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Work & Culture

The lasting effects of Covid-19 on the way we do business

Autumn. The season of change. Of transition. It signifies that the long summer days and warm summer nights are behind us. It’s that feeling you get strolling around town, watching the leaves fade to brown shortly before they take their annual tumble to the ground. It’s a stark reminder that few things are eternal. While we’re forging into a new season, we still have reminders of the old one. The effects of Covid 19 will carry on with us.

Just as the seasons change, the way we conduct business has changed. This won’t happen four times a year (fingers crossed) but the global health crisis of Covid 19 and its drastic effects will be with us for the foreseeable future. We’ve all been dealing with an extremely copious amount of uncertainty in our lives since the outbreak of Covid 19. It’s touched every aspect of our daily lives. It kind of goes without saying but things won’t go back to the way they were before Covid. Especially not for the business world.

Here are the effects of Covid 19 on ways we conduct business:

1)The acceleration of digitalization

Digitalization was a trend that was already in the purview of many companies. Some were all aboard the digitalization train, while others were still packing their bags at home. Regardless of how prepared they were for it, Covid 19 forced them to embrace the trend. It’s become sink or swim in the ocean of digitalization.

Companies were forced to hold meetings and interviews over zoom, skype, or google meet. Collaboration tools had to be implemented. More licenses and users added to corporate accounts. Contracts had to be signed digitally. The only way to work was to work digitally in a lot of cases. Some changes are only brought out of necessity. This is one of those. A lasting impact of Covid will be the further increase in digitalization and adoption of digital solutions as we move forward. 

2) E-commerce as the main source of commerce

Depending on where you live, some areas underwent varying degrees of lockdowns during the last two years. Which mandated you to stay home as much as possible. You could leave only for emergencies or to visit “essential businesses.” That generally meant trips to grocery stores and pharmacies and then back home. More time at home, and more time online, naturally led to more online shopping. 

Online shopping surely isn’t new by any means, as we’ve been doing it since the dot-com boom. However, it was extended to new categories and products this time, again by necessity. Somethings you wouldn’t usually buy online. But now that you couldn’t shop in stores, you made the leap and bought them from Amazon, Zalando, or Blocket. 

The buyer’s journey has become a blend of the physical and digital thanks to the rise of e-commerce platforms and services. But it’s been mainly a digital one for a significant number of consumers over the last two years. Most touchpoints for companies with their customers are now entirely digital, at every stage along the way.

3) Embrace of hybrid work

The working structures of yore are over. Many companies were forced to take up a hybrid working model which consists of a mix of employees working from home, while others come to the office. 

This surely will be one of the pandemic’s lasting effects, as there was no loss of productivity despite workers not coming into the office. Plus, workers love the flexibility that it gives them. It’s a model that each company and team within them will have to figure out what works best for them. Yet, there are many reasons why hybrid working is here to stay.

4) A career change

The pandemic forced people to stay home. And with that extra time at home, lots of us took a long hard look in the mirror existentially contemplating life’s big questions. What are we doing? Am I happy with my career? With my job? With my life? While the last question is an age-old one with no easy answer, the others are more concrete. 

A huge impact of the pandemic is that the labor market was intensely shocked. People who had jobs were suddenly out of them and needed to turn to something else to survive. So they went back to school or took online classes to acquire new skills to get them into a job they were more interested in. As a result of that long hard look in the mirror, they realized that if they’re going to be spending lots of time at work, they might as well be doing something that they enjoy.

5) Recognition of “Essential” businesses and employees

This is arguably the most important effect of the pandemic. That some businesses and by extension, jobs, more than others truly are essential. Naturally, every person at each company likes to think of themselves as “important, “crucial,” and “essential.” But when it came down to it, during the early days of the pandemic when we had strict lockdowns, was your job truly essential? Did the basic structure of society rely on you updating that spreadsheet or fixing those presentation slides? No? Well, that’s okay. 

It’s important that we understand that jobs and work can give us a sense of belonging, achievement, and purpose. This is great, but it’s also important to understand that creating marginally more shareholder value isn’t always critical when larger issues and problems come into the forefront. Every person should feel respected, cared about, and dignified in their respective professions and firms. Yet, in times of crisis, it’s those in the truly essential businesses and roles that keep things up and running for the rest of us.

6) Employer-Employee relationships have drastically changed

There’s the common cliche that a company is like a “family.” Which can inspire drastically different emotions and feelings depending on each individual situation. Plus it’s trying to distract from the fact that it’s a business, which is a bit deceptive. We’re all at work to work, but we should enjoy what we do and the people we do it with. Businesses are a team, comprised of individuals who are there to get their jobs done as effectively and efficiently as they can. But people aren’t emotionless robotic drones. They’re complex individuals who want more out of life than just living to work.

With that in mind, employers and employees have undergone serious challenges due to the pandemic. Workers had to focus on their jobs despite a deadly virus spreading around the world. All the while keeping any semblance of their personal lives, emotional and mental health intact. Not an easy task. Employers had to focus on the health of their companies, and their employees. Also not easy. 

The pandemic has caused both employers and employees to put things into perspective when it comes to their relationships. Empathy, now more than ever has risen to the forefront of this relationship. As mentioned above, businesses are teams, teams do great when they work together. But, these teams are made up of people. Each has to do what is best for their own interests, but it’s an evolving dynamic where each side has to listen to the other.

7) Leaner resource management

Life and business can be unpredictable. You never know what’s around the corner. Sure, you can forecast with comprehensive data and conduct detailed analyses which very likely will give you accurate predictions. But there’s always a chance that something goes awry. Like a global pandemic. As a result, businesses are furthering their lean transformations to become more optimized and remove waste.

Business trips were stopped. Crosstown meetings too. Consultants lost contracts and massive events were canceled. This shocked companies that relied on those events for revenue, leads, enhancing their networks, and growing their business. Uncertainty was sewn into the very fabric of their operations. But, it also allowed companies to better understand and do a deeper analysis of “waste” within their organization and manage their resources better.

So, while this means that cross-continental business class flights may be gone for some, as they are now zoom meetings. It’s a boon for businesses as they’re being smarter with their resources and have more flexibility to handle uncertainty.

8) Re-evaluating the jobs of the future

A question that people asked during the pandemic, was what if this happens again? Will I lose my job in the next pandemic or global crisis? It’s made people think critically about the future of work and what those jobs will look like. According to a Mckinsey report, there is a significant overlap between the jobs affected by Covid 19 and jobs vulnerable to automation. 

The workforce of tomorrow will be trained today. Therefore it’s vital that we take the lessons of the past into account when trying to consider what jobs will be around, what industries will see significant investment and development. Then training workers to be skilled in those professions. As just with covid, some jobs that were around then, are gone now. So with the rise of AI and automation, jobs here today will be gone tomorrow. Will a robot take your job? 

Change is inevitable. It’s a fact that we all have to deal with and respond to. Businesses that have been around for ages have had to weather the various shocks that occurred down the years. Whether it be technological advancements, suboptimal management, or global health crises. Doesn’t matter what the change was or how it came about, as their impacts will resound through the passage of time. The effects of Covid-19 will be with us for some time, but businesses have adapted and will continue to do so.

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