Five ways COVID-19 may change the world

The experience of self-isolating at home for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to mark society.

During lockdown, young people went on long walks they would never have done before, people contacted friends they hadn’t been in touch with for a long time, and discovered and developed new abilities and hobbies. Those working from home needed to develop and adhere to new routines and processes.

These experiences may change perceptions and behaviour beyond the lockdown, both on a personal and professional level. The fact that the pandemic affected everyone on planet earth in some way or another is likely to amplify potential effects.

Change 1: Supply chains

COVID-19 has caused a fundamental shock to the world’s financial and economic system, exposing the vulnerability of global supply chains and distribution networks. The disease has broken many economic links: Factory closings in afflicted areas have left manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, and retail stores bereft of inventories and products. Efforts to move the production closer to the consumer as well as increasing supply chain resilience as a national priority is likely to become more common across western countries, even if it makes the final products more expensive.

Change 2: A widening divide

The divide between permanent employees and freelancers/contractors is likely to widen due to the COVID-19 outbreak as revenues and profits plummet. While the former are likely to continue receiving most of their salaries, pensions and insurances as long as the company can afford it, the latter might find it harder to remain connected to the business cuts cost.

Change 3: Online business

Online delivery of groceries and food has become a popular way of reducing exposure to the coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has benefitted cloud kitchen companies while other retailers adapted their distribution methods. Some consumers might have discovered that this fits their lifestyle and may hold on to it after life goes back to normal.

Change 4: Remote working

Working from home became normality during the pandemic for employees all over the world who have widely resorted to teleconferencing or videoconferencing, perhaps for the first time, making this tool more acceptable for a wider number of people. In many cases, staff may have noticed the time-saving benefits of such solutions and may want to continue taking advantage of it after live returns to normal, replacing face-to-face meetings more often. The experience may contribute to an ongoing trend towards flexible use of retail and office space. For several years companies have been allowing staff to work from home while reducing office space to save cost and introducing hot desking. Particularly in uncertain times after COVID-19, both traditional and digital businesses are likely to search for cheaper and more flexible alternatives to deploy their services.  

Change 5: Closer Relationships

Ironically, the physical distance that the virus forced upon us has also created new closeness. Communication has changed during the pandemic. Where answering machines were usually taking messages there were suddenly real people in the line. Phone calls became longer and more personal as people showed genuine interest in each other. This has strengthened and transformed some relationships and may have created a new culture of accessibility and commitment without physical proximity.