If you are reading this, COVID-19 has probably had some impact on you. Some of my colleagues know people that have unfortunately passed away from it, thousands of companies have furloughed employees and the future may look as grim as ever. However, I am a naturally optimistic person and I invite you to entertain the possibility that we will all emerge from this period stronger.

As we adapt and adjust to the new environment, have you wondered how COVID-19 will change us one year from now? Five years from now? Will life go back to the way it was? It is certainly a possibility. I believe that more likely, as a society, nation, and world, we will start to see profound impacts on how we live and work.

You may be wondering, what will be different and how can companies best position themselves today for those changes? I will share my early (and speculative) thoughts in the following areas: virtual work, healthcare, technology, and e-Commerce.

 Virtual Work

As virtual work starts to become the norm and employees start advocating for more work/life integration, companies will start to explore more hiring of remote workers. This could result in decreased demand for office space, hence we may see a gradual drop in prices for commercial real estate.

More virtual workers will also require employers to create a sense of belonging in new and creative ways. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn comments that “WFH [Work-from-home] employees will not only seek tools that facilitate productivity and collaboration, but the software that enables them to feel seen, heard, and truly connected to their colleagues and supported by their company, i.e., the virtual office as a community. At Insigniam, we say that relationship is the foundation of all accomplishments. Employers that intentionally focus on providing fertile ground for people to foster strong relationships and to bring their whole self to work will prevail in the post-COVID-19 era.

Healthcare

Some immediate changes that I anticipate across the healthcare landscape are:

Hospitals will be more prepared and ensure their stock of personal protective equipment for other future potential infectious disease outbreaks. There may also be increased attention to the shortage of healthcare providers around the nation- potentially drawing resources to put more doctors and nurses through the pipeline.

Telehealth will be much more embraced. Many health systems and insurers have already started moving in that direction. With the impetus of COVID-19, I anticipate more entrenched players who have been reluctant to implement telemedicine to get in action. As telehealth becomes more commonplace, more data points about patients could be collected, which would enable healthcare providers to utilize AI and machine learning to drive down care costs. AI-enabled insights can reduce chronic patient risk factors by allocating healthcare and social work resources more efficiently to address social determinants of health.

Technology and E-Commerce

Very likely, we will see more competition for virtual conferencing services like Zoom and Cisco’s Webex. Zoom’s stock finished at $68.04 as of December 31, 2019. Standing at the beginning of April 2020, the company has more than doubled its stock price. With more capital flooding into this sector, we could reasonably see more entry into this space one year from now. Besides, online education for both adults and children could also be picking up, prompting more players to enter this field.

E-commerce will be the key competitive advantage for the majority of industries. Companies that have spent a tremendous amount of effort in building their online presence have been getting the payoff since the outbreak started. For example, in the recent Q3 earnings report, Nike was able to beat analyst expectations with only a 4% decline in sales, despite having all of its 5000 stores closed in China. While physical store sales plummeted, Nike’s online sales rose by a whopping 30%. For traditional brick-and-mortar companies, developing an e-commerce strategy is crucial to their long-term survival and prosperity.

What I want you to leave with is this: as a renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Leaders, I call on you to CHOOSE to respond in a way that empowers yourselves and your people by exploring what these trends may mean for your industry, then get in action to address those opportunities quickly. The early bird gets the worm.

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