The Normal Redefined for Citizens and Businesses Alike
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In a span of a few days, we all would slowly crawl out of our homes, and head back to the world; where the word ‘lockdown’ until recently was associated with a zoo, prison, or a reality show. This summer, we will see people stepping out with trepidation and in the hope that things get back to normal soon.
Health concerns, reduced social interactions, drastic pay cuts, collapsing businesses, and overall uncertainty is what all the chatter is about everywhere today. It is true that economies, businesses, and work environments are never going to be the same again. The normal for them has just been redefined, and this new normal is not all that bad.
‘Work from home’ by now would have been the most used phrase in times of coronavirus. At this time, technology-enabled companies are allowing their employees to be in touch and also remain productive. Collaborative tools such as video conferencing have made companies realize that physical meetings are no longer a prerequisite for effective interaction. Already, large IT companies with robust IT security infrastructure are getting ready to operate without their employees coming to the office. This would have a cascading effect on huge savings on office rentals and allied establishment costs. Also, employees would save on commuting costs, support in reducing traffic and pollution, and of course, have enhanced productivity levels.
Going forward, organizations would focus on investing in systems and processes; whereby a substantial number of employees can move to a work from home arrangement. For B2B organizations, functions such as sales and marketing, design, and technical support can be the first to move away from the office, as client interaction seldom happens at the company’s premises. Organizations would rather want their sales and marketing teams to spend more time with their clients, rather than filing reports at their own office. Knowledge workers and senior-level staff are ultimately judged on the results they deliver, and work from home is a great way of leveraging their strengths and maintaining their productivity.
In the long run, work from home would be defined as ‘productive from home’. Once work from home starts becoming the norm, organizations would explore hiring talent from any part of the country, begin with, and then any part of the world depending on the nature of work and industry. If the right processes are in place and job roles are defined, organizations would get a wider talent pool to access. At the same time, talented individuals will offer their services to multiple organizations as they are no longer required to confine themselves to a physical location. This would create a vibrant labor market with a slew of benefits to individuals, businesses, and end customers.
The COVID-19 crisis has realigned everyone’s outlook and priorities towards life and from being a ‘consumption economy’, we are aligned to becoming a more ‘conscious economy’. The lockdown has been a great opportunity for introspection. Pictures of clear blue skies, clean water bodies, sightings of faraway monuments have been all over the news. Suddenly, we have realized that pollution levels can be next to nothing and the world can be much a cleaner and the healthier planet if humans just stayed away. Of course, that’s not going to happen, but there is an urgent need to relook how we go about our lives in which consumption is at the core of any human action. People and governments would revisit their actions and be more conscious of what and how they consume the resources around us. Just as there is one life to live, there’s only one planet to inhabit and spend on travel, luxury goods, entertainment, clothing; any non-essential expenditure would be revisited. Failure to do so would mean we let a crisis go waste.
In these troubled times, having your home is a ‘safe haven’, that provides safety and reassurance which is invaluable. Going forward, investment toward homeownership would drive the economic efforts of the working population. With the uncertainty over rent obligations, no individual would want to be at the mercy of finicky landlords. This would be good news for the beleaguered real estate industry, as home buying would once again be a high priority item for most families. I’m already imagining real estate firms designing their marketing campaigns about how their residences have a home office setup, with plug and play connectivity.
Countries such as India have a very small portion of their gross domestic product dedicated to public health and medical facilities. This crisis would have made the government realize that not investing in robust health infrastructure is not just a life risk but even an invitation to a bigger economic crisis. I definitely foresee the government spending a lot more on improving health and sanitation facilities. The medical equipment industry would get a huge boost in India and with an already thriving pharmaceutical industry, India can position itself as a world leader in health and life conservation.