As the world watches the Covid-19 pandemic unfold, an attempt to define a new normal has begun to emerge. With optimistic prognosis giving way to a more realistic expectation of the foreseeable future, organisations are being forced to rethink how their work can be accomplished remotely.
This is because enterprise resilience amid an outbreak like the current one demands a response that seeks to address not only the now but the next as well. While remote work has been a common practice in some organisations, the Covid-19 crisis has forced others to adopt flexible work from home options to adapt to discontinuities like this.
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Here, we examine how such an approach, if taken on a mass scale, will impact the globalisation of services:
Boost To Outsourcing & Freelancing
Many companies are beginning to realise that some — if not most — of their operations can be handled just as deftly when conducted remotely. While these examples can lead to potential restructuring in certain business processes, other critical functions cannot be easily managed at home. With lockdowns still enforced in many countries, these companies have either temporarily suspended those functions, or scaled it down.
But these band-aid approaches cannot be long-term solutions, and organisations are beginning to explore (better) alternatives to tide over this.
Outsourcing some jobs to countries that have not been severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis, or those that have successfully emerged out of it, may be an option for these companies. It also makes up for the shortage of skilled workers in a given place and enables organisations to onboard employees who can accomplish a task without the need for a lot of instructions. Furthermore, it opens up cheaper options for companies that are looking to cut costs and a way to reduce the number of unused resources in the form of benched employees.
While ease of access is a big draw with outsourcing, a big upside to this is also the level playing field it creates, since location becomes less important for professionals. It democratises work and helps facilitate quality work from people purely based on merit.
These trends will also witness many companies reacting positively to contractual-based work. This means that independent service companies will stand to gain as they can now offer their services to a much larger customer base.
Rapid Adoption Of Technologies
Large scale working from home will prompt organisations to embrace a slew of tools, including video conferencing, virtual classrooms, and more. This is because since employees will be physically apart, they need to be connected virtually. This would see large-scale adoption of relevant tools developed by many top companies and startups that enable efficient collaboration between remote teams while giving individuals the capabilities to accomplish their tasks.
It would also see internet and wireless providers experience a boost in services to deliver fast wi-fi access for professionals working from home. Although it has put huge pressure on their communications infrastructure, they have been adapting to the increased demand.
This could also reshape training activities that are seldom conducted virtually through the use of Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom. What is more, with the risk of isolation and loneliness that comes with remote working, these technological interventions can alleviate even these risks. This is important because organisations need to balance work with other creative technological approaches to maintain a sense of community and shared culture within larger teams.
With relevant tools at their disposal, companies will be leveraging these technologies to reframe the nature of some of the work and learning initiatives in their organisations. This could also give rise to new collaboration and teamwork models, all with the support of emerging technologies and companies that are providing them.
To sum it, the ‘new normal’ would accelerate the development of remote working technologies to boost collaboration between teams spread across the globe. The efficiency gains that these tools afford may even ensure that companies retain them even after the resumption of conventional work settings.
Creating Growth Opportunities For Entrepreneurs
A new world order demands improvements to existing technologies while creating room for new innovations. Since tech advancements emerge to address existing needs, new requirements borne from the new normal of remote work will give rise to new innovative disruptions.
With organisations looking for cheaper support services to adapt to new situations, entrepreneurs will find the space to offer frugal options, which will eventually either be replicated or gain widespread market traction. Thus, although most organisations did not organically transition to remote working, they need not see it as a compromise since it can create great ideas to continue business in capital-efficient ways.
Concurrently, Can The New Normal Roll-Back Globalisation Efforts?
While we have examined some of the positive impacts of remote work triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, can the same be said for all sectors? Although the extent of its potential impact is still unknown, the pandemic has certainly exposed market vulnerabilities no one knew existed.
With many companies — especially those not tailored for work from home, like manufacturing and logistics — beginning to see how vulnerable globally integrated systems could be, these sectors are likely to see a roll-back in the globalisation of services.
That is not to say that widespread adoption of online services will not open up distribution centres in more locations, but as critical supply chains break down and certain companies experience massive losses in logistical operations, it may point to a deceleration of global services and a reevaluation of the interconnected global economy, unless deeper tech interventions are introduced.
This is because globalisation has created a complex system of deep dependencies between countries and firms, making it difficult for them to respond positively to conventional globalised practices. Although there is much to gain from wider globalisation of services as indicated in the introductory paragraphs, the lesson here is that it is still a fragile network.