When I read a piece on why among many other items, toilet paper is consistently sold out in many developed countries, I realised other reverberating impacts will slowly unfold.
Amidst the unravelling of infection numbers, not just in Singapore but also in other countries, people are slowly getting used to the new “norm”.
Staying indoors for many consecutive days and only going out for essentials, not caring about one’s appearance (to a certain extent) because of the previous point, and working remotely.
Accepting that we can only interact with others via a device’s screen, working out at home is “cooler” than enjoying the company and energy of others in the same space, and learning to face people in the same house almost every waking moment.
The wider impact of COVID-19
On a more macro view, businesses are closing down, unemployment rate has shot up, and the global economy is crashing down.
Even the businesses that are surviving have to make a lot of changes to adapt to the current situation, for instance, the toilet paper industry as mentioned above.
While COVID-19 has already sparked many massive changes in the world, we’ll have to brace ourselves for yet another big wave of changes.
When we eventually get used to this “new norm”, which should take another six to 12 months or so, we’ll be forced to accept another “new norm” – back to business as usual, with some structural changes, of course.
How will the next wave of big changes look like – after COVID-19 is truly under control?
Demand of online services
I feel almost silly talking about this, but it’s important to mention that more services will go online – unsurprisingly, eCommerce is booming right now and will continue to soar even after COVID-19.
The older generation who didn’t believe in buying online? They have no choice right now but to succumb to the changes required by the situation.
But more importantly, services that most people didn’t think were possible to be transacted online will start growing.
Grocery shopping, something most of us often do in physical supermarkets, will increasingly go online – RedMart (now bought over by Alibaba) had to sell because of “financing problems”.
If COVID-19 had hit earlier (not that I wished it did), RedMart might still had to sell because of the financial issue, but they would have had a better chance.
Other online grocers might pop up too – just look at how many independent brands are spending on online advertisements.
Demand of remote workers & freelancers
Let’s face it, work-from-home (WFH) impacts a vast majority of our productivity and employers who realise this might consider hiring cheaper manpower from other countries where salary expectations are lower.
Also, maybe outsourcing to remote freelancers might give businesses the flexibility to only hire where necessary, making operations more cost-efficient.
Global corporations might still have a majority of their workforce on a full-time basis, and just a small fraction of remote contractors, but most small businesses would default to a tiny team with a large variable team.
Remote working was already on the rise before COVID-19, so this will just give it another boost, and in some cases force small companies to adapt.
Call centres and tech support teams are already running remotely.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see even finance, HR, and administrative roles among others taking on that trend too.
Are we ready?
I’m still trying to get used to WFH and accepting that my usual lifestyle of working out in a shared space with others won’t be coming back so soon.
But the changes that are happening right now are just the entrée of what’s the come after the storm – big structural changes across the globe that will change how we look at the economy as a whole.
Our jobs will change – that’s a given. Many other things will change, and honestly, no one knows what lies ahead in the fog.
We’re all just keeping our fingers crossed and making sure we’re still around for the next few months because looking at the rate of infection, no one can be sure they’re safe even with the proper safety measures.