Governments, businesses and individuals will overcome COVID-19 — but our shift to physical distancing will have a lasting effect long after it ends. New ways of thinking or “mental models” have replaced some traditional behaviours to ease our transition to remote work. Now that they’ve become internalized and operationalized, they won’t disappear overnight when we return to offices and a new version of normal. And more changes could be on the way as new realities set in post-pandemic. These shifts in macro-behaviours have the potential to impact public and private businesses across industries.
Here’s a look at the impact potential new realities could have:
Proliferation of domestic tourism: International travel systems are likely become more restrictive with new rules, processes and qualifying procedures — similar to the actions we saw following 9/11. Measures such as bio-screening, travel history checks, quarantine requirements or vaccination pre-requisites could become the new reality. These added layers may prompt travelers to re-evaluate transit plans, stay domestic or potentially cancel all together. This may require businesses to create a more regional-based workforce and maintain greater use of conferencing technology. Workers have already proven that they can operate like this efficiently, which can help companies realize financial savings and meet sustainability targets. It could also boost domestic tourism as more people travel to new destinations within their country. This might mean we'll also have fewer of those embarrassing moments when friends from oversees tell us about gems in our own cities that we've never heard of.
Introduction of contact tracing: There’s a possibility that governments and businesses will utilize technology and movement tracking through smart devise to notify every person if an infected individual has recently come in close proximity, so that they can self-isolate. This technology could be to safely reopen public spaces and help prevent the spread of this virus, or others down the road. The challenge will be to address privacy concerns and ensure trust with the public.
Regionally resilient supply chains: Government-imposed lockdowns and manufacturing interruptions have disrupted long-standing supply chain networks that relied on international partners. To navigate ongoing challenges or to mitigate a similar situation in the future, companies are likely to deploy more distributed and flexible supply chains in-country by building it themselves or leveraging existing partners. With this will likely come a shift towards supporting local businesses, which will help fuel a more resilient national economy. It will also lead to more domestic job creation and the rise of more small- to medium-sized businesses to meet growing local demand.
Reimagined healthcare: The importance of a stable and effective healthcare system has never been more important. Governments, investors, educational institutions and the public are likely to push for more innovation in the sector post-pandemic. Even before the crisis began, institutions such as YCombinator, MIT and Techstars were looking at ways to reimagine and digitalize the technical, operational and social issues in healthcare systems. The development and adoption of digital tools such as app-based biometric self-assessments, online scheduling, virtual triage, telehealth and wearables could be advanced more quickly. Hospitals, physicians and personal care networks would then need to revisit their operating models to incorporate digital — whether through virtual wait rooms, telehealth, automation, real-time health monitoring, shared services, or other digital platforms.
Distributed education: Schools have had to deploy remote learning and e-learning capabilities. This new mode of education is establishing a platform that allows for more remote learning to be applied following the pandemic. This could provide students with more control over their education — not limited by cost or geography — and can create more tailored learning outcomes that would equip our future workforce with the skills needed. But it will also create greater strain on parents to manage more options for alternative education models and equip their children with the needed technological resources at home. As education becomes more ubiquitous, blended and flexible, school boards will have to evaluate how they’re enabling students and parents to be successful.
Boom in virtual realities: Social distancing and mobility restrictions have forced many traditional services and entertainment experiences that would typically happen in-person to online. Spin studios are running live teleconference classes, yoga practitioners have uploaded their vinyasas to be purchased online and concerts are being streamed on social media. There’s an opportunity for companies to extend their offerings by looking at how to use digital tools to deliver their services. For example, football clubs could replicate the immersive and “real life” experience through VR/AR technology to allow fans to participate in games from the comfort of their home. The technology could also be applied to fitness and wellness classes, which consumers could purchase in piecemeal or through open digital subscriptions.
Transformed city centres: The current environment has pushed many businesses to build out their online infrastructure to support remote working — whether they were ready to or not. But now that the tools are in place and proven to work effectively, business models could shift long-term to support a more remote workforce. This could start a shift in real estate from downtown to the cloud as companies review their physical footprints. This kind of change will have an immense impact on city centres and rural communities. People may start to choose location over proximity to work, birthing new community hubs and changing the ways we live and travel.
To quote Sir Winston Churchill, “never waste a good crisis.” This is not something we should be afraid of but embrace as we chart a new resilient path forward. No matter what lens you look through — whether it’s travel and hospitality, healthcare, education or commerce — new behaviours and mental models are starting to take form and influence businesses in remarkable ways. Businesses that start to recognize what lies ahead and plan for the next and beyond will be in the best position to capitalize on the opportunity to create innovate and drive progress in ways we could have never previously imagined.
For more insights on how to respond to volatility and build enterprise resilience amid these unprecedented times, visit ey.com/en_ca/covid-19.