The COVID-19 pandemic has changed virtually everything, from how we communicate and socialize to how we do business and keep ourselves entertained. As the pandemic winds down slowly but surely, there is plenty to life that will return to the old normal. But there have also been a few trends that will persist into the foreseeable future. While that prospect might seem scary, do not fret. All of these lessons on this list are positive changes catalyzed by this negative experience.
With that, let’s take a look.
Ecommerce is here to stay
There are few more convenient things in life than being able to order whatever you need online. From food delivery to office supplies, from clothes to toiletries, if it exists, there is a good chance you can find someone online to sell it and ship it to you. Pandemic notwithstanding, ecommerce has been consistently growing since we started leveraging the Internet for sales purposes. 2020 was no exception with just under $4.3 trillion in sales globally — almost a full trillion more from 2019’s $3.4 trillion. According to Statistica, ecommerce is set to continually grow with 2021 projected to bring in $4.9 trillion all the way out to 2024 set at $6.4 trillion.
Beyond the numbers, ecommerce business models have evolved alongside the pandemic in order to better support brick-and-mortar stores whose physical retail traffic plummeted during the lockdowns. For instance, curbside pickup has become popular, allowing customers to still visit their favorite stores but buying online first to then pick up their order quickly. This is especially convenient for people who want to buy something online without paying shipping costs, such as groceries and takeout.
Not only are consumers given more choices by shopping online, ecommerce is becoming more valuable by saving time and money for everyone. From the business side, the pandemic has encouraged creative problem solving to leverage automation and the Internet to make up for lost physical business. From the consumer side, they can enjoy new products, services, and logistics, offering them more options while driving costs down (such as getting delivery through DoorDash or just ordering curbside pickup that previously was not available).
Working from home arrangements are easier to implement than previously thought
In that same vein, leveraging the Internet for telecommunications has made working from home a lot more feasible. As offices closed, plenty of companies shifted to remote work, letting employees clock in from the comfort and safety of their homes, holding virtual meetings and using popular software such as Zoom or Slack to keep in touch. Where some companies were hesitant to implement these kinds of arrangements in the past, the pandemic made it a necessity in order to keep the business open.
While plenty of companies are eager to get back to work in-office, there are others who are mulling over a partial or full working-from-home arrangement. Remote work minimizes time wasted in commuting to and from the office while also lowering a company’s footprint and thus its physical costs in rent, utility bills, and office furnishings. Though not everyone nor every business is best suited for remote work, the fact that it has become so commonplace has brought the business world closer together; that freelancer that lives on the other side of the country was just as accessible as the coworker who used to work on the other side of the office. Again, this changing perspective on remote work has encouraged businesses to seek other options beyond its four walls.
This will also be useful in case of inclement weather and you and your family are stuck at home due to snow. However, what is a boon for everyone else might not be seen the same way for your kids. Places like New York have determined that snow days are now a thing of the past since school districts can switch over to at-home learning. Certainly, there are still plenty of aspects to figure out such as work-life balance and logistics, remote work and learning is expected to become more commonplace even beyond COVID-19.
Adaptability is important, no matter your industry
There is a simple truth to the statement that chaos creates opportunity. Just as the aftermath of a wildfire can help enrich the soil for new life, drastic shifts in the market and our global economy — including pandemics — encourage creative, innovative thinking in order to get through chaotic times. Those that are unable to change or flat out refuse to are often eclipsed by other companies who adapt to the present reality. For the pandemic, the main theme was how to continue business at a distance.
For businesses that are mainly present in the digital sphere, not much changed. But for the brick-and-mortar stores, manufacturing and processing plants, the construction and transportation sectors (just to name a few) did not have that luxury. Limited building occupancy, social distancing, and the extra time, energy, and money spent on sanitation measures put a couple of dents in budgets the world over. While some businesses were unable to keep up for whatever reason (whether it was years of mismanagement coming to a head or, despite their best attempts, all the change was too much), others survived and even thrived.
While this whole section could be expanded into its own book, the point is that discomfort prompts change. This chaos can be an opportunity to reexamine old processes that needed a tune up or to expose inefficiencies that are now too costly to ignore. With that in mind, when building a business, you want to ensure your company’s sustainability in good times and bad. Always have a backup plan and keep brainstorming ways to navigate the storms; you will come out stronger on the other side if you do. After all, treacherous seas make for skilled sailors.
Sick days and health insurance are a must
In the United States, health insurance and ample sick days are prime benefits to offer employees. With a pandemic that has forced quarantines, shutdowns, and limited capacity, not prioritizing employee health can cost money, productivity, and lives. With fear of infection and the symptoms of long COVID, the demand for health insurance has increased dramatically along with sick pay, especially if employees are forced into furlough for reasons beyond their control.
While there have also been stronger calls for universal healthcare in the United States, whether at the state or federal levels, for now it falls upon employers to keep their employees healthy and safe. Not only is it good practice to invest in your employee’s health and happiness, but better health packages also make your business more lucrative to work for. Still, your employees will thank you for thinking of them when they need the help. Which brings us to our last point.
In times of crisis, work together
No person is an island, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. With so much of our lives having been upended so suddenly, the uncertainty can be overwhelming especially when there is no clear understanding of what the end looks like. But with that in mind, it is important to remember that by working together, change and the anxiety it brings is much more bearable. This is true whether in our personal lives or managing a business.
To sum up, keep contact with your employees and business community, find ways to solve problems and mitigate negative changes, and come up with creative ways to keep everyone afloat. By prioritizing how we can best help each other, we stand to get through times of strife much easier and faster. After all, it is better to be the tide that raises all ships than be sucked under a tidal wave beyond anyone’s control. And once everything is said and done, people will remember how you helped them — and trust like that is worth its weight in gold.