Business Changes After COVID-19
Life, as we know it, has changed ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit Australia early this year. Across the country, most people lock themselves in their homes, many stores are closed, sales of those companies in operation plummet, and layoffs are through the ceiling. Despite the federal stimulus package, the future of many businesses remains uncertain.
As much as we want to assure ourselves that the business restrictions and social distancing practice won't last forever, we also know that it will take quite a long time to return to the way of life before COVID-19.
What is changing as business life resumes in "the new normal"? In this article, let's dig deeper into the :
- Closure of SME physical stores
- Business Downsizing
- Work From Home Revolution
- Rise of Virtual Meetings
- Relevance of VR Technology
- Increase of Phishing Attacks and Hacking
- Cancellation of Traditional Business Conferences
- Reign of Silicon Valley
Shutting Down of Many SME Stores
Small and medium-sized enterprises that were forced to suspend operations during the lockdown might be unable to reopen as fast as the long-established companies.
These low to mid-range establishments that included restaurants, coffee shops, and department stores had razor-thin operating margins or had laid off many workers to save themselves during the crisis.
Despite the financial assistance provided by the government, many will struggle to recover because of negative cash flow and loss of manpower.
Numerous SMEs will also go online to market and sell their products. Apart from not having to pay for building rent and other operational expenses, using social media or online market places to sell their products will become more profitable as many costumers now opt to shop or order food and refreshments over the Internet than visit physical stores.
While many SMEs with physical stores “vanish”, others will return with a downsized manpower.
- Restaurants and grocery stores will employ fewer people and welcome fewer customers into their establishments, especially those that will continue to observe the 6-feet social distancing rule.
- Bars and clubs, especially high-end ones, are likely to convert to a membership model to limit the number of clients inside their facilities.
- Store outlets will become smaller than they used to, considering that there will be fewer people to visit their shops.
- Those that sell services like hair salons and dental clinics are likely to introduce online reservations first before accommodating a limited number of clients at their physical locations.
- Meanwhile, corporate offices will layoff many unskilled labourers and low-rank employees and rearrange their workstations to promote the social distancing rule or send many of their workers home to work remotely.
Work From Home Revolution
When the lockdown was imposed, millions of workers who were lucky to retain their jobs were forced to work from home. While there have been adjustments in the first weeks, employees eventually became comfortable with the work-from-home setup.
- Today, as offices start reopening while the threat of coronavirus is still around, many employees will likely choose to remain working remotely, especially those whose tasks are mainly web-based.
- Business owners will likely agree to the WFH setup because of the operational savings of not having to use the office facilities, from the electricity and Internet to the workstations that need to be regularly sanitised to the pantry and coffee nooks with complimentary refreshments. There won’t also be the need for cleaning staff to tidy up the office overnight.
- Many offices, especially those in the corporate sector, will also have more flexible schedules and reshaped workweek. Workers will spend more time on their computers since they’re just at home. Some employers are likely to allow workers to work longer hours but only four days.
More Virtual Meetings
Video meetings and virtual conferences will slowly replace lunch and coffee meetings, at least while the threat of the coronavirus is still looming.
- When it comes to virtual meetings, Zoom is the king. It is one of the most popular meeting applications that businesses use to hold online boardroom discussions and networking meetings. With a desktop client and a mobile app, the web-based video conferencing tool is user-friendly even to those who are less tech-savvy.
As its popularity rises, it will also attract competition and soon, there would be more affordable and "better" alternatives. The more common virtual meetings become, it's easier to imagine white-collar workers installing a larger, dedicated screen in their professional-looking home offices.
VR Technology Catches On
As more business goes online, it is likely that many companies will invest in virtual reality to showcase their products and services.
VR technology has been around for some time but because it's expensive and there was no coronavirus threat before, it did not boom.
- Today is a different story. As businesses struggle to stay afloat, VR technology is now seen as a great way to entice customers to watch "live" music events and theatrical productions, check products in virtual stores and showrooms, and even attend online classes or health and fitness sessions.
Rise of Phishing Attacks and Hacks
One of the biggest disadvantages of work-from-home setup is that many employees will no longer use a shared network, which is kept secure by expensive antivirus software and firewall protection. While this can be costly, it protects businesses from phishing attacks and various hacking practices.
- In a remote work set up, employees can use infected computers and servers and spread it to other coworkers through emails or direct sharing of files on instant messaging platforms.
- Hackers can also breach the security of home WiFi and steal confidential personal information and sensitive company data. While virtual private networks (VPNs) can be used to encrypt data travelling across public networks, today's VPNs are easily overloaded.
- As businesses largely depend on the Internet to continue a big part of its operations, hackers and malicious attackers will also work hard to disrupt and steal a company's data. DDoS attacks and software viruses will become a bigger problem for many companies.
For businesses that need to upgrade their IT system without touching their working capital, getting a technology loan is a viable option.
Cancellation of Large Business Conferences
People are already using virtual meetups to attend live concerts, stand-up comedy, and other "social" events.
- As social gatherings lessen and social distancing becomes the new normal, it is likely that large business events will be replaced with virtual conferences.
- Meanwhile, trade shows and other gatherings of entrepreneurs in a particular industry are likely to evolve into subscription whereby members meet a few times a year online.
This is great news for Zoom and its competitors but bad news for the hospitality industry and public transport.
Silicon Valley Becomes Mount Olympus
Technology giants, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, now have become part of people's lives. In fact, many people entrust a big part of their day-to-day lives to these companies, like mortals looking up towards Mount Olympus for the mercy of the gods.
- Facebook and Google are used not just to get information and communicate with loves ones online, they are also used by businesses to market and sell products and services.
- Amazon, on the other hand, serves as a global online market for people's needs.
- For entertainment, there are the various social media platforms and the Chinese-owned video platform TikTok that's getting a lot of new users these days.
So popular are these tech giants that they attract government scrutiny. Despite the negative headlines, it cannot be denied that they help people stay informed, connected with one another, and alive with the essential commodities they need to survive.
Is Your Business Ready?
These are just a few of the many foreseeable changes in business life after the lockdown and imposed business restrictions. Some of these transformations could slowly unfold in the coming days while others may not happen because of unforeseen shifts.
One thing is certain though: Until a cure for coronavirus has been found, the pandemic will continue to disrupt various business industries—from manufacturing to logistics to financial services to health to hospitality to sports and entertainment.
Is your business ready for the changes?