We’re beginning to dare to think about the post-Covid world. Not that we’re at all out of the woods yet, and there’s no guarantee there won’t be further lockdowns, but at least we can think about the future. That hasn’t been easy for more than a year.
The one thing that can be predicted about the so-called “new normal” (whatever that really means) is that it won’t be the same as the old normal. Some social habits will change, such as a different sense of personal space, but it’s going to affect businesses, too.
Going to Work or Working from Home?
One idea that’s likely to be consigned to history is that you automatically “go to work”. Of course, not everyone will be able to continue working from home. Besides manufacturing, hospitality and whatever high street retail that survives, many services will continue to need customer-facing premises.
Several large businesses, though, have indicated that they’ll be encouraging employees to work from home. To some extent, this is the natural consequence of a process that’s been going on for years — even before the pandemic, for instance, when was the last time you went into the local branch of your bank?
The benefits are likely to be even more obvious for small businesses, many of whom can look forward to saving on costs by downsizing or even getting rid of their offices. Besides employees not always needing to be present, we’ve seen in the past year how easy it is to have meetings with clients online — with the added advantage that we’re no longer geographically restricted.
There are going to be winners and losers. Businesses that rely on commuter trade (Greggs, for instance) are likely to be hit. It can also be assumed that there’ll be less demand for transport — though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On the other hand, opportunities are going to be available in other sectors. For example, anyone who hires out hot-desks or meeting rooms on a one-off basis is likely to see demand boom, from small businesses that only need an occasional physical presence. There are likely also to be openings for businesses to serve home-workers. And no, I don’t know what they’ll be — I might be planning on diversifying if I could predict that.
Local or Anywhere?
Besides this, two entirely contradictory trends have sprung up during the pandemic — local or anywhere?
For much of the time, we haven’t been able to drive half an hour to do our shopping, or take a train into our local city-centre — we’ve had to shop locally. We haven’t been able to go for daytrips a hundred or so miles away — we’ve had to do things locally. And even when things have been more open, we haven’t been able to jet off to the sun — we’ve had to take holidays in the UK.
There’s been a lot of talk about the pandemic reviving our sense of community, from doorstep claps to supporting local businesses. Will this really last?
On the other hand, the pandemic has actually helped us to shake off the restrictions of geography, especially in business. Since last year, I’ve met contacts through networking from all over the country and beyond, and I’ve had meetings with clients as far afield as Bulgaria, South Africa and the Philippines.
I’m not the only one. Coaches, tutors and even therapists have seen the benefits of enjoying a wider reach, and it seems likely that many businesses will remain at least partly unrestricted by location.
So how is the landscape going to look in a year or two? I suspect that we’ll tend to pick and choose and, if the best option is one that can only be reached online, we’ll go for that. But perhaps we’ll also remember our local businesses, whether shops, pubs and restaurants or B2B offerings in the neighbourhood, and support them when we can.
All these uncertainties mean that businesses need to position themselves as flexibly as possible, to be ready for however the post-Covid landscape turns out. Get in touch with me to arrange a complimentary 1-to-1 meeting and find out how I can help with that.