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  • Writer's pictureRohan Bhatia

3 Corporate Trends for a Post-Pandemic World

If you’d entered a 2-year coma in August 2019 and just awoken, to say the world would look unfamiliar would be a wild understatement. The ubiquity of masks, multitude of social restrictions and a massive surge in work-from-home are just a few of the major structural changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the world. The reality, however, is that experts and business professionals have been warning of a pandemic of such nature for years. Trends that were just gathering momentum in 2019 have now supplanted traditional modes (I’m looking at you in particular, Zoom). Here, we look at three of the most significant changes that COVID has brought onto the business world and more importantly, changes which have been drastically accelerated due to the pandemic.

The most obvious place to start here is with the monumental growth we have seen in online shopping and the general e-shopping space. A recent McKinsey report toward the beginning of 2021 found that more than half of the consumers that have been forced to shop online for a variety of items have no plans on returning to brick and mortar shopping. E-commerce and online shopping crucially provides convenience, flexibility and a seemingly endless catalogue of items to order. Add on top of this the exorbitantly low cost of shipping through platforms like Amazon, and you have a recipe for a long-lasting trend way beyond the pandemic. In fact, focusing more closely on Jeff Bezos’ trillion-dollar company, Amazon’s unbeatable global delivery network allows almost all products to be dispatched, shipped and delivered within 48 hours. And the best part? Assuming you pay a couple dollars a month for Amazon Prime - you can get this super quick delivery for free!

According to the aforementioned McKinsey report, the global E-Commerce sector grew by 4 times its pre-pandemic size. This, I believe, is a surefire sign that the trend toward online shopping is only just getting started. Take E-grocery for example. A weekly ritual that often took many of us up to an hour to complete - can now be done through an app on our phone. Ordering groceries has never been easier - whether through delivery or ‘click and collect services’. In addition, features such as repeating a saved order make the process so much quicker than manually going into a store and purchasing items. It’s this convenience, mixed with a relatively low cost that makes the online shopping trend a force for the future.

The work-from-home fad was just getting started in the previous decade. Firms often offered it as an option for stay-at-home mums or for employees with injuries/illness. But it was pretty universally considered a temporary arrangement for many, until mother’s could drop off their kids to school or injured employees were fully healed. Eventually, we’d all be forced to come back into the office. That of course, has now been turned on its head thanks to COVID.

When quarantine and lockdown forced many of us around the world to work-from-home, we quickly realised the countless benefits that come with it. No arduous, costly commute to the CBD offices. No bother about office politics. No feeling forced to stick around to 5pm, even after being done for the day, just to give the impression of hard work. All these nuisances of the usual office environment were discarded. Productive employees could comfortably awake at a reasonable hour, take an hour-long gym detour, make a healthy breakfast - all before the working day began. This level of flexibility and work-life balance was simply unprecedented before the pandemic.

Online conferencing provides a good-enough remedy to in-office meetings. Yes, Zoom calls aren’t perfect. Yes, they can be exhausting in their own way. But when we consider the benefits that arise from working-from-home and online conferencing - these cons appear as simple inconveniences.

The reality is that working-from-home is almost certainly a trend that will stick around post-pandemic. Employees who have found a new level of work-life balance will be extremely unlikely to give it up. In all likelihood, businesses will have to concede that offering a WFH option at least 2-3 times a week is necessary. And of course, lower demand for commercial rent and offices will release a heavy expense that many large corporations face. Lowering the ‘in-office’ days for employees will likely therefore be a win-win for all involved parties.

A final key trend of the post-pandemic world emerging post-2021 is the significance and innovation coming out of the healthcare sector. Prior to COVID, the usual timeline for a vaccine to go through it’s rigorous research, experimentation and testing would be anything from 6-20 years. It’s funny though, what you can do when our entire planet works toward building a vaccine for a single-purpose. What we instead got were numerous vaccines to address transmissibility and severity of the virus. Best of all - we got these vaccines in less than 10 months. And most of these vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, are fully FDA approved - a notoriously difficult accreditation to achieve.

So what does this mean for the future? Well the vaccines didn’t manufacture themselves - they cost global governments over $200 billion USD in research and development. This massively shrinks the level of investment put into previous viruses, reflecting a clear trend toward heavy investment toward biomedical research and innovation. On an economic note, it also demonstrates a clear willingness of governments to break through fiscal restraints and spend considerably more than fiscal revenue. Dangerous as that may be, it does reflect a closer embracement of Keynesian economics by governments - likely spurred by the necessary intervention after the 08’ Financial Crisis. This again, is a trend we can expect to continue post-pandemic.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has not only brought along restrictions on freedoms and dear tragedy for many across the world - but it has also forced a number of structural changes in the economy. Granted, many of these changes such as WFH and online shopping were existent pre-2020, however the virus has undoubtedly accelerated many of these trends. The next decade promises large innovation, change and an overall evolving world - likely unrecognisable from the one we inhabit today.

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