Michael Ungar, director of the Resilience Research Center at Dalhousie University, describes how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the way that companies have been doing business.
The pandemic has served to uncover a number of structural weaknesses that existed in the business world long before the current crisis. They include a lack of adequate healthcare coverage and the resulting vulnerability of many employees. Now, however, things could be about to change.
Up to now, the healthcare sector has been reluctant to engage in virtual counseling, with an insistence on face-to-face contact. Suddenly, with lockdowns and sheltering in place, that has become impossible, and the “old stodgy” systems are being discarded, Ungar says. “We had too many lawyers telling us the way businesses should be run,” he says. “Consequently, we were running scared and weren’t flexible.” Actions taken in response to the pandemic could nudge the healthcare industry toward a more open and agile model.
Also ripe for change are traditional work schedules. Employers might no longer insist that everyone be in the office at the same time, with the goal of reducing highway and infrastructure congestion during rush hours. Employees, for their part, might have to display a similar degree of flexibility, agreeing to take on different tasks and technologies, and alternating between working at the office and at home.
Such approaches call for an individualized approach to the workforce, but Ungar believes the challenge is solvable. Production-line responsibilities are often locked into place, but the same isn’t true for most office work.
Expect also to see a “tectonic” shift in the way consumers shop, says Ungar. Many of those who hadn’t previously ordered groceries online are now sold on the option, and will continue to make use of it in the months and years ahead.
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