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Few saw this pandemic coming, but as humanity does best, it has adapted. Across commerce and industry, vast workforces switched to remote work. Enterprises reconfigured their supply chains, and biotech companies accelerated the development of tests, vaccines and treatments. Many of these adaptations will remain, but which ones will truly shape the way we live and work post-Covid?
Related: How to Future-Proof Your Remote Team
One area of daily life that’s seeing rapid, lasting change is that of personal transport. The technology was a hot topic prior to the pandemic — autonomous vehicles, for example, were already in use in some places — but the crisis sped up its evolution.
Right now, China leads the way in autonomous vehicles that are used to deliver goods in many market sectors, thus alleviating the need for manned trucks. For individuals, the future is likely to see this sort of vehicle used in ride-sharing schemes, using a local hub as a start and finish point for autonomous cars.
The air-travel industry also continues to reel from the pandemic, further affected by the turmoil at Boeing following the 737-MAX crashes. Airlines and manufacturers have relied on dated technology for decades, but can’t get away with it anymore — not when people’s lives are at stake.
The healthcare sector echoes the airline industry in its fraught yet dependent relationship with technology. Now, the industry is at a tipping point. We’ve witnessed the world’s research resources come together to introduce a new type of vaccine in record time, the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines, which established the viability of the technology and created a map for rolling out future innovations.
Telehealth has made big leaps forward as part of this shift. Prior to the pandemic, only 10% of providers offered telehealth services such as telephone and digital remote screening solutions. In the last year, the top telehealth service providers have reported increases in use by as much as 700%. And with insurance now covering most telehealth, why go back to the doctor’s office in-person for ailments that can be treated remotely?
Investors see biotech and healthcare innovations as a massive opportunity even after Covid and are pouring funds into development.
When everyone suddenly switched to remote work, collaboration tools became more critical than ever. Sure, many companies already used video calls and communication platforms like Slack. The big difference is that most organizations were optimized for in-person meetings, not remote collaboration.
The flaws in such tools became apparent early on in the pandemic: awkward crosstalk during video conferences, difficulty reading the room without face-to-face interaction and challenges with creative sessions like whiteboarding, to name a few. But the boom in the use of apps such as Zoom forced these platforms to get better, and it led to an onslaught of new and improved tools for remote collaboration.
With these evolving technologies, productivity from anywhere continues to become more and more robust, which leads to the last major category of adaptations.
4. Permanent remote work
A traditional 9-5 in the office is hard to insist upon when entire industries moved to remote work — and did it effectively — in 2020. While people are craving human interaction now, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to go back to the office five days a week when the pandemic is over. Commuting is universally reviled, and the tech for working remotely is now well-established, so it’s here to stay.
The question is to what extent. Surely, some people will want to keep working from their hometown, where they’re near family and far away from big-city housing costs. But unless a company is 100% remote, people in leadership positions or roles like sales will likely be expected to show up in-person at times. And younger people will also want the experience of socializing with coworkers and living the city life.
In a world of mixed in-person and remote workforces, the office will look different. “Hot desks” instead of assigned desks and hybrid work schedules will become more prevalent. Also, at-home offices will continue to become more high-tech and ergonomic. Because of the new world order for work, innovation will continue to fuel changes that allow people to be productive across environments.
Leaders are responsible for taking advantage of emerging tech and guiding their teams through the transitions to come. As people gain access to the vaccine and start to think, “What’s next?” they’ll look to their managers and executive teams for a plan to return to work, or to remain remote, or a bit of both.
A smart first move is to get ahead of the curve; examine these categories of adaptation and think through how they affect your organization. Don’t wait to see what everyone else does. Establish pilot programs to test out different approaches and find new ways to succeed. Leverage what you learn to prevent challenges during broader rollouts.
Change will keep happening. That’s the only guarantee. No one can expect life to snap back to what it was before, so it’s best to work towards a “new normal” instead.