Next month marks one year since the first person contracted the Covid-19 virus in China. Since then, everything from the way we conduct business to people’s daily routines have dramatically changed.
On the business front, the virus impacted consumer behaviour, leading to in a surge in online shopping, a shift to virtual office space, all of which are here to stay and grow stronger. American consumers spent $21.7 billion online, two weeks into the US holiday shopping season in November, 21 per cent more than a year earlier, according to Adobe Analytics. Flexible work arrangements were common but not widespread before the pandemic. The health crisis forced companies to adapt. Companies such as Shopify and Twitter are allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely even after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. In Hong Kong, HSBC is allowing employees to work as much as four days a week from home.
After a dark year that has claimed more than 1.38 million lives to date, there now appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Positive news about the efficacy of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines is making people and businesses hopeful about the future.
That said, as we look forward to life post-Coronavirus, there are essential habits picked up this year that I hope entrepreneurs hold to after the pandemic.
Adaptability. Whether we like change or not, one thing is for sure: this crisis has forced us to embrace e-commerce and working remotely. In business, adaptability is a key trait that entrepreneurs need to have. Going with the flow and accepting change helps you come up with solutions faster. It is more effective than when you resist change.
Resources availability online. Early on in the pandemic, numerous cultural institutions around the world like NYU Abu Dhabi's library and Sharjah's public libraries digitised books and resources and made them available online for free. Google Earth and Google Arts & Culture offered over 30 virtual tours of national parks around the US for free. Looking ahead, it's important to note that free access to information can help foster innovation and inspire new ventures and ideas.
Conducting events and meetings online. Video conferencing tools have made it easier for people to celebrate, have meetings, close deals and stay connected with family and work colleagues. The pivot to online has invariably meant people spent less time commuting. That saved time in between meetings, boosted efficiency, and was environmentally friendly as it cut down on carbon emissions. It also provided the opportunity for many people to attend events, seminars, and workshops from the comfort of their homes. I personally learnt so much this year because I was able to attend events and meet people from different countries without having the need to travel. I do hope that we continue to use these tools even after Covid-19. The popularity of video conferencing tools encouraged a number of people I know to start online coaching and training businesses, and helped several acquaintances become more productive at work as they focused more on their tasks instead of travelling to and from meetings and events.
Remote jobs and internships. Companies such as Paypal and Siemens have been hiring employees remotely across the world, giving them access to a larger pool of talent. There is an abundance of research on people's wellbeing and striking work-life balance. This pandemic is ostensibly a global case study that proves many jobs can be performed remotely. While meeting colleagues in person helps foster strong team connections, it is now critical to allows employees the ability to work remotely. This could help companies cut back on rent, as they move to smaller offices with shared spaces, in addition to hiring talent from across the world that cuts overhead costs.
As you reflect back on everything that happened this year, it’s important that dedicate some time to evaluate the habits that helped you develop personally and professionally, and find a way to incorporate them for the long run.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.