Australia to permanently change post-COVID-19

The world will be a different place as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, with Australians’ work, life and travel permanently changed by the pandemic.

According to our new report, Our New Reality: Predictions after COVID-19, we will see a previously unimaginable boost to the simultaneous transformation of industries and society.

The onset of COVID-19 has exposed existing weak links across industries, government and in our economy. The urgency and importance of addressing these weak links has radically shifted and many decisions and discussions have been brought forward.

We see four stages on the path to recovery:

  • Reaction: professional and personal lives are disrupted as the primary focus is on limiting damage to lives and livelihoods.
  • Resilience: controls loosen as virus spread is contained and/or a vaccination or cure is available.
  • Recovery: hiring, investment and consumer sentiment cautiously improve.
  • New Reality: enduring shifts remain as new behaviours born out of the crisis become the “new normal.”

For most of us we are still living in stage one, navigating our way through working from home while wrangling home schooling, missing social interaction with friends and family and for many pending or real unemployment keeping us awake at night. We are hyper-vigilant and unexpectedly tired.

Just as we are challenged so is our basic social contract, with new societal norms emerging.

One reality for all working people is the 9-5 routine of the office has turned upside down and remote working is an everyday experience. No longer the commute between the office and home, rather the amble between couch, kitchen, courtyard or home office.

With more people working from home, demand for large infrastructure projects won’t uniformly return to pre-COVID levels. How will cities adapt to this new world? Will the shifts towards remote working be a catalyst to reduce emissions – balanced with increased energy demand in residential settings?

Work will be measured by outcome rather than input, with a more flexible approach as leaders understand and work with the personal circumstances of their employees?

With so many people working remotely and entertainment being centred on the home, our reliance on connectivity has skyrocketed. We predict this will accelerate demand for the rollout of 5G networks to boost speed and reliability across Australia, making remote work easier and more viable. The mass adoption of video conferencing and collaboration apps will also grow the need for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies, expanding their current niche use cases.

Our predictions fall into eight key themes:

  1. Ways of working will change permanently: people will increasingly work remotely, as corporate real estate is repurposed or reduced. This will see people choosing choose larger residential properties with space for work and home offices, rather than smaller inner-city dwellings.
  2. Australia’s workforce will automate and relocate: this will be the “robot century” and the rise of the gig worker, as economic conditions spur greater focus on productivity, workforce automation and remote working, with a much more flexible approach.
  3. Digital commerce will accelerate in all sectors: the crisis has accelerated the growth of remote delivery, from education to telehealth and fitness, with red tape that previously stifled progress and innovation now cut.
  4. Supply chains will get much smarter: sustained home delivery demand will require significant investment in logistics and delivery infrastructure, with supply chains becoming local, agile and smart.
  5. Building business continuity and resilience becomes a core competency: cash/liquidity has become critical for survival and organisations will have a sharper focus on how best to balance what they can control with the things they can’t.
  6. Climate change will attract more capital investment: as we realise opportunities from new regulation and new technology organisations who lead in ESG will perform better than those who don’t when it comes to attracting investment.
  7. Impacts of debt burden to drive new regulation: with current financial security heavily tied to a fast-shrinking concept of permanent, lifelong employment, there is unprecedented government spending at federal and state levels, from stimulus packages to healthcare responses, welfare support, with Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the spotlight and capital management to come to the fore.
  8. Revisiting globalisation as citizens and governments go local: governments will prioritise national needs over the global outlook as new barriers slow the free movement of goods, labour and capital, with travel permanently reduced and increasingly local.

One thing is certain. The world will be a very different place.

I encourage you to read the full report: Our New Reality: Predictions after COVID-19

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