The Covid-19 crisis is the biggest challenge since the 1918 Spanish Flu that people from around the world are facing. We have never felt so accountable for simple actions such as leaving our homes or shaking someone’s hand as we do now. We have been put to a defining test that will have reverberations for years to come. The actions we take today, will shape businesses and the lives of people in the future.
For years, different business writers, and entrepreneurs have been advocating working from home. The flexible hour option was put forward as an option to be adopted by many organisations in the advent of the digital age not only to save time, but to help their team members lead better lives.
The trend for the past decade has pointed to the growth of people that freelance and an uptick in the gig economy. There are now 57 million American freelancers, 4 million more since 2014, who contribute almost about $1 trillion (Dh3.67tn) to the world's largest economy, according to a study by Freelancers Union and Upwork.
In the face of a fast accelerating virus global giants such as Apple, Google, Tecent, had to shift gears move towards working from home.
A number of business acquaintances have realised an increase of productivity due to less office distractions and less time spent on commuting. Some questioned why the option to work remotely wasn’t available before, now that it’s evident such a flexible arrangement is viable, in large part thanks to the advancement of technology.
One thing for sure is that the business world will never be the same again.
Working remotely will become an option provided to employees in the long run. It might be rolled out as a number of days per month that allows an employee to work from home, or it could be a long-term option, where certain jobs might be handled by others working remotely. Now that both employees and managers have tried and tested the effectiveness of remote working, it will be an undisputable option of the future.
In such difficult times we’ve come to realise how much of a blessing technology is. Had this crisis occurred in the nineties, we would not be enjoying delivery services thanks to apps. Retailers who had not jumped on the online shopping wagon before found had no choice but to offer delivery to save their profit margins.
Last week Amazon said they would hire 100,000 drivers due to the rising demands for online shopping and would invest $350 million globally to increase pay per hour.
In the US, grocery chain Stop & Shop, saw its online shopping numbers surge 33 per cent during the first week of March versus the same period a year ago.
In the UAE e-commerce transactions in the UAE are forecast to annually increase by 23 per cent between 2018 and 2022, according to a white paper by the Dubai Economy and Visa. UAE residents are among the top 10 nations in the world when it comes to spending time online every day, averaging seven hours and 54 minutes, according to the survey.
Last but not least, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed how events are held and organised. Seminars, art galleries, and museums offer virtual viewing experiences. Online streaming service, Netflix, now offers users the ability to watch a movie with a number of friends at the same time and chat together, an alternative to going to the theatre.
This pandemic will come to an end, but it has altered the way we do business. For managers, this juncture serves as an important case study on how to adapt a business and workforce in the future.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi