The silver lining to COVID-19

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Coronavirus has changed the face of everything we took for granted. Events that we attended just a week ago, ones like International Women's Day, would not be possible today. It simply would not be safe to do so. Every major sporting code, event, industry and business has been or will be affected by the deadly virus in the coming weeks. The events industry particularly is suffering while major sporting franchises cancel the unimaginable. Who would have thought there'd be no Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last weekend or that our NRL season could be in jeopardy?

New government directives and restrictions are being issued daily with many of Australia's biggest businesses calling for staff to work from home where and when they can. Face to face contact is to be limited with social isolation the new norm. While a daunting prospect for many, especially those who enjoy the social aspect of work, it's also a chance to reassess how we do business.

Perhaps this is the shift we needed to have? It's no secret businesses have been under increasing pressure to do more with less. To be forced into thinking about our operating processes differently; to be creative with our solutions; to innovate out of necessity may herald an exciting new frontier for Australian businesses.

It might just be the shot in the arm we need right now.

After all, there are cost efficiencies in not having to rent large premises; costs related to heating, air conditioning and other facilities are reduced or no longer needed. There's other long term, non-financial benefits to also consider. Businesses will now have the latitude to employ staff in different contractual capacities. Short term contracts that fulfil specific job functions or projects or meet a specific agenda will save businesses the cost of full-time staff. Contractors, by the very nature of their employment, are only as good as their last project so strive to deliver tangible results. Flexible work conditions will mean teams need to work smarter and more efficiently; it reduces absenteeism while increasing engagement and retention – all cost saving outcomes.

The products and services we offer may also undergo fundamental change. There'll be new consumer needs and preferences that will come from this coronavirus crisis. No matter what though, the customer experience will continue to drive competitive advantage. The 3Ps of service delivery – people, physical environment and processes will be more important than ever. Our consumers will expect as a bare minimum personalization, connectivity and innovation, and as businesses, we will find new ways to meet their needs.

While the World Health Organisation has declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic, with the virus expected to infect 60 per cent of all Australians by May, the World Economic Forum provides the upside to this situation we currently find ourselves in. In a forecast of employment trends last year, the World Economic Forum labels working remotely from home as "one of the biggest drivers of transformation" in the modern workplace.

As an organisation, we need to embrace change, whatever that may be, and find the silver lining in every challenge. Who knows, maybe it's just the innovative thinking we've needed.

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