Perspectives on COVID-19 Long Term Impact

Like many of you, I am spending quite a bit of time reading, listening to interviews and podcasts, learning as much as I can about what the experts are saying about the post COVID-19 world. 

In an interview yesterday morning on CBS Face the Nation, Eric Schmidt, former Google Chairman and CEO, said that the past two months has brought forth 10 years of forward change. I found his perspectives interesting and worthy of further discussion. Schmidt shared that the crisis has made the internet a necessity if one is going to be part of society—employment, education, consumerism, health care—all driven by access to the internet. He delved into the concept of telehealth, citing that 80 percent of medical appointments are now occurring via telehealth; that it is much easier for users and has been something people have been advocating for, only going into the doctor when absolutely necessary. Is this the future of health care? 

He also discussed the potential need for employers to be much more flexible about the concept of where employees work, possibly considering more space if employees are going to come to the office and practice social distancing, implementing a hub and spoke system to minimize commuter travel, and of course carefully evaluating who really needs to come to the office. He emphasized that the crisis has uncovered the weaknesses in the technological infrastructure in rural parts of America as well as some city and state governments—stating that increased access to broadband and upgraded hardware must be part of the post COVID-19 environment. 

Forbes also took an interesting approach to their examination of the future in an article by Tracy Brower predicting how COVID-19 will change the future of work. Some of the things that rang true in the article for me include:

Employers will maintain the expanded support they provide employees. Many employers have added to employee support systems as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and I agree that it is likely this new programming will be maintained, including support for employee mental health and overall wellness. We have all learned in profound ways the importance of employee engagement, and this knowledge should drive our approach to employee communication.

Leadership will improve. In the toughest times, the leaders who excel are those who communicate clearly, stay calm and strong, demonstrate empathy, think long-term and take appropriate decisive action. These are the leaders who leverage the crisis as an opportunity to improve systems and service delivery.

Company culture will become a focus. Like leadership, company culture is paramount to an organization’s success. Brower suggests that is it very likely companies will increasingly acknowledge the importance of culture as context for performance and employee engagement.

Work will become more flexible. Many companies have been resistant to letting employees work from home, but as Brower states, “this unexpected global work-from-home experiment has forced companies to accept it as a legitimate option.” Many of us have increased our technology infrastructure and software options to facilitate remote work. “Teams are figuring out how to collaborate at a distance and leaders are improving their ability to manage based on outcomes and objectives rather than presence, leveraging a growing comfort with technology,” says Brower.

Innovation will flourish. As I have shared in previous blogs, innovation often stems from crisis. We are forced to imagine new solutions, new ways of seeing problems. “Companies will learn from the requirement for greater innovation and create the conditions for expanded levels of creativity, exploration and problem solving,” indicated Brower.

I suspect a bit of all of the above will be true. We will adapt, we will learn, we will evolve and eventually, most companies will come out the other side stronger.