Without doubt the Covid-19 crisis has had a profound impact on people’s lives. Whilst the initial changes during lockdown were very immediate, the long-term effects of the pandemic are still emerging. And whilst it might feel like we are returning to some sort of normal there will undoubtedly be an impact on each of our values and behaviours over the long term.
The intensity of lockdown forced us all to rethink how we live, our attitudes to work and travel, as well as what we really value. The already declining High Street took a huge hit whilst at the same time we went through unparalleled digital acceleration. Our attitudes to working from home, commuting, work life balance, travel, health and wellbeing have all changed at a significant pace. And as we enter or teeter on the brink of recession in most parts of the world, how we spend our money will also change significantly. So, what are the some of the changes that organisations will need to adapt to, if they are to stay relevant and profitable?
Working the change
The seismic shift to working-from-home is one of the most significant transformations since the industrial revolution. Changes in working patterns and behaviour that were predicted to take years happened almost overnight. And whilst industry experts have warned that this trend threatens both our cities and our economy, top firms across the UK have made it clear that the working model has changed for good, with most expecting they will not return to a full, office-based working cohort.
However, organisations need to be aware, that for many of their employees, working from home can lead them to feel isolated, unsupported and distracted. For those that find themselves working from the kitchen table or end of their bed, the lines between work and home life quickly blur, which can lead to anxiety and deteriorating mental well-being. Employers will have an obligation to ensure that they provide their staff not only with appropriate equipment, but also the right level of support, as well as the opportunity to engage in a face-to-face way, where appropriate.
This presents a huge challenge to traditional office providers, but also opportunity for technology and platform providers, as well as spaces and venues that can offer creative ways of bringing staff together. Team building events, face-to-face meets, conferences and training will all become critically important to the success of an organisation and the welfare of its employees. Companies will be looking for providers that can not only provide a flexible and safe approach to office space but also to supporting these types of “get-togethers”.
Whilst High Street retailers saw a huge downturn in March and April of this year, other retailers benefitted significantly from our changing shopping habits. Online retailers and supermarkets saw a massive uplift in spending as a direct consequence of lockdown. Some might argue that as we learn to live with the virus and eventually implement a vaccine, shopping habits will revert, but this seems incredibly unlikely. Big basket shopping has certainly seen a resurgence and, with less travelling and commuting, people are more likely to plan meals, cook, and rely on home delivery more often. Tesco’s recent announcement that it is recruiting into its online delivery business, and Aldi’s first venture into online shopping, both evidence the industry’s confidence that we will continue to shop in this way. Those that don’t offer an easy, customer-friendly online experience or meet the demands for flexible home delivery, will certainly fall behind the competition.
Local retailers have also done well. Where these were seen to support their communities during lockdown, customers are keen to repay the favour. Combine that with the reduced environmental impact of shopping local, and a growing interest in the origins of our food, localised or specialised providers who can design a safe and enjoyable shopping experience, be that online or face-to-face, look to do well. Although on the face of it, it may seem like larger providers cannot tap into these trends, there are opportunities for larger organisations to embed themselves more deeply into their local communities. The likes of Morrison’s and others demonstrated genuine support to employees and customers in the locality of their stores during lockdown, finding creative ways to support the most vulnerable members of the community.
Health, Home and Happiness
Despite the attention-grabbing headlines about students and other young adults flouting social distancing rules, increasing local lockdowns and a general level of anxiety mean many people are simply choosing not to go out as much as they once did. The impact on the hospitality trade has been huge, but for other businesses this has presented opportunities.
Months spent in lockdown have led to a refocus on health, home and family, so businesses that offer home improvement and DIY products, or wellbeing services, are thriving. Healthy eating, cooking, home exercising are all seeing a revival and whilst this might not be to the extent we saw in lockdown, where half the nation was tuning into Joe Wicks every morning, these trends are unlikely to subside any time soon. Businesses that are able to quickly adapt to these changing purchasing habits and tap into a renewed recognition of the importance of family and relationships, will likely to benefit.
It is widely accepted that we will be living with Covid-19 for some time yet, and as we adjust and respond, individual values will continue to be challenged or reinforced. What is clear is that everyone to some extent has taken stock and questioned their values and priorities. Organisations will need to continue to track and adapt to these, if they are to stand a chance of surviving these continuing challenging times.