In response to the Coronavirus, corporations, educational institutions, and governments have taken dramatic steps to control the trajectory of the contagion. It now seems unlikely that the virus can be contained so the objective is to spread out its impact over time in order to reduce the stress on the world’s healthcare system. Among others, these steps include:
• Asking employees to work from home
• Banning most business travel
• Shutting down educational institutions for periods of several weeks to as much as the remainder of the current semester
• Banning large gatherings
• Canceling sports events, conventions, concerts, and so on
• Quarantining certain areas
Hopefully these steps will prove effective in controlling the virus, and while there will certainly be significant economic impact, we can all hope that the effects taper off after a relatively short period. At that point, it may well be that life returns to the status quo ante. But, it is worth stepping back and thinking about whether this may represent a pivotal point that results in significant changes in the ways that we all live and work. Obviously, we don’t know the answers to the following questions but they are fascinating and worthy of your consideration:
• Having asked employees to work from home, will companies find that this is an effective model thereby reducing their need for bricks and mortar? If so, how does that impact restaurants and other businesses that serve them?
• Similarly, will they determine that they can live with considerably less business travel and instead rely on video conferencing and other technologies?
• Will educational institutions make a permanent shift toward on-line learning?
• Will global supply chains be impacted? What will that mean for the availability and cost of goods for American consumers?
• Will individuals increasingly shift to on-line forms of entertainment as opposed to live events?
• Will consumers accelerate the portion of their shopping that is conducted on-line?
• Millennials have gravitated toward dense urban areas. Will they shift their focus toward the suburbs?
There are obviously dozens of other questions that we haven’t thought of, but these are enough to give your brain a good workout.