Eventually we’ll make it out of this nightmare that is COVID-19. It could be a few months or even a couple of years, but there’s hope on the horizon. However, the effects of this pandemic will be felt for decades, particularly when it comes to work and business.

More Than a Blip on the Radar

As deadly, terrifying, and frustrating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, it’ll eventually pass. And once it does, it’ll be a small footnote in history. Much like pandemics of the past, it’ll occupy a chapter in history books. But unlike most other events in history, the impact will not be isolated to a few paragraphs of text and stories of survivors.

See, this pandemic isn’t just changing life as we know it today. It’s actually going to fundamentally shape the future. When a “cure” arrives or the virus is weakened, it’s not like we’re all going to go back to the way we lived in 2019.

Yes, there will be public gatherings and (probably) handshakes. Yes, you’ll be able to eat in a restaurant and attend concerts. Yes, businesses will invite employees back into the office. But even these returns to normalcy will be marred by the virus and influenced by a new way of thinking. Seemingly small shifts in mindset and action will lead to major pivots, changes, and evolution. 

When you look at business, in particular, there will be an entirely new status quo. Some of these changes will be welcome, while others will be seen as a nuisance. But regardless of the sentiment, the future will forever be altered. 

4 Ways Business Will Change

Predictions and prognostications have never been more dangerous. With as many twists and turns as 2020 has taken, it would be unwise to say, “This is how it’ll be. Period.” The better approach is to say, “Based on the current trends and events, here’s the direction we anticipate things going.” In light of that semantical nuance, here are some changes to keep an eye on:

 

1. Increased Flexibility in Scheduling

 

If the 9-to-5 wasn’t already obsolete, it’s now been locked away in a vault, never to return. Smart companies that prioritize employee happiness and productivity will realize that standard 9-to-5 scheduling isn’t doing anyone any favors. Instead, flexible scheduling will become the order of the day.

Flexible scheduling – which basically means employees have more freedom to set their hours (within reason of course) – is appealing for many reasons. The biggest one is the uncertainty surrounding schooling and childcare. Many parents will need to shift their work schedules around inconsistent and unpredictable calendars. Flexible scheduling allows for this.

 

2. New Office Layouts

 

One of the most obvious changes in business will be how many businesses shift to virtual operations and/or allow large percentages of their employees to work remotely 100 percent of the time. This is a shift that had been unfolding for many years. The global pandemic simply tossed a match on dry leaves. 

But the more interesting shift has to do with businesses that retain their physical offices and still require some or all employees to work in a physical building. In these scenarios, you’re going to see dramatic changes in office layouts and the interactions that occur between coworkers.

Commercial real estate company, Cushman & Wakefield, is one of the leaders in this charge. They’ve designed what they call the “6 Feet Office,” where the objective is to keep people properly spaced and have workspaces sanitized so as to promote productivity and keep people healthy. Here are the six elements of the 6 Feet Office:

 

6-Feet Quick Scan.

Companies are to conduct thorough analyses of the current working environment and look for opportunities to improve.

 

 

6-Feet Rules.

Clear and simple agreements and rules of conduct are put in place to prioritize the safety of all people in the office.

 

6-Feet Routing.

Visual displays and routing for each office are put into place to create smarter traffic flows and patterns.

 

 

6-Feet Workstation.

Each workspace is equipped and adapted in a way so as to reduce the transmission of germs. Workspaces can be easily cleaned and protected on a daily basis.

 

 

6-Feet Facility.

A trained employee advises companies to ensure they’re operating in a safe manner that’s consistent with the underlying health and safety objectives. 

 

 

6-Feet Certificate.

Companies are granted a certificate that measures their adherence to 6-foot standards.

 

While many companies have adopted this strategy during the pandemic, it’s likely that a majority of them will keep these rules in place after. 

At the very least, you can expect to see fewer communal desks and concentrated cubicles. More spacing and privacy will become the norm moving forward. 

 

3. Communication Gets an Overhaul

 

As many businesses make the shift to remote work, we’re going to see significant changes on the communications front. More specifically, we’ll see a shift away from traditional landline telephones and towards hosted Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions. 

VoIP solutions offer flexibility and affordability that businesses need so their staff can stay better connected from anywhere. They’re also cost-effective and far more efficient.

One of the primary features VoIP providers offer is that they allow users to take their desk phones home and connect as a soft phone using their computer or mobile device. Plus, all calls show the caller ID of the company, which provides a consistent brand image and higher degree of professionalism. 

Once businesses get a taste of VoIP, there’s no turning back. So, while some businesses may make the shift to account for current conditions, high retention rates will lead to long-term change in this space.

 

4. More Detailed Business Continuity Planning

 

COVID-19 is an extreme example of a business interruption. It’s basically the worst-case scenario. But it also serves as a good reminder that stuff like this happens. And in the coming months, you can expect more businesses to develop detailed business continuity plans and disaster response strategies. 

Looking Forward to a Brighter Tomorrow

Will the future of work and business be different? Undoubtedly it will.

Will the future be better than the present? The answer is yes.

In a post-COVID-19 world, business will never be the same. There will be new risks, opportunities, threats, practices, trends, and behaviors. From HR to marketing to manufacturing, it’s all going to shift. But even with these changes, we can rest easy knowing that tomorrow brings hope that today may not offer.