It is anyone’s guess when we will be able to get back to our normal lives with all of the disruptions of COVID-19 behind us.
Like you, I had a lot of time last week to reflect on everything that is taking place and start to think about what will be next.
With one eye looking into my crystal ball, and another eye scanning the daily headlines, here are my predictions on what changes we can expect to see in the next year.
The move to virtual meetings will accelerate. The massive Work-From-Home (WFH) experiment that was have all taken has shown us all that we can do business virtually. Zoom has now entered the business lexicon as a way to connect with others.
Many people had to take a crash course on how to be part of a Zoom meeting. While there have been some comical failures, the concept of running a meeting remotely now seems almost commonplace.
There will be some interesting changes and opportunities that will begin to surface as more people start to do business virtually.
People are going to begin to want a better user experience on the virtual meeting platforms. Some of the improvements will need to be done by the providers, while others will need to be done by the users.
There is going to be a lot of tech investment in the virtual space. Now that the user base has exploded, there is going to be a massive rush to see who will dominate the space. While Zoom has a clear advantage currently, we can expect Cisco, Microsoft Teams, Citrix, and others to push to be the provider of choice aggressively.
There is also going to be changes required by users. Expect to see the sale of headsets, monitors, microphones, and home office setups to increase. I also expect that there will be a significant push for enhanced speeds, with many people upgrading their data plans. Taking this a step further, I hope that we will see a strong drive for universal 5G coverage (now only 20% of the nation). The increased use of virtual meetings (along with online retail) will require that everyone (not just the fortunate in major metro areas) needs to be adequately covered.
Business travel is going to recover slowly. This will be due to health concerns (being in a steel tube with two hundred other people breathing recycled air) and reduced travel budgets due to cost-cutting needs. I also think that airline travel will be experiencing a zero-based budgeting impact where many business leaders are going to begin to question the necessity for an in-person (rather than virtual) meeting. I think in the short term, the factors will be against flying somewhere for an in-person meeting.
The way that we do business will be going through some significant changes. As I previously wrote, Josh Bersin calls this the Big Reset.
Just as we hit the refresh button to update our browser window, business is going to have some significant disruptions. Some of the biggest will be:
The restaurant space is going to be decimated, with many of the small shops closing. There will not be enough government assistance to help many in this space who operate on low-margins already. The closures will lead to higher unemployment of service workers, many who will have trouble finding unskilled jobs (there are only so many warehouse jobs at Amazon).
The restaurant closures are going to cause commercial real estate landlord some major heartburn. This may end up be a culling of the herd, with some of the weaker players falling by the wayside.
The move to online retail is only going to accelerate faster. This will be a big win for Amazon but is also going to be a win for food delivery players. I see a future where there will be more and more food concepts that only do delivery and have no brick and mortar.
The education space will become more virtual, but not in the short-term. What I have seen is that our education system is not adequately structured to deliver online education successfully. In all fairness to our schools, they were caught by surprise with the swiftness of the pandemic shutdown. Parents and students now have a benchmark on where their schools stand regarding the delivery of online programs. No wonder, they are not happy.
Scott Galloway, an authoritative voice on business and tech, sees education (especially college) being ripe for disruption. College education costs have grown 3X the cost of living index. This has led to increased student debt and an affordability crisis where the fortunate are shut out of the American dream. The move to digital is going to push universities to their brick and mortar approach.
On a more granular level, HR Leaders will be revisiting policies such as sick leave, work-from-home, and layoffs. While there have been some significant furloughs taking place, most companies have done whatever they can to avoid mass layoffs. The economic fallout coming out of our return to normal is going to force companies into making hard choices on how to return to profitability. Cutbacks are the most likely option for them.
Will all of these predictions be accurate? Only time will tell. I hope to revisit this blog next year and measure how accurate I was.
Stay home and stay safe.