Even as the world is grappling to understand the full extent of the economic impact of this pandemic, I read that the pandemic is minting brand new billionaires, with the need for testing kits, vaccines, and medical supplies being so high. Companies who are able to meet the demand surge for these products enjoy boosted shares and have their stocks surging. That’s how things go with technology, it liberates and it enslaves, but it has most certainly helped build resilience and aided us through the unexpected in our response and recovery. Though labor-intensive businesses like food, manufacturing, logistics and some others are badly hit, our societies are still kept functional by technology in many ways.
Technology has raised our resilience as a community, the pandemic has thrown us into situations we have never been through before – a paralyzed public transportation, no malls, no restaurants, no beaches, no tourism, no visiting our friends, family, and relatives, almost everything that we have taken for granted has been curbed, but technology has enabled us to continue in spite of the crisis. We still are able to work, have essential supplies and deliveries reach us, get medical assistance, almost everything has been made available, and possible for us to live in the comforts of our home as we comply with the virus curbs.
Working remotely – Reducing human density and following social distancing are key to combatting this virus, and working from home is seeing a lot of success. Virtual meetings and collaborations have become the ‘now normal’, with added comfort factors like virtual backgrounds to protect the privacy of one’s home. We are all suddenly seeing the relief from not having to navigate those long commute hours, and this transition has actually dropped a few emotional barriers; suddenly it is more visible (and alright) how we are at home, away from the office, and it is humanizing corporate life a little. We are alright to see (and for others to see us) children being home-schooled, parents dealing with their fuss and outbursts in the background of a meeting, and pets walking around vying for screen space. We are sharing more human aspects of ourselves, there is this shared vulnerability in this situation which is increasing the engagement and connection between co-workers. Though security issues are a concern, there are many advantages in remote working that are emerging for companies. If this does become the new way of working, organisations can save a great deal on leases, cafeteria, and other maintenance expenses.
Online / Distance Education – Just like offices and businesses having to function largely from home, the student community as well have learnt to rely on online learning. About 1.57 billion students are reported to have been impacted by this pandemic, and they are currently doing online programs, thanks to great immersive experiences through technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and others.
Online purchasing – Today undoubtedly, online shopping is a boon, and has come to everyone’s rescue. With such strict lockdowns especially in severely affected areas, people have had to stay in, strictly monitored by the authorities and online shopping is the need of the hour. Grocery e-commerce has soared with shoppers turning online to purchase. Research from Ipsos reports that the largest increase in e-commerce shopping is in Vietnam (57% consumers purchasing online), India (55%), China (50%), and Italy (31%).
Contactless delivery, Drones and Robots – Companies have started ‘contactless delivery’ services with packages being picked up and dropped off at designated locations as this makes it less risky though not entirely virus-proof. Deliveries are also being done by Drones and robots. Drones are even used to walk dogs during these times, disinfect areas,
Entertainment – Be it concerts, be it parties, gaming, physical workouts, it’s all online now, and it’s such a hit with everyone! It’s no more about watching movies at home, technology brings the parties, museums, churches, and ceremonies into our homes now.
Health – Wearable IoT devices to track one’s vitals are proving its worth with each day into the pandemic. It captures patient information early and allows for faster and more effective treatment. Telehealth is another important aspect of healthcare today. Today, it is proving particularly helpful for mental health support, given the travel restrictions.
As we operate our businesses away from the office, employees will have to be kept engaged. Enabled with technology, grave as the pandemic is, employees are empowered to work from home. Behaviours need to strengthen organizations’ culture, and it is important that the culture is based on trust, transparency and honesty. It is not easy to make things error-free, but the current scenario demands that expectations are managed well, and the foundation works on mutual loyalty.
It is not just the employees who are going through anxieties and fears, the same is happening to our customers as well. Lower productivity, logistics, and other restrictions of lockdowns can disrupt relationships and engagements. Special attention to reinforcing trust and transparency through openness and willingness to engage is imperative. And, through it all, protect your employees, they are the best ambassadors for your organisation, and employee behaviour and attitude is a very significant driver of customer satisfaction.
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”– Doug Conant