In the world of economic and market prognostication I have heard it said many times, “COVID changed everything.” When I hear this statement, I don’t take it to mean COVID changed everything while we are dealing with the acute phase of this virus, I take it to mean COVID changed everything, forever, and I’m not sure I agree.
When I think about pandemic work life — not necessarily work life during the Indiana lock down phase in the spring, which was clearly not intended to be permanent — but work life now that much of my daily activity has resumed a type of mostly new normal for a few months, I see a few things that are likely to have changed forever, but many more changes I think will prove to be unsustainable as the world works through this virus.
As an example, I offer virtual meetings, or as they have come to be called “zoom calls.” Zoom calls can be effective and quite efficient for organizational conversations between people with existing relationships. Meetings such as routine board meetings, existing customer service discussions and even an occasional sales meeting with the right parties.
In short, I think zoom calls are a decent tool for maintaining a status quo, but where this tool falls short, in my opinion, is when it comes to moving an agenda or organization forward to expansion and growth. Innovation, collaboration, establishing new relationships, brainstorming and perhaps most of all, unpleasant conversations are, in my opinion, not well-suited for zoom calls, and nothing competes with getting a team in a room to get something done.
When the pandemic is behind us, zoom calls are clearly not going away, but I think the tool will be relegated to an extremely specific type of communication. So, does perhaps this highest profile technological element of the COVID world change everything? I think this one is a stretch.
Which brings me to the next and most disruptive feature of the COVID world for many: work at home. There is no doubt working at home has some positive attributes, virus safety most importantly. But as the world has bifurcated between those going into work, and those working at home over the past nine months, however, I’ve begun to notice a shift. At the beginning of the pandemic all of us were in the mood for cooperation, and if a call wasn’t returned right away, or an email took an extra day to come back, a certain level of tolerance was to be offered.
As people returned to the office, however, with all the rules and the business clothes and the schedules, I observed murmurs begging about the conflicting levels of urgency between those in the office and those at home. This palatable level of annoyance on behalf of the office folk with these two divergent work cultures is only exasperated when those working in the office turn the video on for their zoom calls and the work at home crowd shows up with no video. Comments about showers, hoodies and baseball caps might generate chuckles now, but I’m willing to bet they won’t be funny forever.
Right now, safety still reigns supreme, but not all jobs or workers are suited to working at home, and I’m also willing to bet the broad based shift to working at home is likely to prove less than permanent as well.
Last week the markets cheered the announcement of an effective COVID vaccine candidate, which many believe (myself included) marks the beginning of the end of the COVID pandemic. With news of a vaccine we can see light at the end of the tunnel, and the prognosticators are already talking about the new post COVID world.
What will this post-pandemic world look like? I believe it’ll look a lot like the pre-COVID world with a few changes around the edges, and I’m investing accordingly. And for the sake of restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, pubs, cruise lines, office buildings and airlines, I sure hope I’m right.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial. Contact Marc at firstname.lastname@example.org. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.