Trends that will Shape the Post Covid World
Great shocks change behaviours - the key is predicting them
In a time of deep crisis change becomes a given. World wars, pandemics and deep rooted societal shifts force a new set of behaviours. The tricky part is predicting what this change will look like. We expect three global shifts to occur following the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first is a cultural shift driven by loss. The pandemic has affected everyone. Period. But the universal language of change can be wrapped up in the word “loss”. Everyone has lost something of profound importance during this war with the virus - be it lost lives, lost jobs, lost education, lost homes and the loss of freedom. The poorest have been the most affected.
Many have lost loved ones - friends, relatives, colleagues or people they looked up to. We all know of someone that has passed away during this difficult time. Globally 2.25 million lives have been lost to date.
A vast number of people have lost their jobs. As of last autumn the equivalent of 345 million jobs are likely to have been lost worldwide, based on a reduction in the number of hours worked, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported in its study. Everyone has experienced a considerable interruption in work or a change in working practices.
Business leaders know how hard it is to affect change. Most organisational change programs end in failure. People are resistant - change is hard. And yet, this time, change has been forced on each organisation and every worker. Many organisations will not make it out the other end.
School children and students have experienced a loss of education. As schools and colleges were shuttered parents, teachers and children struggled to get to grips with online education. Unlike a number of workplaces, schools and universities were unprepared to deliver their services online. Many students still do not have laptops or access to broadband. Through the transition learning has been lost for a generation of children.
Millions of families will lose their homes due to Covid and the economic downturn. This will do untold damage on families and society in general. Minorities, informal workers and the poor will suffer most. The number of homeless people is rising.
We have ALL experienced a loss of freedom. Lockdown culture has, for the first time in seventy five years, led to a fundamental loss of human freedoms. Unimaginable concepts such as safe distancing, curfew and stay at home orders have become our every day reality.
Perhaps the most universal loss has been the loss of human contact. Outside our family and work bubbles we have experienced a form of isolation previously unimaginable. Some will be stronger and more independent for it, but for more many it has fostered a crisis of wellbeing.
This ‘loss culture’ will establish new societal norms. It will breed a set of behaviours informed by fear, anxiety and a desire for something new. We will push for a safer and healthier society, with greater stability and opportunity for all.
We will remain gun shy about resurgences of Covid-19 and murmurings of new pandemics. Healthcare workers and carers will suffer from PTSD for years to come. We will demand broad, bold change to ensure that this never happens again. The post-pandemic might unleash a period of entrepreneurialism and risk taking in business and in government.
The second global shift driven by Covid-19 is a fundamental change in buying behaviour facilitated by digital. We have all read a great deal about how online activity has accelerated. The shift to digital will prove more profound and far reaching than we imagined. A trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic will become a tectonic shift thanks to business closures and the rise of new, ingrained consumer habits.
We have tasted online food shopping and we prefer it. We are more comfortable trying on clothes in our home so we will continue to shun high street fashion retailers. We have learned how to enjoy gaming, music, theatre and film from our living room. We will come back to some of this in a different way. Providers will have to figure out hybrid offerings as well as purely online approaches. Brick and mortar only strategies could prove the least effective.
Online is becoming the preferred mechanism for most things that we do in work, communication, learning and life. What we have previewed and tested during the pandemic will become refined and perfected after. Companies and government organisations will invest more in digitalisation than they would have before. Online shopping, gaming, reading, learning, meeting, entertainment, health and sport will abound. The only way to pandemic proof your business is to virtualize it. That lesson will not be forgotten.
The third shift is a political shift driven by climate. Climate change started out as an environmental movement driven by climate scientists and environmentalists. Now it is a political movement driven by the people. Climate change will shape politics for a generation. Business and government leaders that are seen to be weak on climate will get swept aside.
Climate will unite the young, the urban professionals, countryside residents and the elderly. Mothers will want change for the sake of their children. Children will want change for their own sake, and grandparents will not want the crisis to be their legacy. The others will follow.
Political parties that are seen to be weak on climate will get shunned and investors that have a poor record on sustainable investing will lose funds. Natural capital accounting methods will get adopted by government, financial organisations and businesses. Climate will drive voting habits, buying habits, education and lifestyle. Nature will be valued again and biodiversity will be the hot new buzzword.
The three post-Covid trends driven by loss, digital and climate will steer our future path. Each should inform organisational policy, strategy and leadership approaches. The former requires organisations to be strong on communication, people management and employee wellbeing. The latter requires organisations to be strong on climate policies and sustainability. Digital speaks for itself.
At least we have reached the point where we can better understand the trends that are likely to emerge from this horrific pandemic and we can start to look to the future. Let's hope.
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