The ability to thrive under pressure and create a resilient business model is more important than ever. Almost 800,000 jobs were lost in Spain as of mid-April 2020.

Companies that have survived the quick and devastating onslaught of COVID-19 will need to adapt to the changing times quickly and strategically. Rather than seeking to make all changes at once, companies should invest in research, debate, and analytics. They should consider professional consultancy/crisis control if needs be, to ensure they are heading in the right direction in key areas such as product development, internal procedure, and digital marketing. They should also be clued up on the major waves that COVID-19 is bound to bring.


The Need for Reinvention

The months following the end of confinement will present companies with an unpredictable scenario in which U-shaped economic recovery and tougher competition will require immense flexibility and renewal efforts. COVID-19 is bound to cause fast, groundbreaking changes in values, behaviours, and interests. Businesses will need to identify and analyse these changes, re-creating or adapting their business model to satisfy demands.

Going Digital

Most successful companies already have digital frameworks in place, but COVID-19 changed the way we live, work, and relate, forcing us to resort to digital tools to a far greater extent. During the peak of the pandemic, video conference tools like Zoom were a lifesaver for many companies, people began shopping online, and virtual events were celebrated. Many teams began relying more on the Cloud to share files and work on documents. Others liaised daily on software like Slack or Google Hangouts. Retail stores began selling items exclusively online, which highlighted the need for better payment systems, mobile compatibility, and optimal website design.

Remote Working

In February this year, around 1.4 million workers in Spain were already working remotely. An Adecco survey shows that 69 per cent of Spanish employees prefer to work from home, but “they aren’t able to because their company does not allow it.” Things will undoubtedly change henceforth in this respect. Researchers from Global Workplace Analytics state, “Based on historical trends, those who were working remotely before the pandemic will increase their frequency after they are allowed to return to their offices.

For those who were new to remote work until the pandemic, we believe there will be a significant upswing in their adoption.” Researchers estimate that between 25 and 30 per cent of the workforce will be working from home various days a week by the end of 2021.

Online Sales

Companies that reaped rewards from offering better online shopping experiences will undoubtedly continue to refine digital interactions with clients in upcoming months. Those that got it right from the outset include online gaming services, Amazon, and Deliveroo/Glovo. Businesses specialising in product sales will require to streamline online processes, ranging from item selection and cart modification to delivery. They will need to rely on tools such as virtual shopping software and voice search.

The latter in particular has grown greatly in importance thanks to the popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home. Around 40% of adults (and 55% of teens) now use mobile voice search at least once daily. Currently, around 50% of all searchers are voice-based and this percentage is expected to grow year-on-year.

Cybersecurity Changes

Companies working remotely will have to ensure that client data remains safe by adopting new cybersecurity solutions. Workers will have to be provided with various tools, which can include access to virtual private networks (VPNs). They will also need to ensure their equipment is protected by antivirus software and firewalls. Training in how to identify and act against threats is equally important. Workers should be taught how to set secure passwords and to use encryption tools when necessary.

Some sectors (including the legal industry), can rely on blockchain to preserve access to vital data such as contracts, land registry details, and other potentially sensitive information. Companies dealing with large amounts of data can consider the use of software such as Cymulate and XM Cyber (so-called ‘breach and attack software’), which simulate attacks to test employee reaction to different scenarios.

New Energy Conservation Methods

After the crisis, many businesses will adopt a rotational working model in which some workers work in-office for specific days, while others work at home. Interestingly, CNBC reports that in big companies like sustainable design firm DLR Group in Seattle, staff are ‘overcooling’ because offices are designed to accommodate twice the number of employees. Automation systems that save energy and keep temperatures constant in specific parts of buildings will be needed. Intelligent energy will enable companies to save on their utility bills while providing an ergonomic experience for employees.

Potential Changes to the Supply Chain

The current health crisis has sparked a demand for greater diversity in supply chains, says the Wall Street Journal. The heavy dependence on China resulted in a major interruption to manufacturing processes across the globe during the pandemic. A survey by the Institute for Supply Management showed that 57 per cent of companies experienced delays for tier-one China-sourced components, while giants like Apple were forced to inform investors that they would be missing first-quarter revenue projections, owing to supply interruptions.

A Difficult Question to Resolve

As stated by Brink News’ M. Mirchandani, some companies (including Apple) have moved part of their activities abroad. Japan, meanwhile, has pledged to invest billions from its COVID economic stimulus package in Japanese manufacturing to reduce its reliance on China. Other entities (e.g. iPhone assembly company, Wistron Corp.) are moving part of their operations outside China, yet many companies remain heavily dependent on the supply giant.

Mirchandani points out, “As manufacturers examine their supply chains for a post-COVID-19 world, the imperative for greater supply chain resilience versus the attractiveness of China as a manufacturing location and tech-forward consumer market is the defining tension that they will need to navigate.” The higher-end tech and consumer electronics sector, she says, will find it more difficult to make a change owing to China’s renown for manufacturing.

Changing Staff Requirements

Changing demands may spell the need for a larger workforce, or for retraining of existing employees. Take the case of supermarkets. Supermarket News reports that online sales have grown by 40% in the U.S. in recent week and similar patterns can be observed across the globe. In the UK, Tesco more than doubled its number of delivery slots during the outbreak. Many customers who never considered online shopping are now pleased by the service, ease, and time savings it affords. This will require a major restructuring of teams, with bigger budgets invested in online preparation and delivery.

Some Industries will Emerge Victorious after the COVID-19 Crisis

Some industries have seen a big boom in popularity. These will undoubtedly continue to enjoy success in the near future. Fortune predicts that winning sectors will include telemedicine, digital commerce, and automation. The statistics certainly back their assertions. Swedish telehealth provider KRY International (one of Europe’s largest) has enjoyed a 200 per cent increase in registration during the pandemic.

In Europe, around 13 per cent of shoppers are saying they are considering buying from online shops for the first time. Automation, meanwhile, can make life easier in a myriad of ways. Applications like Hootsuite, IFTTT and G Suite boost agility, improve productivity, and reduce error rates. Even small businesses can benefit from automation in areas like marketing and e-commerce, business process automation, chat bots, and inventory management.

Contactless Technology

Cutting edge companies may consider adopting new contactless technologies for their offices as a way to keep staff safe in the event of a new pandemic. A fine example of visionary design is Zaha Hadid Architects’ new headquarters for the Bee’ah waste management company in the UAE. It contains an array of ‘contactless pathways’ which enable employees to avoid touching everything from doors to lifts to coffee machines. Instead, employees can order their latte or espresso directly from their smartphone.

During the COVID crisis, some companies (such as global commercial real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield) are tracking employee movement through mobile phones, sending notifications when the two-metre distancing rule is breached. Techies are already predicting a world in which motion sensors and facial recognition software become the norm. Designers, meanwhile, are rejoicing at the purported end of ‘open-plan offices’, proven in countless studies to reduce rather than boost productivity.

Post Covid-19 Collaborative Technology

Because video conferences are likely to continue rising in popularity, offices will need to finance smarter systems that can connect office workers to clients and colleagues working at a distance. Companies can invest in built-in microphones for conference tables and conference cams with features such as 90º cameras with inbuilt remote control. Digital whiteboards such as Google Jamboard and Cisco Spark Board are popular tools for brainstorming, comparing percentages, and making calculations that can be shared clearly online.

A Change in Mindsets

If you read our sister article entitled The Earth Is Telling Us We Must Rethink Our Growth Society, then you know that many intellectuals feel the aim isn’t to get back to ‘normal’ since ‘normal’ is what got us here in the first place. Way before COVID-19, societal values and ethics were changing, with millennials in particular expressing great interest in backing sustainable products and services. Nielsen predicts that the sustainability market will reach €138 billion by 2021.

Companies wishing to survive or even flourish in what will undoubtedly be a difficult time will need to be a step ahead in terms of environmentally friendly and ethical work practices. They will have to show a strong connection to the communities they operate in and a desire to make a difference, not just a profit. Although the precise changes each company needs to make are as yet unknown, clear trends can already be identified. These include a redefinition of goals and processes, the greater popularity of remote working, and the need for digital solutions to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Companies will also need to change at an ethical level, placing greater importance on kindness to the Earth and commitment to clients and communities. In many ways, the pandemic will see the flourishing of less fragile, more flexible, forward-thinking companies that thrive (rather than buckle) under pressure.


Read more Spotlight articles here!