This Changes Everything

Right now we are simply absorbing the hits as they come. School closings. Working from home. Empty shelves at the grocery store. Empty seats in the restaurant dining rooms. Events cancelled or delayed.

All of these actions are meant to lower the curve and stop the spread of the coronavirus; pundits say they are working. Right now we are being an obedient nation, following the directions of elected and appointed officials, and paying particular attention to those in the health arena.

Yes, right now we are just concerned with the day to day. But if we can look around the corner—be it two weeks, eight weeks, six months, or more—we are going to see some permanent changes in the post-COVID era.

  • Businesses have discovered that they can, indeed, trust employees to work effectively at home. This will change many processes and services, from daycare to in-house cafeterias to transportation to in-home offices. The list could go on and on. At the very least, expect to see the idea of remote working refined and escalated.

    In fact, this is already happening in China, where office design is spreading desks out six feet apart, and new procedures are being put in place for daily cleaning.
  • Restaurants that previously were dine-in only have figured out to-go and delivery options—developing apps and systems that they had previously avoided. This may well speed up the transition we’ve already seen from served food to food that is picked up or delivered. Chicago’s famed Alinea is reportedly even selling its beef Wellington and coq au vin for takeout at only $35 per plate.

    Of course, that’s also going to bring new attention to the call for no tipping—understanding better than ever that those who rely on tips for income are among the first to be hurt when service is scaled back, and perhaps adjusting the industry pay scales to fit the new world.
  • Grocery stores, considered essential by all, are still struggling with supply chain issues, and reports of wasted food that never makes it to market are beginning to rise.

    The NY Times reports: “The widespread destruction of fresh food — at a time when many Americans are hurting financially and millions are suddenly out of work — is an especially dystopian turn of events, even by the standards of a global pandemic. It reflects the profound economic uncertainty wrought by the virus and how difficult it has been for huge sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to adjust to such a sudden change in how they must operate.”

    On a more positive note, people are trying new brands as they find their traditional favorites sold out—and are often surprised that they like store and generic brands. This alone may change brand marketing for the future.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but it points out that the world has been forced to change, and there’s no going back. The future is all about sorting out what we do from here on out.