Chris's thoughts on 2020, Covid-19, and the future of work and business

23 April 2020

By Chris Márffy

Here at Lab3, as with many other businesses, 2020 has rolled through like a tidal wave. It’s forced us to adapt, quickly, or face being swamped. The COVID-19 pandemic, and associated worldwide lockdowns, have shown just how fragile our modern, interconnected world can be — but also how resistant and adaptable humans are. It’s looking likely that as the world emerges from the lockdowns and states of crisis over the next few months, that it will be a very different place from the world of only a few months ago.

The pandemic is, of course, a tragedy of human loss — hundreds of thousands if not millions of people worldwide will be very personally impacted by the spread of the disease by the time we have it under control. For all of us, even those lucky enough to escape personal experience with the disease among them and their family, there is a different sort of loss being felt. Much like a chapter of life-ending — school, university, an enjoyable holiday — this crisis causes a feeling of melancholy and uncertainty about how the way we live day to day has been suddenly changed, and what that means for the future.

Will the economy recover? Will we be able to travel in the same way again? What will international politics look like? These kinds of questions circle around, as all of us, both individuals and businesses, try and peer into a crystal ball that at the moment is very cloudy.

In my opinion, this crisis isn’t quite the game-changing, ‘things-will-never-be-the-same’ situation that many pundits are talking about. There will be change — absolutely — but the change will be more of an acceleration of changes that were already taking place than a fundamental shift.

I’m reminded of the recovery of Christchurch after the earthquakes and my experience with it during the last 7 years. In the early years, there was a lot of discussion about building a 21st-century city, and the ways in which Christchurch was going to be a city of the future. The Christchurch of today is very much a different city than it was when I first moved there, but the dreams and ideas of what the city might look like have met the realities of the environment (financially and socially) that the city actually occupies.

Ultimately, the world is shaped by our needs and desires. People will still like travelling after this is over. It will still make sense to trade internationally, and work to our country’s economic strengths. The way we do things might be modified by our experience with pandemic, but they will be shaped by the same factors. Forces that were already at play — the move to remote working, the rise of e-commerce and online business — will of course accelerate, but the world will not be an unrecognisable place.

That being said, this crisis is a big opportunity to try and make the most of the things that are changing. It was already a good idea for many businesses to have ways to work online — now there’s an excuse to do it, and to do it right.

There are a number of things we do know about the way things are changing into the future:

  • We know that work will look very different; with the number of companies that have had to start working from home, it’s clear that the ongoing trend of remote working will have been given a boost even as offices become accessible again.
  • We know that companies able to do business online will be among those most capable of surviving not only a pandemic, but the future of business. Shops that can sell online have an advantage over brick-and-mortar; a bank that allows me to do all my business online becomes a preference over having to go in-branch; Training or services via website or app will be up and running sooner than in person.
  • Internal company processes will become more and more reliant on ‘smart’ methods. Well-designed software can help businesses make their work more efficient, as well as more mobile.

The future can be extremely hard to predict and plan for; the assumptions and beliefs built up about the way the world works can change quickly. At Lab3, we think it’s important that businesses move to expand their digital offerings, to protect them against all possibilities — and we want to be part of peoples journey as they work out the way to do this. Get in touch.

Article by Chris Márffy