Learning from COVID-19

By Ennio Vita-Finzi

Apart from the “new normal” necessity of wearing a mask, the Covid-19 experience has brought about many other changes in our business lives.

Publications like The Economist are saying that businesses are increasingly relying on automation. Many automated processes are now fulfilling tasks of workers who may be absent due to illness or who have been fired due to a drop in business and profits.

Business meetings are now “Zoomed” and management is finding that apart from saving rent as well as coffee & fruit, more is being discussed during online meetings. Managers enjoy the control that running an online meeting provides them.

Participants also enjoy videoconferencing as it allows them to keep doing their home activities and schedule their work accordingly. Men cannot disappear to the office but now help with home activities and women executives working from home now feel that their families are more together as a result. Many people miss the informal interaction with colleagues that an office provides including the ability to informally gossip at the water fountain so managers often schedule once-a-month meetings at a physical location simply to maintain the human connection.

People are overcoming the old-fashioned suspicion that one is avoiding work by staying at home during a work day and are now comfortable working from a couch or kitchen table. Many companies have told their employees that in the future they will work from home permanently or for pre-determined periods, as broadband services now download documents in the new normal.

Having employees work from home reduces a wide range of expenses for employers, including rent, upkeep, cleaning services, catering and insurance.

Companies regularly schedule update videos to subtly tether employees to their job. While employees can now take breaks when they please and feel freer, the downside of this arrangement is that employees are on call much longer and the old separation between work and home-life is a thing of the past.

While many workers had become used to occasionally taking phone calls or answering emails on weekends, it is now an everyday standard procedure.

As a result of months of confinement, consumers are now much more comfortable shopping online or interacting with websites, instead of waiting for call-backs or lining up behind un-masked shoppers at the supermarket.

The result of this Covidian adventure is that we will never go back to normal as we remember it. Fortunately most of us are optimistically adjusting to the “new normal” because as Churchill said, “Behind every difficulty there is an opportunity.”