Predictions for work and life after COVID-19?

UPDATE – Recorded a great podcast that dives further into these predictions – Click here to listen!

Ever since we started hearing about the COVID-19 crisis conversations seem to continuously gravitate to “when will things return to normal” or “what will a given industry look like post COVID-19?”. Will life return to what is was before Coronavirus or will we instead see permanent change across all facets of our lives?

I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed some of these conversations and the depths to which some, across industries have thought about how they can reinvent their industries and come back stronger than ever.

To this end let me share a few of my own thoughts and some that have come from my network and here’s hoping we can all share what we believe can be done to reinvigorate these service industries and bring them back to life!

Gyms and Personal Training – I’m inspired by how many folks have embraced the extra time they have gained working from home to improve their physical fitness. To counteract the hours spent behind a desk (on zoom or Webex) I find I actually crave exercise more than ever and relish any opportunity to even take an “old school” phone call while walking in my neighborhood.

Traditional gyms have made good attempts to increase the cleaning and spacing protocols so that they can re-open and respect social distancing guidelines. That being said, these changes have often come with the need to signup for a gym slot or even a specific piece of equipment. In addition, to maintain space many classes (like yoga and spinning) have reduced class sizes making successful registration, at times, a challenge.

The good news here is that the demand in-home gyms and outdoor exercise coupled with video based personal training have accelerated. As an avid Peloton user I appreciate the sense of community, large catalogue and simple experience that I get from the bike and also wouldn’t hesitate to engage with a personal trainer via video if they were able to prove experience in that medium. In fact, just this week Lululemon purchased home fitness startup Mirror to enter the digital “at home” fitness market.

Restaurants

The Restaurant industry has felt many of the current changes significantly deeper than many other industries. In managing through this, restaurants now really have a fundamental choice ahead of them in deciding where and how they want to position themselves. They must commit to one of these models, in order to satisfy service guidelines and maximize their earnings. Specifically –

The fast food industry has already largely pivoted to drive through, order ahead and limited seating on-site.

Some casual and regional restaurants will choose to rely on the strength of their menu and their differentiated flavors to cater to their loyal customer base. Many of these shops may choose to focus on cooking serving and delivering their food via pickup and delivery and forgo on-site altogether. This would allow them to reclaim space for packing and preparing meals.

Others may choose to differentiate themselves by creating a new and exciting experience for the diner. These experiences will offer a lot more space but they will need to be extremely exclusive and extremely differentiated in order to justify a much higher price tag. It’s inspiring to think about what a “night out “could really look like if the restaurant spent the time to think about everything they could do to “wow” the diners. Nick Kokonas, famous restaurateur explained his key pivots during the crisis very well in this Tim Ferris podcast.

Hotels, Resorts and AirBnB

When we think about our traditional hotel experiences, we can expect much of this to change given not only social guidelines but what will actually work in this new world.

Similar to gyms, hotels will become a lot more scheduled (pools, meals, gyms, food service) to be able to allow their patrons to enjoy the facilities. This will cause some short term stress for travelers. In addition there will be some significant logistical challenges to sell for such as elevators and travel through common areas.

Large resorts will feel more pain here in the short term than smaller resorts based on the sheer number of visitors. However those that manage through this transition effectively, will likely build a new level of loyalty with her travelers beyond what has existed before.

Many travelers may show an affinity to individual properties, host on Airbnb, thinking that these properties will be easier to navigate and manage than those with shared elevators and shared common areas.

On the Airbnb front, hosts that show focus and attention to cleaning and proper sanitation, will earn the right to a significant loyalty and even price premium versus those that choose to operate as per normal.

Work from Home

I think what we all have gleaned from this crisis, is that work from home can work. And can present a better balance between work and life especially for those of us who traditionally would have spent much of our time on the road away from our families. We have also learned, that we need to modify the way we have worked in order to maximize our productivity working from home. Specifically, being a lot more diligent in scheduling our days, being selective in what we choose to tackle in a given day, and finding ways to inspire our teams and our people without being in the same room as them.

We have more than ample technology and tools to help us bridge to this new world, we now need to build our new processes and new ways in which we manage relationships with others that take advantage of these tools, rather than trying to force our old habits into new models.

Airline Travel

I’ve saved the trickiest industry for last. Airlines, give them their confined space and operating model, do present significant challenges that need to be solved for.

To date, I’ve seen most airlines making great efforts to ensure that their planes are clean and that their staff are protected, but there is only so far they can go while still balancing between affordable fairs and the absolute safety of their patrons.

For this reason, I still believe that there will be a large onus of responsibility placed on the traveler to ensure not just their own safety but do their part to maintain the relative safety of those around them.

That being said, there really are no alternatives to an airplane for traveling far distances and to far away places. I do believe the people will still value the opportunity to see far away places not just a visit family but to gain new insight and experiences. Folks craving these experiences, will make it work and build a bridge for others to follow behind them.

With respect to business travel, of course there will continue to be many instances where travel is a necessity, but I would hope, given the success and flexibility we have now all seen from work from home, we can be a lot more selective and objective in choosing when travel is necessary and when remote attendance is sufficient.

Once again, the opportunity for the airlines here is to build a new level of loyalty, based on a focus on safety and experience, that exceeds what has been delivered in the past.

The common thread and all of these industry narratives, does that change brings opportunity, and those that sees that opportunity, will be rewarded with growth and loyalty that otherwise could have taken decades to achieve. I’m personally excited to see and watch what happens and who the winners are over the next few years!

NOTE – Although this article casts a positive viewpoint on the opportunities that lie ahead in no is intended to take anything away from the personal and social pains and pressures that it has had for all of us around the world. We are all in this together, figuring out how to find our “new normal” and keep those around us safe.

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