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18 Ways COVID-19 could change businesses

In only a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered the daily lives of people around the world. Even when lockdowns start relaxing, businesses, workplaces and work life will not be the same. One of the next challenges will be adapting open office spaces to the new normality that will include strict personal hygiene and physical distancing. Besides that, we will see a deep change in different aspects of business.

Coronavirus will change the way we work

Here we have listed few modifications that we will see in our offices and our workplaces.

Bigger workplaces

Office life will go under transformation and office furniture will get radically reshaped. Global real estate companies have come up with new designs to adapt spaces to new requests and rules. Office desks have shrunk over the years, and we will probably see a reversal of that, as people would not like to sit so close together.

Homeworking

Homeworking will continue to some extent. Worldwide, there will be less people in the office, therefore, many companies should be prepared to a future remote workforce. Many workers have tried working from home and some of them like it. Hence, some organizations may have little choice but to limit the numbers of workers on-site. Staggered shifts, enforced flexitime, and 24/7 operations may become the norm, along with working remotely.

Automation

Because of social distancing measures, many organizations have been forced to find ways to operate with few employees physically present. Coronavirus has caused an acceleration of some labor trends like automation. For years, businesses have been working toward automating repetitive jobs through algorithms, robots and drones and researchers have found out that this kind of automation is easier to implement during economic downturns. As a consequence of the current circumstances, companies might need to go digital much faster in order to catch up with the latest requirements.

The automation were coming well before COVID-19. In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that it could affect from 400 million to 800 million jobs by 2030. The pandemic will probably accelerate this trend.

Virtual meetings could replace personal meetings

At present, we have a variety of apps for video conferencing available for free on all devices. The pandemic has been a kind of technological equalizer where people previously unaccustomed to using tech tools in the workplace have had no choice but to adapt to the new circumstances. People have tried harder to learn new technologies and engage with them, simply because they had to so. And our virtual workplace won’t leave us any time soon. For team members who no longer work together at the office, phone calls and meetings will move to video. Video conferencing improve communications because it enables participants to make better decisions in a faster manner and increases productivity.

Forget about 9-to-5 office hours

Many employers have relaxed rules about workers starting and ending their journeys at a set time. With so many employees working from home now, it will be harder for employers to deny flexibility around work hours and work settings. Thanks to technology many workers can absolutely do your work remotely, and build their schedule as it suit them.

In order to create a balance between work time and personal time, employees and managers will have to work closely together to ensure that no one is feeling pressured to respond to emails and messages at any time of the day.

More technology

Companies need to invest in new technologies to reduce disease transmission. These might additionally include contactless pathways, doors that open and close automatically, facial recognition, and lifts that can be ordered from a smartphone.

Technology will be used to remind employees of social distancing. For instance, beacons could be used to track employees’ movements via their mobile phones, sending alerts when six-feet rules are breached. Investing in technology, you will show your employees that your organization is committed to making their remote work lifestyle as effective and comfortable.

Organizational transparency

To make employees feel connected with the senior leadership, even when they are working remotely, you need to make top-down transparency an essential part of your company culture. When a company’s leadership is transparent, it creates an environment of trust within the team. With the current health challenges and the many unknowns surrounding the pandemic, employees need to know they can bring any potential issues to leadership before these become irreparable.

New business models

Many companies might have to rethink their business models and focus on building or strengthen safety plans and planning future strategies in a way that allow them to expand work-at-home capabilities for more employees. Businesses will need to rebalance their priorities, making additional resiliency measures as important to their strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.

Effective and inspiring leadership

Leaders need to be able to engage people to work hard and find creative solutions together. Mastering the design and management of teams will become even more critical because team members will be working in flexible groups with shifting membership, from different locations, to address a variety of challenges. Depending on how long the current state lasts, we may see a shift from static organizational structures toward dynamic team forms. This only works well under conditions of psychological safety, when leaders are very clear about the situation and when every team member is welcome to speak up with ideas, concerns, and solutions.

Flexibility

The COVID-19 crisis has changed many things including consumer behavior and supply chains. To respond to the pandemic business need to adapt to the new circumstances and find agile ways to overcome uncertainty. Data and technology will be essential tools to speed up this process. The business of the future should be capable of dynamic self-management and continual adaptation. It has to be built for agility, resiliency and growth.

Improved work culture

Companies with the strongest stakeholder will be better prepared to survive and overcome problems, because they can plan together, gain knowledge from each other, and start working together to get businesses up and running when the crisis arises. Civic engagement and social responsibility will also become essential. Thinking outside traditional structures would be helpful and necessary.

Crisis bring deep changes at every level such as surprises, uncertainty, distancing from normal routines, concerns about competence with new technology and more. A positive workplace culture can deal with all these issues more effectively.

Online access to products and services

The world will see the rise of a contact-free economy. In areas such as digital commerce, telemedicine, and automation—the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a turning point. In e-commerce, the pandemic has speed up a change in shopping habits increasing, considerably online transactions. In Europe, 13% of consumers said that they were considering online retailers for the first time in April, and in just Italy, e-commerce transactions increased 81% in March.

Increased local trade

There will be a rethink of what products are “strategic”, key to a country’s survival. These products might be produced locally or closer to home. Global trade could decrease by a third this year, but it will probably bounce back. Globalization will continue but in different terms.

Agile workforce strategies

The present and the future needs a resilient workforce. This is not a one-time process; it requires the development of persistent capabilities and relationships across the different stakeholders. Not every company will move at the same rate or follow the same path. Each organization will be at a different level of maturity, supported by diverse laws and regulations around the world. However, this cannot be done by single organizations. Businesses, governments, citizens, and non-profits will play essential roles.

Less human contact

Many businesses, from factories to stores, will try to minimize human contact. Businesses may need to reallocate investment—for example, restaurants might focus on deliveries and clinics might offer both telemedicine and visits—and rethink their strategic plans to attract customers.

Contactless payment experiences

Avoiding contact while buying is better for health and safety. Therefore, business have to provide these options to meet new challenges and requirements.

Spaces with fresh air

With good ventilation being key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, a new big trend could be simply opening a window if they can be opened. Filtered air and climate control systems would be other options.

New business etiquette for greetings

Many organizations have changed greetings policy. Handshakes and kisses are definitely out, and this new etiquette for greetings look likely to remain so for some time to come. Nevertheless, new greetings have already emerged. Earlier this year, billboards in Beijing promoted clasping one’s own hands. Probably more safe-distance greetings will appear during the year.

People, organizations and communities need new answers to new requirements and businesses need to be able to evolve and adapt to the new global health and economic changes. Businesses, governments, citizens, and non-profits organizations play critical roles in establishing a human-centered, systems-minded approach that promotes workforce resilience and flexibility. This is not a one-time process and it will requires the development of persistent capabilities and relationships across different stakeholder groups.

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