The COVID-19 pandemic has altered life for everyone, as social distancing and stay-at-home rules have changed the way we do business. Technology is playing a crucial role in keeping our society functional in a time of lockdowns and quarantines. It is helping reduce the spread of coronavirus while keeping businesses open. While much of the disruption hopefully will be temporary, some of the emerging trends will have a long-lasting impact beyond COVID-19 because they make society more agile, more productive and more resilient in the face of a pandemic and other threads.
Out of necessity, many companies have adapted to employees working from home. Remote work is enabled by technologies such as VPNs (virtual private networks), virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, cloud technology, work collaboration tools like Slack, Trello and Jira, and even facial recognition technology that enables a person to appear in front of a virtual background to preserve the privacy of the home. In fact, Microsoft reported that users of its Teams app increased from 32 million per day to 44 million per day in one week.
Remote working not only prevents the spread of viruses, but it also saves commute time and provides more flexibility to staff. Once restrictions on work are lifted industry experts believe there won’t be a return to the old way of doing things, at least not completely. For example, even after China lifted restrictions related to coronavirus, Microsoft is still seeing twice the number of new Teams users in the country every day because people are concerned about health and hygiene, and companies are realising that remote work is possible when done properly.
After more than two months, an increased number of businesses will likely embrace remote work for the long term and consider keeping some if not all of their staff working from home. This would eventually allow companies to lease smaller offices and save on expenses such as rent and other overheads. Are you considering remote work as a permanent option for your business?
With the world running remote, adoption of software to do the heavy lifting has been paramount for businesses. Automation of routine processes, scheduling and CRM systems are only part of the technologies companies are adopting to take control of their time.
Even brick-and-mortar businesses who have put off putting their products and services online have now been forced to do so if they want to keep their doors open. Using all-in-one technology to keep you focused and organised is paramount. Have you started using any new software solutions as a result of COVID-19?
Alternative no-touch payment options
The ways we pay for goods and services both online and in-store are an area of constant innovation. This is especially true for online businesses where alternative payment methods like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Square, Stripe, PayPal and even cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have all become increasingly prevalent. Now, contactless digital payments in any form are the recommended method of payment to avoid the spread of COVID-19 through cash. Are you going to leverage digital payments to gain more customers? Give them more ‘no-touch’ payment options and you’ll be more likely to earn their business.
One aspect of daily life likely to change forever is hygiene. Post-pandemic consumers will want to know that when they enter a store, an office or a restaurant, for example, they are in a clean and safe environment. They will expect hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities to be available everywhere. Businesses that gain the most trust will be those that provide the best hygienic measures and sanitation. This could entail anything from installing air purifiers to hiring a company to frequently and completely deep clean the premises and then telling their clients about it.
Expanded opportunities using chatbots
During the coronavirus pandemic, a wide variety of businesses and organisations across different industries have demonstrated the value of utilising chatbots to manage unprecedented customer enquiry volumes. Chatbots are estimated to be able to typically answer approximately four out of five routine questions that a business might receive. When people have a question, they find it easier to simply type a short message into a chat box rather than send an email or call. Moreover, that means 80% fewer questions reaching your customer support team. Have you considered integrating chatbots in your business?
Robotics and drones
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world realise how heavily we rely on human interactions to make things work, especially in labour-intensive businesses, such as retail, food manufacturing, hospitality and logistics.
Coronavirus provided a strong push to roll out the usage of robots and accelerate research in robotics. In recent weeks, robots have been used to disinfect areas, walk dogs, deliver items and food to those in quarantine.
While some jobs, especially in manufacturing, may be replaced by robots in the future, at the same time, new jobs will be created in the process. Can you think of ways your business could benefit from the use of robotics?
The importance of technological readiness
COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of technological and digital readiness to allow businesses and life to continue during pandemics. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitalised world and staying current in the latest technology will be essential for any business and country to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world.
Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be for the worse. While not all these trends will be beneficial to your business, each is worth exploring if you want to see growth both in the short and long term.