“We are never going back to the normal!”
One might have heard this statement frequently these days. Experts all over the world are talking about the long-lasting impact that this pandemic will have on our lifestyles. Both personal and work cultures will be radically altered forever! As social distancing is the only effective solution available to tackle this pandemic, businesses all over the world are adapting to new work culture. In this transition, which will be hastened due to COVID-19, technology has a massive role to play.
Hitherto, technology had been an inseparable part of our lives but now, with the COVID-19-induced changes, an unprecedented role of technology in our lives will be witnessed. Global Pandemics often bring up unknown deficits in corporate structures and systems. They must be recognized and rectified. The financial implications of these emergencies are monumental. For instance, in the USA, the flu season of 2016 was estimated to cost over $5.8 billion in health care and lost productivity costs. This instance is enough to indicate that work culture must be redesigned in order to accommodate these unexpected global events.
This pandemic will encourage several changes in the corporate world. It is already being said in various quarters that COVID-19 will prove to be a great catalyst for business transformation. As it is obvious, there will be a sharp rise in remote working. According to one report, remote work has increased by 91% in the previous decade. An even higher rise is now expected. This has benefits for both parties. For the companies, this ensures that work is carried out smoothly in the face of such disruptions. It also allows companies to attract the best talent from across the world and thus, brings an element of international diversity. For instance, companies like Toptal, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) and so on, rely entirely on remote working and have employees from several countries. These employees work in the comfort of their homes even while working together at a company with a global presence. Since the necessary technological mechanisms already exist, this culture will spread with even more rapidity after COVID-19.
With the shift from the 9-5 office culture to focus on productivity, employees are bound to be elated. The loyalty and dedication of employees towards their employers will also increase as companies will look to modify their hours, processes, and methods of operations in order to prioritize the health and safety of their employees. This has also resulted in a commensurate rise of technologies that enable effortless communication, such as Slack, Zoom, and Asana. For instance, the American remote conferencing company, Zoom, is said to have gained more monthly active users in the first quarter of this year than the total number in 2019.
The Healthcare industry, that has become the most important industry in today’s times, will also undergo an evolution. The use of drones for ensuring implementation of lockdown guidelines and even for disinfecting has now become common. Drones have also been used to transport medical samples and quarantine materials. Drones represent a relatively recent technology whose application is bound to increase during and in the aftermath of COVID-19. Nonetheless, the most revolutionary trend has been a field hospital, staffed by robots, opened in the Hongshan Sports Centre in Wuhan, China. This hospital provides relief to the exhausted frontline workers in the place where the virus originated. Disinfectant robots have proved to be very effective and several companies are now supplying them to governments across the world. There has also been a rediscovery of telemedicine as authorities are ensuring that healthcare systems are not overloaded. Automation of functions in hospitals will not only protect healthcare workers but also free them up from non-essential functions.
The long-lasting impact of the pandemic will also be seen in other industries, several of which experienced the disappearance of businesses overnight. In the restaurant business, the delivery segment will seem to emerge as a dominant player. This is also likely to result in the rise of virtual/cloud kitchens. More and more people would like to savor delicious food but usually in the safety of their homes. Almost all food delivery services operating today have adopted the practice of contactless delivery. It is hard to predict the trajectory here as one might even see drones delivering foods to homes soon!
In the retail sector, retailers selling needs will be able to make a strong comeback but the same can’t be confidently said about retailers selling wants. Having said that, it will be interesting to see how the innovators of the in-store experience like Starbucks find their way out of this quagmire! A huge uptick in online ordering and shopping will be witnessed. Groceries are already being delivered by several companies like Grofers and Big Basket by adopting the practice of contactless delivery.
The hospitality sector, another badly hit industry, will take time to recover. As people become more cautious and work from home, business hotels and even family hotels will be devastated. Multiplexes will also have to contend with a fall in demand. A few hotels around the world use robots for an array of services and it is likely that the number of such hotels will increase globally. The void created by multiplexes has been swiftly taken up by streaming platforms and is best exemplified by not an increase in the number of users but, in the common requests made by authorities and companies across the world to stop streaming HD videos and use data efficiently.
Thus, it is evident that the pandemic will inevitably alter many of the industries at some level. While certain industries will have to realign themselves completely, others will be less affected. Rapid adaptation to new forms of technology will be crucial for industries if they have to survive in the post-COVID-19 world. These are challenging times that necessitate new inventions and systems. The Black Death aided the fall of feudalism and this pandemic can bring in more positive changes. As the adage goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Regardless of the way things turn out, one thing is certain, we are never going back to normal!