Did you get used to remote working and eduction and even consulting your doctor via telephone or email? Well you should have, because this will be the new normal in the post-coronavirus world. What is in store for us?
The coronavirus pandemic will be remembered as a world-reordering event. Like the Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the 2008 global financial crisis, it will accelerate social and economic changes that would otherwise have taken years to materialize.
However long it will take, we will eventually beat back this virus, and our economies will eventually recover from the punishing recession it will have brought about. But when the dust settles and the masks come off, the pandemic will have permanently reshaped our social and economic behavior. Here are a few outcomes that seem increasingly likely.
1. Online shops allowing delivery will prosper together with online platforms for entertainment
With people isolated indoors and away from other people, short-term winners will be those who provide goods and services without needing to come into physical contact with their customers. These are already overwhelmed. Other winners will be cloud computing providers (for example, Amazon Web Services), remote work services like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, virtual reality companies like Oculus, streaming services like Netflix, and esports organizations like Cloud9.
2. Social media will be overwhelmed with traffic
Social media traffic will soar, but advertiser revenue will suffer from weak demand in a crippled economy. Coca-Cola has already pulled all social media ads; as its peers follow suit, the sharp overall decrease in ad spend will reverberate down to production companies, advertising agencies, and TV and radio stations.
3. Remote work will become the new default
Employees who are suddenly working from home by necessity are experiencing a change in their work style that spares them the suit and commute and gives many of them greater flexibility with their schedules and demands outside of work. Many will find they prefer working remotely and, when the crisis recedes, it will become hard and expensive for some companies to deny them that option, while others will want to take advantage of this new preference. Remote work technology will improve, enabling the sort of mingling previously thought to require in-person meetings. This will cause a severe downturn for commercial real estate as companies drastically cut the size of their workspaces.
4. Many jobs will be automated, and the rest will be made remote-capable
To survive the crisis, firms will need to lay off their least-productive workers, automate what can be automated, and make the rest remote-capable. Those who do this effectively will emerge leaner and more efficient. They will also have no incentive to return to their pre-crisis head count — and many of those whose functions have been automated will lack the skills to compete in the new, post-crisis economy.
5. Higher education begins to move online
The pandemic has forced numerous universities to move classes online. The worldwide remote learning experiment that is currently underway may demonstrate that higher learning can function effectively at a fraction of in-person costs. If it does, it may lead to a reckoning that transforms the delivery of higher education. Universities will also face pressure to cut costs from the severely cash-strapped state governments that fund them. Many will eventually adopt hybrid models that limit face-to-face learning to project-based assignments and student working groups. These will dramatically cut costs, while allowing the best instructors to scale their insights to more students. They might also make a compelling case for broadening access to elite universities, whose small cohorts have historically been justified on the basis of physical constraints inherent to classrooms and campuses.
6. Goods and people will move less often and less freely
Countries will retreat into themselves, borders will become less porous, and international trade will slump. To bolster their ability to survive extended periods of economic self-isolation, governments will push to strengthen domestic manufacturing capacity and step in to inject adequate redundancy in critical supply chains. Even before the pandemic struck, higher wages in China, international trade wars, and the rise of semi-autonomous factories had already prompted firms to reshore manufacturing, bringing it closer to domestic research and development centers. The coronavirus crisis will accelerate this trend: Increasingly, corporations will favor the resiliency of centralized domestic supply chains over the efficiency of globalized ones. Lacking support to protect the shared gains of worldwide economic integration and globalized supply chains, the multilateral institutions of global governance established in the 20th century will, if temporarily, begin to fray.
7. Governmental powers will be wider and more intrusive
Governments that adopted emergency powers to manage the crisis and police their borders will be loath to relinquish them when it recedes. Governments will conduct more widespread and more intrusive surveillance and claim broader authority to monitor and respond to viral threats. Checkpoints at national and regional borders will use biometric screening to detect deadly viruses in real time and impose mandatory quarantines on travelers entering from certain countries. This will create significant friction for all kinds of travel. Airlines, hospitality, and tourism will experience a severe slump in demand in and beyond the immediate aftermath of the crisis.