In terms of its global impact, COVID-19 is the most significant event that we have seen so far this century. As the most devastating pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu, COVID-19 is presently causing economic upheaval that is unparalleled in the modern era. Many predict that the economic effects of the pandemic will eventually eclipse the health impacts.
To brace themselves for the looming financial fallout, organisations around the world are taking swift action. So far in our series of articles related to COVID-19, we’ve focused on what businesses should be doing now and in the near term: weathering the storm, managing cash, preparing financial reports, and looking after the well-being of staff.
All organisations should be taking these vital steps to ensure their survival. Eventually the crisis will end – but what happens then? As we strive to meet the extraordinary challenges of the day, companies should carefully consider what the post-COVID-19 landscape will look like and how to position themselves to thrive within it.
The accelerating rise of e-commerce
In 2019 alone, global e-commerce sales stood at nearly $3.5 trillion. Even before the pandemic, online shopping growth was rapidly outpacing traditional retail growth. With countless people being forced to stay home, COVID-19 will serve as a catalyst that accelerates this trend.
When the pandemic passes, and brick and mortar stores re-open for business, they may never again see the same levels of foot traffic, as millions around the world will have discovered the convenience of online shopping.
Retailers that do not currently have any online capacity would do well to consider this trend. They will have to quickly develop their e-commerce infrastructure in order to maintain their relevance.
The benefits of remote work
As is the case with online shopping, the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the ongoing trend of workers going remote.
Out of necessity, countless companies around the world are now having their employees work from home. Dire circumstances notwithstanding, many of these organisations can expect to discover some unforeseen benefits.
Studies suggest that telecommuters are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. Moreover, offering flexible working hours can lead to higher employee satisfaction and better retention rates.
While face-to-face interactions remain indispensable for certain tasks, business leaders are quickly learning that technology can facilitate many different kinds of meetings without requiring attendees to be physically present.
When the pandemic passes, and workers around the world start returning to their posts, many employers will likely have a portion of their employees stay remote. This long-term shift could lead to higher productivity while also saving on the cost of office space.
The wisdom of outsourcing
While some businesses are well-poised to shift to remote work, others are not in a position to do so. As a result, many companies are having to reduce working hours and lay off employees to remain solvent.
While business leaders are downsizing under these difficult circumstances, they may also learn an important lesson: Not everything needs to be done in-house.
By outsourcing non-core activities such as finance, marketing, human resources, and IT, businesses can more easily re-organise and re-allocate staff in times of emergency. In times of prosperity, the entire workforce can focus its efforts on areas that actually grow the business and add value for clients and stakeholders. There is no reason to have essential staff working on non-essential activities that could be better performed by a capable third party.
After the pandemic passes, there will surely be an economic rebound. But many business leaders will use the opportunity to re-focus their efforts on core activities, while outsourcing the remaining tasks. This strategy allows for increased focus during normal periods, in addition to greater agility and resilience when facing future crises.
Thriving in the new normal
In time, we will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The world, however, will be changed – perhaps permanently so. How we live, work, and communicate will bear the marks of this crisis for years to come.
While it may be difficult to take the long view in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, such a perspective is necessary if businesses want to thrive in the post-COVID-19 world. By making the right plans now, organisations can build resiliency and set themselves up to thrive in a forever-changed landscape.