How business is changing for a post-pandemic world
Americans for the most part are shaking off the effect of COVID-19-related doldrums and government-ordered restrictions – and after taxiing around the economic airport for more than a year, the U.S. economy is taking off toward recovery.
In some cases, businesses weren’t at the gate when boarding for reopening the economy took place – because it came earlier than expected – and now they’re in a mad dash, along with many others, to fashion a plan to get their business into the thick of things.
What follows are several issues about which businesses should be thinking in what is a pretty much post-COVID environment. Whether you do or don’t, you can be reasonably sure your competitors are thinking about them.
“As COVID-19 wanes, employers are accelerating the use of robots,” said a May 4, 2021, Los Angeles Times headline. Many employers, after the nightmare of worrying about employees they had to let go or furlough, are now worrying about how they’re going to find enough good employees to staff their businesses. Automation is being examined by an increasing percentage of companies as a means of reducing dependence on human beings.
One factor is the need for consistency in product cost, production, and distribution. Another is that the more people, the more potential for disturbance in the economic force. Robots, kiosks and electronic self-service systems don’t require paychecks, health care, 401(k) plans, vacations, or other fringe benefits, all of which are among the highest costs for businesses.
A few years ago President Barack Obama was criticized about not caring about bank employees because he mentioned that they were being replaced by ATMs. Obama wasn’t showing a lack of compassion: He stated a fact. The fact is that COVID-19 is causing businesses to consider how many people they need, for how long they’ll need them – or how they can be replaced.
Zoom and other internet-based meeting sites filled a niche, enabling employees working remotely to meet and conference. There’s a personal element that videoconferencing can’t replace; however, there is no disputing the cost differential, and the cost is a bottom-line consideration.
Business travel bye-bye
Bill Gates said last December that perhaps 50% of business travel was gone for good, but that’s just his guess. There were predictions after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that air travel would never fully return, but it did. Nevertheless, though it’s bad news for some sectors of the economy (hotels, travel booking agencies and sites, restaurants, to name three) there’s a financial incentive for companies to find ways to reduce business travel.
The contact-free world
Businesses should consider the costs and advantages to continuing, at least partially, the contact-free desires of a percentage of their customer base. The pandemic made “contact-free” a desirable – or demanded – service. COVID-19 is diminished, but not gone. And many people who’ve grown secure in maintaining personal separation won’t be quickly lured back to rubbing shoulders with fellow consumers.
Exploring new staffing and safety methods
Data show that a significant number of employees prefer working from home. Many businesses have reduced their staffing. Fewer employees or remote working is a savings, but there’s a potential cost to that savings: Increased demands on remaining employees, a loss of corporate culture and identity, weakened co-worker relationships – and, possibly, loyalty – can accompany such employee conversions.
There’s a tangible and intangible cost and benefit to each item on this list. They are issues business owners can discuss with managers, accountants and business consultants. Doing so may help your business to fly higher, faster, toward your business goals – and not be on the ground as your competitors reach cruising altitude.
Jimmy Rodefer is CEO of Rodefer Moss & Co., headquartered in Knoxville, and with offices in Tennessee and Virginia. Contact him at www.rodefermoss.com/Knoxville.