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7 Predictions for a Post-Coronavirus World

Remote work, automation, and telemedicine could soon become the new normal

Image: imaginima/E+/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic will be remembered as a world-reordering event. Like the Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the 2008 global financial crisis, it will accelerate social and economic changes that would otherwise have taken years to materialize.

However long it will take, we will eventually beat back this virus, and our economies will eventually recover from the punishing recession it will have brought about. But when the dust settles and the masks come off, the pandemic will have permanently reshaped our social and economic behavior. Here are a few outcomes that seem increasingly likely.

1. Companies that traffic in digital services and e-commerce will make immediate and lasting gains

Winners in this category will be cloud computing providers (for example, Amazon Web Services), remote work services like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, virtual reality companies like Oculus, streaming services like Netflix, and esports organizations like Cloud9.

Social media traffic will soar, but advertiser revenue will suffer from weak demand in a crippled economy. Coca-Cola has already pulled all social media ads; as its peers follow suit, the sharp overall decrease in ad spend will reverberate down to production companies, advertising agencies, and TV and radio stations.

In the short term, e-commerce platforms, food delivery services, and logistics companies will also be winners. When the economy does eventually improve, these gains will mostly endure thanks to entrenched shifts in consumers’ buying habits.

2. Remote work will become the default

Coupled with stricter travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines for foreigners entering certain countries, this will also put severe strain on industries reliant on business travel. It will also lead to an exodus of white-collar workers from big cities — once companies’ remote work routines have been smoothed out, their newly remote-capable employees will have the flexibility to move out of dense cities and into lower-cost areas.

3. Many jobs will be automated, and the rest will be made remote-capable

4. Telemedicine will become the new normal, signaling an explosion in med-tech innovation

The human and economic cost of the pandemic will inject Department of Defense-level spending into telemedicine, medical imaging companies, diagnostics companies, and virology research. Telehealth offerings will improve and proliferate, with better at-home testing and diagnostics products and the ubiquitous adoption of wearables that continuously monitor for symptoms. Major cities will put in place permanent pandemic surveillance systems, and many businesses and sports stadiums will perform real-time threat monitoring by screening for symptoms and temperature-checking attendees.

5. The nationwide student debt crisis will finally abate as higher education begins to move online

Universities will also face pressure to cut costs from the severely cash-strapped state governments that fund them. Many will eventually adopt hybrid models that limit face-to-face learning to project-based assignments and student working groups. These will dramatically cut costs, while allowing the best instructors to scale their insights to more students. They might also make a compelling case for broadening access to elite universities, whose small cohorts have historically been justified on the basis of physical constraints inherent to classrooms and campuses.

6. Goods and people will move less often and less freely across national and regional borders

Governments that adopted emergency powers to manage the crisis and police their borders will be loath to relinquish them when it recedes. Governments will conduct more widespread and more intrusive surveillance and claim broader authority to monitor and respond to viral threats. Checkpoints at national and regional borders will use biometric screening to detect deadly viruses in real time and impose mandatory quarantines on travelers entering from certain countries. This will create significant friction for all kinds of travel. Airlines, hospitality, and tourism will experience a severe slump in demand in and beyond the immediate aftermath of the crisis.

7. After an initial wave of isolationism, multilateral cooperation may flourish


Making you smarter about business.

Written by

Jack of all trades, master of some. B.A., B.C.L., J.D., M.Econ., LL.M. Follow me on twitter @emmarosepb

Making you smarter about business. A new publication from Medium.

Written by

Jack of all trades, master of some. B.A., B.C.L., J.D., M.Econ., LL.M. Follow me on twitter @emmarosepb

Making you smarter about business. A new publication from Medium.

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