2020 will not be quickly forgotten by COVID-19. This Pandemic had an impact on the world unlike anything we have seen before. We are dealing with many sick and dead, lockdowns and the greatest economic crisis since the second world war. Now that there are several vaccines and vaccination has started in various (European) countries, we can fortunately look forward again. It is clear that a number of things have changed permanently and that this has also accelerated a number of developments. 2021 will be a year of recovery and transition in which all developments set in motion in 2020 will be further fine-tuned and new opportunities can be seized.
Through this blog we explain which trends for organizations we see in this. We also indicate the opportunities and challenges associated with this. Of course, many of the aforementioned developments and trends are interrelated.
Post COVID-19 trends
Acceleration of digitization: Digitization and the use of technology were of course already underway. However, COVID-19 has accelerated this development. As a result of all events, organizations were forced to apply this immediately. For example online customer service and reinventing flows of goods. But the replacement of cash payments by electronic payments via tools such as ApplePay has also taken off.
Working from home: In line with the accelerated digitization and the many lockdowns in the world, working from home has become common. This has major positive consequences for the productivity of employees and the way in which they fit their working life into their private life. Naturally, this presents greater challenges, for example for the internal control of organizations.
Meetings online: A development that everyone will also recognize and is in line with working from home is having online meetings. Tools and applications such as ZOOM and Microsoft Teams have become commonplace. This also has far-reaching consequences for the way in which we can work together better in different locations. Worldwide cooperation is likely to increase in this area. After all, in principle, only the time difference stands in the way of cooperation across different continents.
Strong increase in consumption: Because there was as little as possible in 2020, there is a chance that consumers will want to catch up in 2021. Consumer confidence will increase sharply. Because a lot of money has been saved (unfortunately also with increasing unemployment), this will lead to a strong increase in expenditure. Some analysts even speak of “revenge shopping”.
Strong increase in holiday travel, but business travel will decrease: Holiday travel will increase strongly. This is in line with increasing consumer confidence and the fact that many holidays had to be canceled in 2020. This can already be seen at the moment in the many advertisements from Travel Agencies. Contrary to this development, however, business travel is unlikely to return to previous levels. The reason for this is that it is now easier to have online meetings with each other.
Disruption that leads to innovation: Crises from the past taught that following a crisis, innovation increases sharply. Especially with this crisis, which not only has economic consequences but also major social consequences. This forces companies and individuals to reinvent themselves. This will lead to new initiatives, products and services and ways of working together. Partly due to accelerated digitization and increased productivity. In the pharmaceutical industry, too, the rapid development of vaccines against COVID-19 will lead to faster procedures and innovation.
Increased productivity: Many organizations had to reinvent themselves. Combined with new forms of communication, working methods, digitization and use of technology, productivity will increase sharply. This was already happening, of course. However, COVID-19 has greatly accelerated this change. This gives organizations the opportunity to rearrange and adjust the operation.
Organizations have become more agile: A big advantage of the above developments is that organizations are much more agile. The focus on Business Continuity, which was used particularly at the beginning of the crisis, also makes organizations more agile. People are now used to switching quickly in times of crisis. With all experiences, things can be better organized to be able to cope with new situations.
Less office space needed, role of office will change: As many employees will work from home more often, the role of the office will change. Organizations must ask themselves which function the office still has to offer. Of course, it should not be forgotten that the office plays an important role in shaping the culture in an organization. It is also a place to come together and receive clients. However, it is clear that less office space will be required. This can have major consequences for the office market.
Acceleration of green initiatives, the energy transition and diversity: A major positive aspect of this crisis is that people are now realizing the vulnerability of our existence. A “normally” functioning society can no longer be taken for granted and can cease to exist in the short term. This undoubtedly has consequences for the way we view sustainability and the environment. This will also greatly accelerate green initiatives and the energy transition. You can now see ambitious goals that various countries have set to become CO2 neutral. This can be seen even in previously polluting nations like China and India. But this also has consequences for how we interact with each other as a society. It was recently announced that the amount of the bonus for top managers at Apple will now depend on several things. This includes how well executives are performing on renewable energy, workplace diversity and other social and environmental issues.
In conclusion, the long-term consequences of this crisis are still unclear. However, this also offers many opportunities. Hopefully we will soon return to a new, but better “normal”.
This blog is written by Remco Spruyt, co-founder of INTERMEDIATE Interim Professionals.