The coronavirus pandemic provided a shock to us all – and was clearly bad news for everyone, bringing life as we knew it to a halt. Yet, while no-one wanted this situation, some businesses and sectors have clearly done better than others. As this report from IG shows, pharma and tech have thrived, while hospitality, travel, and energy have struggled.
There are high hopes that 2021’s story can be one of recovery – especially for those struggling sectors, who can be expected to bounce back – but there are definitely lessons we can all take from a whirlwind 12 months. Here are some key takeaways for businesses to ponder.
1.Working From Home Works
Before the pandemic, working from home was the sort of flexible policy businesses offered as a perk for staff members who wanted to better juggle their busy family lives – but few operated this way on a widespread basis. In America, roughly 5% of people worked from home before Covid-19 – but that rose to 62% by May 2020 and a similar story happened worldwide as the pandemic threat peaked. However, the rush to work from home didn’t just keep things going – some businesses were even able to increase productivity. That’s certainly helped to prove the business case for more longer-term arrangements – and might rightly cause many firms to revisit the need to spend lots of money on expensive rent for office space. Google, for example, accepts that many of its workers will never return to the office full time.
…but we all need a bit of face-to-face time
Yet that’s not to say that the office needs to die out. While the traditional desk-based, five day ‘9-to-5’ might seem like a dated concept, the last year has also taught us all about the importance of social interaction and the hole this can leave in the workplace. That’s both in terms of the ‘soft’ benefits to wellbeing through feeling part of a team and having colleagues to bounce off, but also the ‘hard’ benefits of being able to easily get hold of colleagues, share ideas and, importantly, read body language and facial expressions, which can be crucial in getting the tone right in big client meetings. As soon as it’s safe, businesses will need to tap back into face-to-face client meetings, conferences, and collaborative working to catch up on any lost ground. Just because many of us can work from home effectively, it doesn’t mean we should – and certainly not all of the time.
2.A Crisis Forces Brands To Innovate
There’s no doubt that the crisis has presented some opportunities. A pandemic has provided a big demand for video conferencing, hand sanitizer, PPE among others. It’s also forced businesses to think of new ways to deliver their products and services. From restaurants offering ‘makeaway’ parcels to recreate their dining experience at home to virtual concerts or video games that can fill the social void of an empty calendar of real-world events – brands have thought outside the box to carry on selling to their customers. There’s every reason to suspect that some of these innovations will stay – some takeaways have been very lucrative and it’s likely that the demand for sanitizer will remain in a cautious post-covid world. There’s also the reason for businesses to reflect on their processes and structures. If your company wasn’t able to pivot to a new offering quickly and effectively then it’s time to ask why. Hopefully, there won’t be a pandemic every few years, but every business faces tough times – and next time you might need to be able to react differently to seize an opportunity or avoid falling behind your competitors.
3.Cash Is Dying Out
It’s too early to proclaim the ‘death’ of cash payments, but it’s definitely fair to say that the pandemic has accelerated the pre-existing trend that is seeing us all slowly move away from paper and coins. Clearly, coronavirus has added a hygiene and social distance element to the equation – but even without this the ease and convenience for customers and retailers in offering and accepting payments from contactless cards and mobile phones are helping to entrench their popularity. Businesses need to think carefully about their POS systems – and understand the expectations of the modern consumer.
4.Digital Is More Important Than Ever
With physical premises often closed, there’s been more emphasis than ever on a business’ online offering. Websites with a good UX make it easy for physical customers to support businesses in trying times and have been a lifeline in ensuring that at least some trade can be maintained, even during a global pandemic. But, most of all, websites have been worth their weight in gold from a communication perspective. Companies that do this well have been able to update their customers on changing opening times, coronavirus measures, delivery delays, and new products and services in a swift manner. Having that channel – and using it to continue the conversation with customers – has been so important and has duly rewarded those already following best practice.
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