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The future of business in a post-pandemic world

Jun 24, 2020

Ready to return to pre-COVID business-as-usual as the economy begins to reopen? You might have a long wait. 

Many aspects of business are expected to change---forever. Thermal scanning, immunity passports and antibody certificates could become commonplace. Many businesses are evaluating the potential cost benefits of maintaining remote teams. (Twitter, for example, is offering staff the chance to work from home—permanently.)

But what about practices that formed the cornerstones of certain departments or organizations, such as business travel, conferences and global supply chains? And how will your team cope if you decide to extend their remote work practices indefinitely? 

Connecting without contact

Sales teams rely on regular personal interaction. Social distancing is forcing them to revamp the way they connect with clients and colleagues alike. 

Business travel is expected to be irrevocably changed. Traveling across the country to hammer out deals or strategize with clients is likely the exception versus the rule.  Strong business cases will be needed before organizations may approve travel. 

For those who do need to make an essential business trip, getting on a plane is going to be a much pricier and arduous process:

  • Rules stipulating that aircraft need to fly at lower capacity could result in higher ticket prices as struggling airlines try to recoup their losses. 
  • Getting to your destination could also become trickier with routes and schedules likely to be cut as fewer people travel. 
  • Employees might balk at the lack of social distancing in commercial travel options.
  • At the airport, online or contactless check-in could be compulsory, along with temperature checks and health questionnaires. Some airports are already considering fully disinfecting luggage or using robots to scrub facilities clean. 

It’s time to find fresh and innovative ways to nurture long-distance client relationships. Consider reallocating your travel budget into high-resolution video conferencing tools, account-based marketing or virtual demonstrations.  

Get ready for virtual everything

Conventions and conferences can be important to make contacts, seal deals and keep up-to-date on the latest industry developments. Over the past several months, companies have had to adapt these events to the new environment. Many conferences have moved online, with virtual conference panelists joining remotely and questions being asked via Microsoft Teams, Slack or other messaging tools. 

This trend is likely to continue. If you host such events, think now about how you can make them standouts. For example, virtual reality headsets could enable attendees to use avatars to move around remotely, visiting booths and interacting with one another.

In the workplace, skeleton staffing, separated desks and regular temperature testing are likely to be the new normal—for those who return to the office or need to access the office periodically. 

A greater reliance on virtual teams could lead to more streamlined corporate structures. Some companies might decide they can do without many middle managers. Others may opt for AI technology solutions to automate tasks currently done in the workplace, such as initial customer support.

Help employees find balance

Whether you bring your team back to the office or continue with some form of remote workforce, working hours will need to be more flexible. Depending on your location, many commuting workers will want to reduce time on public transport during busy travel hours. And those at with children at home navigating schooling and childcare disruptions will happen for the foreseeable future.

In some sectors, the social and psychological impacts of COVID-19 are creating a crisis in work-life balance. A greater use of remote teams and flexible hours going forward is likely to boost staff retention, lower sick days and open a wider pool of potential talent for companies. 

Prepare for supply-side changes

The pandemic’s global trade impact has forced many businesses to reassess their supply chains and look to source components, raw materials and finished products closer to home. Instead of relying on imports from China, Vietnam or Indonesia, U.S. companies are looking to buy more goods from Mexico, Latin America and North America, even if a shorter supply chain comes at a higher price. 

But forecasts for a sharp post-pandemic downturn also might prompt companies overall to reserve as much cash as possible and put major investment plans on hold until the outlook becomes clearer. As COVID has shown, no one can forecast what the future holds, but companies should look to brace themselves to deal with even the most unlikely eventualities. 

Author(s)

Julia Johnson
Julia A. Johnson
Director, Organizational Performance
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Jeffrey Wulf
Jeffrey H. Wulf
Principal
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