[The #Rebound series focuses on various aspects of business that need to be reimagined for a post-Covid world.]
Horrible. Devastating. Unprecedented.
No words seem powerful enough to capture the damage being caused by the novel coronavirus even as I type them into this post. When we look back—and I do hope we are able to look back on the Covid-19 pandemic within this year—the economic destruction will be measured in trillions of dollars. Needless to say, the cost to human life and psyche would be unfathomable.
In the midst of this ongoing misery, it may appear pointless to think of, let alone write about, a post-pandemic world. But then, not doing so would be a disservice to the tireless efforts of scientists, entrepreneurs, caregivers, and support staff of all kinds. After all, some regions of the globe are on the cusp of containing the virus. And the race to develop and launch an effective vaccine means it may be possible to inject immunity into the general public in a matter of months (something that usually takes years or even decades).
The human spirit is going through one of its severest tests of resilience in a century.
We didn’t have foreknowledge of the sheer spread and impact of this virus—but that shouldn’t prevent us from exercising our faculty of analytical foresight. Which is why at Freshworks, we decided to curate the expertise and opinions of leaders, analysts, and some of our own internal ‘warriors’. The idea of what we are calling the #Rebound series of blog posts is to share this curated knowledge with businesses that are trying to make sense of what’s going on and what may happen once things get back to…the so-called New Normal.
Lasting shifts in “social attitudes, policy, work, and consumption” will likely emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, predicts the Boston Consulting Group’s strategy think tank, the BCG Henderson Institute. It says the new attitudes could be reflected in significant policy shifts in trade, border controls, healthcare, crisis preparedness, foreign affairs, employment, and social welfare.
The institute cautions, however, that we must distinguish between temporarily postponed, accelerated, or disturbed consumption, and new, more permanent patterns of consumption. For example, there was a marked reduction in air travel after the 9/11 attacks but things returned to normal after about 15 months.
Consulting firm McKinsey posits that the coronavirus pandemic could prove to be a decisive turning point, especially for three areas of the contact-free economy—digital commerce, telemedicine, and automation. Some of the global examples cited by the firm: the Federal Communications Commission in the US is spending $200 million to improve connectivity between patients and virtual-healthcare providers; Sweden’s KRY International, one of Europe’s biggest telehealth providers, reported that registrations were up more than 200%; and France and Korea have changed regulations to ease access to telemedicine.
One of the key points highlighted by McKinsey is a likely increase in government scrutiny of businesses. In most parts of the world, governments have announced bailout and support packages for businesses worth trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. So it is only natural that the public will expect, and perhaps demand, that “their money be used for the benefit of society” at large. “There will be real effects on the relations between government and business, and between business and society. That could show itself in the form of more regulation, particularly in regard to domestic sourcing and workforce safety.”
The BCG Henderson Institute suggests that businesses should create “branching trees of potential ramifications” to visualize the field of possibilities of the post-Covid world. Laying out the implications of people spending more time at home, for instance, it has visualized the branching tree for “entertainment” as showing a decrease in live shows and an increase in other forms such as books, streaming, and online games.
It is quite possible that after the pandemic, even those whose job it is to promote a sector or industry may do so with a seismic shift in their thinking. In fact, environmentalists and activists promoting a greener, more livable planet have been advocating such a shift for quite some time.
Consider travel and tourism, an $8-trillion-plus global industry growing steadily before the coronavirus-induced lockdowns made it seem a thing of the distant past. “When Covid-19 is behind us, we need to once again look outside ourselves and take individual action for the good of the planet. Just as coronavirus has forced our lives to slow down, we should consider a slower, more thoughtful approach to travel,” travel writer Chloe Berge suggests in a report on BBC.com.
Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Washington-based Adventure Travel Trade Association, echoes that thought in the same report: “Overtourism is just another form of overconsumption. I’m fine seeing tourism numbers lower overall and for the quality of tourism to increase, where people understand the destination better and have a positive impact on it versus overcrowding and pollution and wildlife habitat loss—which are all outcomes of too much tourism.”
Another behavioral shift could be in store for how people, especially in developed economies, consume food. Confined to their homes, Americans are cooking “at a scale not seen in over 50 years,” according to an article in The New York Times. Citing a recent survey, it says that 75% of the respondents in the US said they have become more confident in the kitchen and 51% said they will continue to cook more after the Covid-19 crisis ends. If people in the US and elsewhere continue practicing their newly acquired culinary skills, the contours of the eating out and food delivery business might be significantly different from what they are now.
A Harvard Business Review article urges business leaders to use five questions to guide them as they bounce back from the crisis. The authors call it their 5Ps framework (inspired by management theorist Henry Mintzberg’s strategy framework)—position, plan, perspective, projects, and preparedness.
Answering these questions and taking all the necessary measures will help companies stay tuned to the future and fight their own battles against the challenges thrown by one of the deadliest viruses in human history. For most organizations, especially SMBs and mid-market enterprises, going through and emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will likely be nothing short of a metamorphosis.
Stay tuned for more posts in our Rebound series.