The benefits of Covid-19

Some changes to lifestyles, business operations could have long-term rewards

Covid-19 is a monumental disaster, yielding untimely deaths and untold misery for millions around the world. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But trying to look on the bright side, it may have permanently changed our lifestyles and business operations in ways we’ve resisted, and some of these could be quite beneficial.

For instance, many managers have been leery to allow employees to work from home. The crisis forced the issue, and many are realizing that employees in some jobs can be more productive that way.  Few things are more satisfying than avoiding a long commute. They begin work without any opportunity to develop road rage and often invest some of their former commuting time on the job.

In functions where working off-site is practical, another benefit is the reduction of necessary office space. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be good for the commercial real estate market, but it could substantially reduce a company’s overhead burden.  In many cases, it’s not all or nothing.  Some combination of on-site activity may still be required, yet the right mixture of the two can yield improved business results with almost no investment.

Have you noticed the lack of traffic during the crisis? Even commuting into Boston suddenly became reasonable.  If working from home takes off, it could be a tremendous way to solve our dire congestion problems. And of course, air pollution has dropped substantially as well.

Fuel prices continue to decline, as there’s a tremendous oil glut.  No doubt, the oil industry isn’t happy, but there are numerous benefits if we can learn to travel less.  Our cars will last longer, and our weekly costs will drop.  Don’t worry, the oil industry will learn to adjust to the new reality.  Real competition for the first time in decades could encourage efficiencies from which we’ll all benefit.

The airlines have seen their passengers evaporate. I hope some senior airline executives can search their distant memories for how it used to be back in the good old days when they actually tried to treat passengers like real people.

If they’d like to rebuild their markets, they might consider really cleaning their planes. Take a bunch of seats out, so passengers can actually have something called leg room. Remember, if you pack them like sardines, the sardines don’t willingly get in the can, and they would never pay for the “privilege.”  And yes, get rid of those ridiculous fees for everything from changing a flight to getting on with a little bit of luggage.

Schools were closed and teachers scrambled to convert their classes to online learning. Snow days will never be the same. Kids can safely stay home and continue learning without missing a beat. Unfortunately, they’re not all participating. I heard of one teacher who only has four of her 26 students engaged.  That’s not what we want to hear, so hopefully, she’ll be able to get most, if not all, of them into the game.

I know it’s not the same as being on campus, but look at how much cheaper online learning is. Room and board is no trivial expense. If you can dispense with the freedom of living away from home, you could actually graduate without a student loan almost tantamount to the mortgage on a house you don’t have.

Even before the virus, many colleges and universities were struggling to justify their existence. What happens when students graduate with a hallowed degree, but can’t get a job? It’s really tough to pay off those loans while working
in retail or flipping burgers. If your parents have deep pockets, not to worry. If not, online learning is something to consider.

At this point, we can’t wait for the crisis to end to become productive again.  Throughout history, the organizations that survive and even thrive are those most able to adapt to changing realities, and like it or not, these realities are likely to be with us for a while.

It may not be easy, but finding ways to capitalize on them may be just what your business needs to thrive again.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Salem, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque3@gmail.com.

Categories: Business Advice

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