Permanent changes in businesses and behaviour, due to pandemic

Back in March 2020, I wrote a set of 50 predictions for a pandemic-infested world – obvious and non-obvious predictions. Some of them have already come true, and many are probably being evolved as I type this, into our 2nd pandemic year.

As a follow-up, I wanted to explore a slightly different framing of the same theme: permanent changes wrought by the pandemic.

Moving beyond the immediate reactions to the pandemic (like taking to video calls more confidently and enthusiastically), I sense some lasting changes that have come into being because of the new behaviours spawned by the pandemic.

One such change I have also written about extensively is how brands are actively and consciously considering/planning their own e-commerce store.

I also noticed a full-page ad in Bombay Times last Sunday from a brand that has never advertised its own e-commerce store (it probably didn’t even have one, before the pandemic): Medimix.

Observe the ad carefully. The only call-to-action leads to their own e-commerce store (enabled by Shopify). And, as I had written in my post, they have thought of a compelling reason why people should head to that online store, by creating an offer that is applicable just for that day!

In terms of permanent change, would the pandemic and its aftermath convince retail brands to also plan their own e-commerce store while they launch availability via retail outlets? This used to be a distant after-thought in the assumption that (a) it would antagonize the retail partners and (b) it is a headache to own and run such a channel! Now, this may become a must-have channel!

Or, imagine the prominent sign inside any ATM center – to not wear your sunglasses or speak on the phone inside. In fact, Korea made it mandatory to not wear masks, eye patches, masks, or sunglasses inside ATMs, in 2015!

What happens now that every visitor to an ATM is wearing a mask? Are they changing the signs in every ATM? What about the intent behind that sign – if it was to be able to identify users using facial recognition or to provide support to law enforcement when needed? How would that intent be fulfilled now that the mask-wearing behavior may be more permanent?

Consider the other sweeping change – remote working. In 2020, HR teams tentatively made changes in the policies to include remote working, in the assumption that it would be a temporary phenomenon. But we are in the middle of 2021 and many, many surveys, reports and research studies have concluded that the future of work is likely to be hybrid – mostly, a few days in office/when needed, and more days from home/anywhere.

To adapt to this change, permanent changes are being made right now across HR teams in companies around the world. This may include new modes of digital collaboration to simpler, more pressing things like ensuring better internet connectivity for remote workers to even better lumbar support for remote workers wherever they choose to work from!

Another potential change: for hotels and restaurants. They had already shifted to online delivery thanks to the proliferation of food-tech aggregators across the world. But, for offline restaurants, they could seriously consider adding an outdoor seating area besides the usual indoor area alone. A seemingly funny toon from New Yorker explains the situation aptly!

I would definitely consider a restaurant that had outdoor seating, whenever I feel safe and comfortable enough to dine out again, that is.

What other permanent changes do you see being written and created in businesses and behavior right now? Not just the ‘wear mask’ variety, but lasting changes being made in policy and process.

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