I hesitate to write that headline - after all, none of knows when or even if this pandemic will end - but what I do know is that, in this time of crisis, there are lots of things changing: our beliefs, our priorities, our views, our relationships. I sat down and thought about what’s good and bad about these times? Surprisingly, I found there are a lot of positives. Equally, there’s a lot of negatives. So, for the record, here’s my list.
On the positive side:
1) Working from Home: some people may hate it, especially with children at home, but the fact that most companies who have historically avoided staff working from home have now accepted that they can, will see a big change in attitudes post-pandemic. In turn, this will result in more flexibility between home and office, reduced commuting, less large buildings and more time balancing between family and work. That’s a good thing.
2) Relating to People: as we jumped around the world, working like crazy, we probably didn’t value our relationships properly. During this crisis, we changed our view. We spoke to our mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and family via Facetime, Skype, Zoom and more, and probably were never so close to these people remotely as we are now. Amazing how distance creates love.
3) Earth: this crisis has reset Planet Earth, and the abuse it receives from humans. We’ve shut down all of our carbon emitting factories and flights, and stayed indoors. Wildlife and animals have taken over the planet, and humans disappeared. Long-term we might get back to normal but, as mentioned above, we will probably stay home a lot more. Equally, who wants to get on a flight again? We will challenge our view on flying and conferencing, and return to a world where we think a lot more about abusing the planet than ever before (I hope).
4) Digital Transformation: most companies didn’t have a backup for the office. With a physical meltdown, they’ve realised that was a major issue. It’s amazing that we have business continuity planning and disaster recovery for technology, but no planning for the shutdown of our buildings. As a result, most institutions that were caught out by the pandemic’s closure of their offices will rush to automate as much as they can, and provide digital flexibility, post-pandemic.
There are a few other things I could add to these points, such as the likely radical rationalisation of online to offline post-pandemic, but the general theme is that this crisis has prioritised people. Humans, health and relationships are our main consideration. That’s been the really positive outcome of coronavirus.
But then there are negatives. Again, I was listing views, and there are some quite major issues the pandemic has raised. These include:
1) Trust: having grown up with government in control, banks looking after money, business and work being the focus and society being social, this crisis has blown most of that away. Governments weren’t in control, banks didn’t help, work disappeared and society became fairly anti-social – think toilet rolls – the trust we had in the system has been blown apart. Getting it back will take some time, if ever, and the actions and role of government, banks, business and society has been a major factor in changing our perceptions of life and the world.
2) Civil unrest: when this pandemic is over – when? – we will get a new normal, but the new normal will include millions of people displaced by the pandemic. Millions of unemployed who are likely to lose their homes as well as their jobs, will rebel against the system. Millions of people who had good jobs and a good life will now have no job and feel they have no life. I seriously worry about the masses who will rebel against the system post-pandemic. Will they? Not necessarily, but government needs to address this issue first and foremost. Government may have let the economy go, but you cannot let the people go.
3) The End of Travel: no, I’m not predicting that all airlines will go bankrupt, although many will, but I am predicting that airlines will struggle for a long time. A lot of airlines enjoyed the benefits of global connectivity for business and leisure, but most will now question that idea. A good example is me. I’m a gold and platinum flyer on several airline networks. After this lockdown, I’m seriously asking whether I want to get on a flight again and, if I did, it has to be worth it. After all, a flight is the one place where you find huge exposure to other people and their bugs.
4) A Resurgence of Nationalism: this crisis has proven to be a great opportunity for nation states to reinforce nationalism. Borders are back and most countries are trying to deter foreigners, migration, immigration and travel. Specifically, the general public’s view is going to be far more suspicious of foreigners. Just look at the racist opinions against Asians before Europe and America imploded. This move has also given some leaders the opportunity to become more dictatorial and autocratic. This move may not last long-term, as the people may reject it, but it is something that has been seized in the short-term by some countries and may remain for a while.
The negatives are huge and challenging. I mean, it’s not just the end of travel but everything that goes with that: tourism, hospitality, real estate and more. It’s almost a house of cards collapsing, as one thing topples over to another. The only area that has a really positive outcome is those businesses that are built for online to offline and offline to online like Amazon. Amazon’s been buoyant during this crisis, and will remain so. After all, when we are all stuck at home in lockdown, the one thing you can do is shop online.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...