Business As Unusual: Trends Of A Post-Coronavirus Future

Crowd of business people on their way from work. They are unrecognisable. Long exposure shot.
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In this guest post, International Director on the Interaction Design Association Board and MD of Aus/NZ Designit. Katja Forbes, discusses how the world will need to rethink its way of working in a post-CV-19 era…

The business world has been forced to completely rethink its ways of working and how it provides for customers. COVID 19 means customers are well aware of and even rightfully paranoid about an invisible threat; the like of which we’ve never seen before at such a global scale.  It is easily apparent that some business sectors are doing a raging trade, like Sorbent, the manufacturers of hand sanitiser and medical grade face masks, whilst sadly others have had to shut their doors altogether.

At Designit, we see with every client, and also ourselves, that the usual rules of business have been altered, and your own business livelihood now depends on a range of factors we may not necessarily have dreamt of just two months ago. We are all having to look a lot further outside of the proverbial square to encourage someone to spend their Job Keeper dollar with us than ever before, and keep our economy moving. Stagekings is a great example of this kind of complete pivot, from rigging events (an industry that’s shut down, at least for now) to creating simple assembly desks for the new “work from home” market.  As leaders in creating those memorable customer experiences, here at Designit, we are also rising to the business challenges that 2020 is bringing our way.

Yuval Noah Harari (Israeli historian, University professor and author) summed up the pandemic best when he said “In this time of crisis, the world faces two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.”

The way we do business and life needs to change dramatically so that the economy and human survival may continue. We want to see citizen empowerment and global solidarity but it’s hard to get the balance right when keeping people safe means locking down and shutting borders to control the spread. A number of underlying trends result directly from the pandemic, and success depends on how each sector and individual business is able to react to the various verticals can be loosely plotted on the below chart.

 

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

To explain the above graph, first we need to consider various industries and whether demand for it has increased or decreased as a result of the coronavirus. Some examples where demand has increased includes sectors like healthcare, pharma, online services, ecommerce, and gaming. A decrease will be experienced in travel, tourism, brick and mortar retail, hotels, hospitality. And then there are still others that experience mixed demand like financial services and insurance.

An increased demand is one thing, but whether or not it can be met is quite another. This then is expressed on the other axis. How easy can the business transition to remote working (or working from home, as per current regulations?) If this can be done easily, and demand has increased, then these sectors have the ability to create tools of the future. If a transition is complex and demand has decreased too, these sectors’ future hangs very much in the balance. Otherwise an increased demand yet complex delivery of the business results in a situation of “challenged essentials.”

All of these sectors have a unique opportunity to work with expert consultants and rewrite history in the way their business is done.

Some of the trends we are already riding the wave of are:

  1. A transition to remote working

People have come to expect to be able to be with their family to provide care, and working from home will become common-place. This decision will be supported by the company, who will provide the tools and support to be able to do so.  A daunting change is that premiums and discounts offered by some countries over others will be eliminated (eg call centres or IT support in developing countries) and it will be common for members of each team to be based over various countries.

  1. Urbanisation

Personal space has increased dramatically. Physical spaces for shared zones (like shopping centres etc) will be designed differently to accommodate this. Some countries with more physical space will be at an advantage than those where people live closer together.  People are moving away from cities again and back to suburbs and the countryside.

  1. Personal Monitoring

We can expect radical acceleration of quantified self-applications and devices for early illness detection, where previously people were more ignorant to their own health and expected to continue life as normal when sick. It may also more acceptable for Governments to monitor citizens, such as the Australian governments COVID 19 Tracing app, so personal privacy is not as expected.  In fact, health tracking data could become essential in order to work, socialise or travel.

  1. Shift in Employment Relationships

Companies could begin to become much more responsible for the health and wellbeing of their own employees and their families. Does this mean that employees without dependents are more desirable as the company takes responsibility only for their employee and not a family, or anticipated pregnancy in the future, therefore cheaper? It’s a slippery slope to seeing new biases in hiring for new rationales.

  1. New Business Models

The product and service delivery methods we have available today may no longer be acceptable.  Personal local human touch used to be desired at a premium but now contact free options may be preferred, and delivery drones may finally become a thing. What customers are even demanding is changing day to day and customer behaviours are shifting completely with these new social norms.

There is no doubt the world is faced with a health crisis and an economic crisis very much based on a capitalist system already under stress, with a divided humanity. The hand that is at the forefront of these business trends may get to disproportionately shape the world of tomorrow.

 

 

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