10 trends in a post-COVID-19 world

This article first appeared on my Linkedin page:

As our world fights back against #COVID19, there are several visible and invisible changes shaping how we currently work, communicate and engage. It is quite evident that this situation will take a while to get better. About 2.7 billion workers or 81% of the world’s workforce is impacted by the pandemic, work hours has declined and unemployment is rising globally. While the situation does seem challenging in the short-term, there are many opportunities that individuals and organizations can benefit from in the ‘new’ world of work and workplaces.

1.      Increased emphasis on communications: Organizations and governments will invest more on communications as employees and stakeholders demand answers on preventive and proactive measures their employers are taking for their welfare, irrespective of what the new order is going to be. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and the Coronavirus, a majority of those surveyed want their organizations to share daily updates on coronavirus and expect businesses to step up engagement on financial security and care. Also, there is increased demand for AR, VR and communication training in organizations.

2.      Working from anywhere becomes a norm: Organizations will race to create infrastructure and environments that are easier to work from anywhere as compared to just home. Home offices will see a boom. Leaders are already more inclined to make working from home a preferred mode of operating. It will also mean a shift in how organization’s equip their employees and direct more investment for training staff to engage online effectively. Gartner’s research show that by 2030, the demand for remote working will increase by 30% and 64% of professionals believe they can work remotely anywhere. Personal ownership, trust and presence will be key expectations from each other. The demand for office space will stagnate as cost pressures and social distancing will get integrated into our work lives. For example, a 6-feet office concept is already in the works.

3.      Shift to a home-centric and a digital-first world: This pandemic has created an unprecedented demand for online engagement – personal and professional. Teleconferencing tools are witnessing a spike in downloads and usage and demand for edutech is growing. Schools, colleges and universities are moving to virtual classroom formats and the expectations on students and teachers is to up-skill to stay ahead of the curve. Also, students are revisiting plans to study abroad. Organizations that realize quickly that human behaviors post-COVID-19 will pivot to ‘cocooning’ – will gain trust sooner. According to Accenture’s report, the home will become the “epicenter of experience and life”. This pandemic has also taught that we have probably taken too much for granted – our climate, wildlife, health and lives. Civic duties and responsibilities will be given more importance than ever before. Social distancing will also result in people valuing relationships more when the new ‘normal’ happens.

4.      Employee experience and well-being will take center-stage: Stress and anxiety are impacting how employees cope with the current situation and the fallout of the economic slowdown. Google Search Trends indicate that ‘meditation’ has peaked as the word most searched for during this period. All four aspects of employee wellbeing will be of importance: physical, emotional, financial and social – to help improve employee experience. Organizations will also lean towards collaborating on ‘talent’ as they manage the current crisis and beyond. Individualism will rise and so will personal accountability:

5.      Data analytics and insights-led interventions will increase: From how countries are fighting the pandemic to organizations monitoring productivity of staff, there will be more interest to tap the power of technology. Despite the risks associated with surveillance and privacy, the world will over-index on the benefits vs the downsides. For example, data from Google Maps indicates how people’s behaviors are evolving during the lockdown to help public health professionals and government officials make better decisions.

6.      Authenticity will influence reputation: Consumers and employees expect organizations to be driven by a higher purpose and be authentic in their communication. Especially, during situations like what we currently face, organizations’ reputations are at stake. According to the 2020 Global RepTrak Report, reputation improves on what organizations stand for more than what they sell. Governance, workplace and citizenship are the top factors enhancing reputation of brands. The public expects organizations to do what it takes to battle the pandemic even if it means reduced profits.

7.      Leadership will hinge heavily on empathy: There is bound to be a shift on how leadership is understood and practiced. Trust in ‘experts’ will return and is here to stay. Edelman’s Trust Barometer indicates that scientists, doctors and health professionals are the most trusted spokespersons followed by ‘people like us’. CEOs are relegated down the list. New models of leadership are emerging with New Zealand’s Prime Minister – Jacinda Arden’s handling of COVID-19 in her country lauded for exemplary direction, meaning making and empathy.

8.      Giving spreads its wings while staying local: The pandemic has clearly indicated that this isn’t a local issue. Every country in the world has been impacted in some way or the other. Kindness has come to the fore as individuals and organizations partnered to help displaced people, distribute food, run campaigns and provide care to those impacted. We have seen “caremongering” spread across the globe with the focus on neighborhoods. Collaborative and collective behaviors will be valued in the future.

9.      The trade-off between surveillance and privacy: There will be fears of travelling. Health ‘passports’ will be more important that regular passports as countries scrutinize travelers and stay skeptical about tourists. There is already a proposal in the US to have an immunity registry so that people can safely return to work. People will be wary of social contact and businesses will pull all stops to give more ‘space’ between people to make contact-less travel a reality. The source of origin will be labelled more intently as countries and organizations cope with the backlash of the pandemic spread. Human behavior will be in the spotlight with research-led nudges becoming more prevalent. Surveillance and fact checking will rise, despite angst from citizens and employees. Organizations and countries that involve their people will gain from such practices.

10.  Back to basics revival: Newer business ideas will flourish that considers social distancing and remote engagement as opportunities. There will be a ‘back to basics’ revival – humility is in, frugal living will be sought after while showcasing ‘luxury’ will be frowned upon. Globally, leaders have pitched in the fight against the pandemic by sharing their expertise, contributing their time, effort and funds. Personal pursuits will be back in vogue – books, gaming, movies amongst others. Sharing is going to less about what you get in return but altruistic. What is truly essential will gets its due. Focus will return on those who are weak and marginalized.

There will be a seismic shift in our world and the pandemic will influence our behaviors, social norms and work patterns for years to come. We will not just find better ways of engaging, our collective wisdom will build newer approaches to overcome misinformation and protect data and privacy. Health and sustenance shall see a resurgence and our human spirit will endure.

Do these trends resonate with what you are experiencing? Do share your thoughts.

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