The social and economic impacts from COVID-19 have been, and will continue to be for some time, quite horrendous. Whilst being empathetic to those most affected, I see this as a time of reflection and consideration on how to move forward. It has been said that disruption provides opportunity and there certainly has been plenty of disruption. So, where do we go from here in finding business and social upside?
The first upside area must be technology. The new paradigms demand improvements in efficiency, communication, supply logistics, and customer engagement. Businesses who have been slow to adopt contemporary technology solutions now have the imperative of survival to drive technology adoption, together with the time to source, assess, and implement new solutions. If you are either working in or investing in technology, then this is also your window of best opportunity.
Of course, the clear and present issue of health also presents opportunity. The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on good health practices generally and refined the processes for addressing health challenges via telehealth, isolation, and social distancing. Whether you see this as an economic or a lifestyle opportunity is up to you.
What about the great Australian dream of a home on a quarter-acre block? Unfortunately, there will be crisis sales resulting from people losing their jobs and not being able to pay their mortgages. On the flip side however the rationalisation of the real estate market which has removed panic buying and inordinate price rises, will allow people to enter the market in a much more considered way. Further, buyers may not need to be close to their workplace or major transport hubs with the rapid take-up of working from home. That may then allow a greater range of housing options, at more favourable pricing, away from the previously high-demand city centres.
This move away from a centralised work office to much more work from home may also mean less need for two-or-more car households. There are clear economic benefits here given the cost of car purchase, running costs, insurance, and registration. It has also been consistently shown that many 2nd cars spend most of their time sitting idle in a garage even before working from home skyrocketed from COVID-19.
The lesser use of public transport for work purposes will also mean time and cost savings with potential increases in productivity. Assuming employees will be held accountable for outputs, as distinct from just time, work-life balance should also improve.
Then we come to the increase in online shopping which has left some traditional bricks and mortar businesses struggling. However, for each of those there are many others who had either already set themselves up for eCommerce or did so quickly due to “necessity being the mother of invention”! Not only have more goods and services been able to be sourced online, the volumes and supply logistics have improved quickly to adapt, leading to consistent and efficient service delivered to your door. For many businesses this eCommerce transition will lead to a permanent re-balancing of their physical store operations, with commensurate cost savings.
For travel, it’s a two-edged sword; no international travel for a while and then only under stricter conditions, versus the likelihood of cheaper domestic airfares and hotel costs. Anecdotally many people talk about the need to see more of their own country, so the next two years is the ideal opportunity to do just that. Those in the hospitality and tourism sector know full well that it will take a lot to make up for the reduction in international tourists, so the expectation is for everyday value pricing to be the new standard.
Finally, there is a growth in community spirit given the common circumstances with which we are all faced and the constraints again of social distancing and isolation. Assuming that brings out the best in people, we should see more connection and cooperation at the neighbour, suburb, locality, state and national level, leading to less reliance on the global network. As long as this does not lead to a lack of compassion for other cultures, economies, and circumstances, this self-reliance should provide a level of comfort in distressing times.