“Pivot” has to be the business word of the year. Outside of “social distancing,” “the coronavirus” and “Covid-19,” it’s been the most mentioned word in my social media feed. Previously, pivot was mainly used as a basketball term to turn without moving one foot, but in the business world, it simply means change (but sounds cooler).
As countries started locking down their economies, many people’s revenue streams dried up. Employees were told to stay home. Restaurants were closed. Speaking gigs dried up. Seminars, lectures, and conferences were either canceled outright or shifted online. In a nutshell, everything changed. People and companies alike were forced to pivot whether they wanted to or not.
Now, as the world’s economies start opening up, the big question is “Will things go back to the way they were?” I think I can answer that – No.
Yes, things will return to some sort of normalcy, but until a vaccine is developed things will have to change and I’m not just talking about productivity here.
What most people might not know about me is that before I became a productivity expert, I actually spent years studying the economy. I still remember back in the early 2000s when subprime loans were introduced. The whole concept baffled me. But what did I know? I was just an English teacher who had dropped macroeconomics in college. Maybe they all knew something I didn’t. Turns out they didn’t.
Lehman Brothers came crashing down in 2008 in large part because of those subprime loans and yet so many “experts” didn’t see it coming. To me, it was a house of cards to begin with. The whole thing intrigued me though, so I did what my virtual mentor Jim Rohn suggested, I made economics a study.
I started with stocks, then currency exchange, then oil and finally gold. I learned about Weimar Germany and the French Revolution and realized that Mark Twain was right, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”
The thing is productivity and the economy are intertwined, and moving forward I see a lot of change coming out way. Let’s look at how things will change productivity-wise and economy-wise in the months, if not years, to come.
Covid-19 has shown companies the world over what can be done remotely. Twitter CEO Jack Dorset made a bold move by telling employees they can work from home ‘forever,’ even after the pandemic. Google has stated that people will not return to their offices until 2021. I suspect more companies to announce similar announcements.
One survey by Airtasker has found that people have become more productive working from home as it has not just eliminated their daily commutes, but also lead to a healthier lifestyle.
The coronavirus has shed light on many unproductive areas of our lives both at home and at the office. I, for one, am glad to see that Zoom meetings have become the norm now.
I see a sort of hybrid system emerging; one that combines the best of the remote work and in-office practices.
Psychologically, a virus is the worst possible thing that can happen to a society because it’s an invisible threat. The result has been that most people seem to be in one of two camps; the carefree and the terrified. The carefree are eager to return to work (with new work protocols in place), but those in the second camp will be the real challenge. It’s like once you’ve heard something, you can’t unhear it.
Big companies spend a fortune on prime real estate to house their employees in city centers all across the world, but with New York, London, Singapore, Tokyo, aka the centers of commerce, being shut down and having people working from home, companies will question whether they need such large offices. I suspect real estate prices to drop, both commercially and residential.
The numbers vary depending on what sources you look at, but from what I’ve read we’re looking at unemployment numbers between 15-39%. That means a whole lot of people out of a job. The competition will be fierce. Unrest in some areas is possible.
Cruise ships, hotels, airlines, and anything linked to tourism are in for a rough ride. Emirates announced they are cutting 30,000 jobs, British Airways is cutting 12,000 jobs. Hotel occupancy is down dramatically. People have short memories, but just as the Great Depression affected society’s spending habits, I suspect the coronavirus will have a similar effect on people’s travel habits.
I, for one, can’t wait to head to my favorite restaurants (assuming they reopen) but for most countries, social distancing rules will have to be adhered to. That means fewer tables and fewer tables mean fewer customers at one time. How will restaurants respond? Price increases? Limited time? Smaller portions? I don’t know how eating out will change, I just know it will.
Unfortunately, I don’t see arenas filled with 64,000 people anytime soon. The best-case scenario is likely half-full arenas allowing for social distancing.
The New World Ahead
While businesses pivot, the key skill as individuals we need to develop is that of adaptability. We are headed into an uncertain time and it will vary greatly depending on where we live. The good old days are gone, and we need to stay vigilant in order to adapt to those changes. Thankfully, we have access to incredible tools today such as YouTube and Udemy. For those willing to try, the new world that lies ahead should excite you.
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Photo courtesy iStock.