Will the Business Landscape Return to Normal After COVID-19?

The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a deep impact on the economy and organizations around the world, but will the business climate return to normal after the outbreak has subsided?

According to many experts, the answer is no. 

There are several reasons why this is, which we will explore in this article. 

Once we examine a few perspectives on the concept of the “new normal,” we’ll examine several reasons why it is unlikely that the business landscape – or the world – will completely return to normal.

Two Perspectives on the Post-COVID Era

Some industry leaders predict that the post-viral era will be significantly different from the past decade. 

According to McKinsey, for instance: 

“In this unprecedented new reality, we will witness a dramatic restructuring of the economic and social order in which business and society have traditionally operated. And in the near future, we will see the beginning of discussion and debate about what the next normal could entail and how sharply its contours will diverge from those that previously shaped our lives.”

Others feel that the post-COVID age will not be as different as we might think.

According to Nicholas Evans, via CIO.com:

“…in terms of business models, the new normal going forwards may be a lot more like the old normal than we think. That’s not to say there won’t be accelerated innovation and plenty of new business models, products and services appearing, but most businesses will likely be able to operate as usual with a few strategic pivots and changes to their standard processes as well as essential safeguards.”

In addition to these two viewpoints, there are countless others that span the spectrum. 

Only time will tell exactly how the post-COVID era turns out, but organizations should by no means just “wait and see” what happens – there is simply too much at stake. 

Perhaps the best solution is to plan for several future scenarios, which can offer organizations the flexibility they need to maintain business continuity during multiple scenarios.

If the business climate actually does return to normal, then little needs to change. Organizations can simply follow their pre-existing strategic aims once the outbreak has been controlled.

However, as Andy Grove aptly put it in the title of his bestseller, “Only the paranoid survive.”

For that reason, we should seriously investigate the claims that business conditions won’t return to normal – then decide how to handle such a scenario.

Why Leading Researchers Claim the World Won’t Return to Normal

McKinsey, Gartner, the World Economic Forum, and many others are making the claim that the post-COVID era will become a new normal.

Though the extent of the predicted changes vary from source to source, there is solid evidence to back up these claims.

Here are a few examples:

  • The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has already accelerated digital transformation and technological advancement in a number of fields. The use of robots, delivering remote medical treatment, and remote working are just a few examples of the trends that have exploded since the beginning of 2020. Like any other advancing business trend, they will not stop advancing and they will almost certainly become more prominent in the near future. 
  • The economic impact of the outbreak has resulted in many changes that are irreversible and will permanently alter the competitive landscape. Travel, tourism, and hospitality have all taken major hits during this crisis. Though many companies will be able to recuperate, many others will not. Changes such as these will have a lasting effect on the shape of these industries in the years to come.
  • The impact of the outbreak has spurred a renewed concern for public health at every level of society, from individuals to governments. Unfortunately, the current outbreak was not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Many have pointed out that this outbreak demonstrated how unprepared many governments were for a crisis of this type and magnitude. Staying prepared for such outbreaks, therefore, will become a major concern for many people and public health institutions around the world.

The changes we are witnessing today are having a deep impact on our daily lives, and though many feel that these shifts are only temporary, many of the observations listed here are undeniable.

For instance, the economic changes that have occurred simply cannot be reversed and these will undoubtedly have a long-term effect on the business landscape. 

Also, the rapid and widespread dissemination of certain digital transformation trends, such as remote working and the use of robots in public spaces, have set precedents. Some suggest that trends such as these will retract completely, but, when viewed in context with the other changes here, it is highly likely that they too will leave a lasting impact.

To learn more about how to plan for these changes, it would be useful to explore the concept of the new normal and the next normal in more detail – articles on these topics can be found on our change management blog.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.