Responses to, and outcomes of, the pandemic have varied greatly around the world and not always conformed to stereotypes. This fact, and the issues that have been raised by the immense disruption to our definition of normality are certain to change working cultures across the globe. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what the world might look like when the pandemic has finally died down.

1. Decoupling

Globalisation has been the great economic movement for some years now but coronavirus might just have highlighted some of the downfalls of the world becoming a smaller place. Stand aside the speed with which the virus was able to spread, huge trust issues have also been thrust into the open as a result of previous big players like the US and China seemingly unable to handle the pandemic in the right way. From Trump denying its very existence to a strong suspicion that China has dramatically under-reported its numbers, both countries may no longer be featuring in the future plans of big business.

So, while we’ve uncovered a greater need to work as one when it comes to managing crises, the pandemic may also show us that we need to rely less on countries who aren’t trusted and transparent.

2. Quality not quantity

The issue of quality has many strands when considered in relation to the pandemic. Firstly, remote working has uncovered an unexpected increase in efficiency, even with the incredible strain on families who are home schooling. It’s not without risks, as mental health statistics are starting to show but empowering people to get the job done, whenever and however may well be a change that’s here to stay.

Quality is also under the spotlight when it comes to manufacturing and this brings us back to globalisation. Currently China is the main beneficiary of a global economy, chiefly down to the sheer volume of manufacturing it can process. However, it is not making goods to the quality required. Consider PPE: poor quality (aka cheap) face masks are a financial risk not worth taking. The future is likely to demand better brand promises focused around safety and a commitment to trust.

3. Eggs in baskets

One of the main reasons for disruption during the pandemic has been seen through supply chains. Simply getting goods from one place to another has been the critical path many times and this is likely to mean global supply chains will be questioned once the pandemic has died down.

Certainly seeding our suppliers across different countries and continents, while harder to track and control, will mitigate risk. The winners here are likely to be less well-known providers of cheap labour such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The losers? China again.

4. The age of values and conscience

Perhaps an unexpected outcome of the pandemic has been the accelerated rise of Generation Co – the conscientious, values-based, environmentally-aware demographic within society. They believe that businesses should be partnering with government and society at large to improve the world. Sustainability, empathy and planet-friendly goods and services are under the microscope and there’s a strong belief that large corporations will need to tackle these issues to be successful in the future. 

We could be heading towards a world where shareholders are no longer on the top of the pile. In fact GenCo believes that the planet itself should be our main stakeholder.

There’s another angle on conscience to consider and that’s empathy. A global study of workers conducted by Quartz and Qualtrics showed that 37% feel their company culture has improved as a result of the pandemic and a big part of that is greater recognition of employee’s mental health. Employers will need to continue to show empathy and value emotional, as well as physical, health in their people if they want to retain a strong, enthusiastic and capable workforce.