US where telemedicine is being used more, and our own Government’s response, through using a hotline with remote diagnostics during the pandemic, has saved a lot of people from visiting their local surgeries, which are lessons we can take away as we continue into the post-covid-19 new normal.
We are currently working with a technology company that uses what is called ‘conversational artificial intelligence’ to help larger companies reduce the number of calls needed to be handled by humans. There is a long way to go as we help roll out this technology, which includes machine learning.
So, what is machine learning? Machine learning is where artificial intelligence can learn from conversations with humans, as well and its understanding of the expected workflow for a particular query. This means that the system becomes better at handling a wider range of queries over time.
A change to the local economy
Despite bleak economic forecasts, it might not be all doom and gloom for your local economy.
With more businesses embracing WFH culture and employees no longer having to commute into the heart of the city, and people being more mindful in supporting small businesses, local economies have the potential to flourish through localism.
Even so, a recession is unavoidable, and there will be a move to frugalism as consumers conserve their cash. And with that, businesses need to think about their recovery.
No matter how your business is doing in the current circumstances, one thing is unavoidable, the economic outlook is depressingly dismal.
Out of all the countries in the global north, the UK economy is set to be hit the hardest, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, citing a slump of 11.5% in the UK’s annual income.
The stark figures highlight the need for businesses to, very carefully, consider a recovery strategy that allows you to continue growing your business, even in a recession.
Some of the changes we can expect to see include:
- Significantly reduced demand
- Increase in bad debts
- Changes in buyer behaviour:
- Cheaper brands will do better
- Buyers will consider alternatives & look for deals
- Short term thinking
- Less investment
- Smaller deals
- Increase in marketing spend
- Sales lead times take longer
As businesses, there are a few things we can take away from this list. In order to stay resilient and recover, we can:
- listen to what our customers actually want, don’t just stick to how you’ve always done things
- be adaptable- your business strategy might need to change
- look at where costs can be cut
- look at the areas that need investment
- introduce customer service technology
If you want to find out more about how you can grow your business in a recession, read our article here.
The impact of COVID19 has brought more than its fair share of challenges that businesses need to take on to stay competitive, but there are also opportunities there which need to be leveraged as we make our way toward the post-Covid-19 new normal.
So, what are you going to change so that your business can thrive in the ‘new normal’?
Want to find out more about what the post-COVID-19 new normal will hold? KUB is a digital marketing agency with a difference. Get in touch to see how you could be growing your business through digital marketing.