Businesses are being warned there will be no ‘back to normal’ following the COVID-19 pandemic and the idea of simply ‘bouncing back’ isn’t feasible.
Lex Drennan is an adjunct research fellow at Griffith University’s Policy Innovation Hub and an industry leader in the fields of crisis and disaster management.
“Bouncing back is not enough,” Drennan said.
“It might get you to where you were beforehand, but it’s not going to keep you safe in the future, and it’s not going to give you strategies that will help you actually become profitable again.”
Part of her reasoning is a belief that the pandemic will be a rolling brief and not just a temporary blip.
“I suspect over the next 18 months, this is not the last time we’re going to go into some form of lockdown.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the case that in three or four weeks’ time, we just go back to normal. So this is not a short-term interruption, (it’s) an epic interruption to life.
“It’s entirely probable that particularly if we let off the gas off the restrictions too soon, that there’s going to be a second wave and third wave and fourth wave flare-ups.”
Drennan says despite the current pain, businesses must start strategizing around a new normal.
“Particularly those businesses that have shut down, (they) have a once-in-a-lifetime, unfortunate luxury of being able to just talk to anyone and everyone,” she explained.
“Their world is changing, their business world is changing.
“Reach out to your loyal customers, your suppliers, your vendors, those sorts of things, start having these conversations now around how it is going to change everything when you reopen, and start rethinking about how you want the business to work.
“How do you position it to take advantage of the opportunities that arise? What are the weaknesses in your supply chain? Start making that sort of planning now, because once it goes back to business, relatively speaking, as usual, it’s going to be, you know, greenlight and go.
“Now is the sole opportunity to sit down and actually really rethink what your business is about, and what you want to do with it.”
Drennan says COVID-19 will bring with it enormous behavior change, another reason businesses which were successful before the pandemic, may not be sustainable after.
“This is a catastrophic impact on not just one society but global society. That thing continues over an extended period of time. It changes how people think.
“A classic example of this is the Brisbane drought and we were in a drought for the better part of seven years.
“When you put people through really intense pressure, and force behavior change on them, that lasts for an extended period of time, that behavior change becomes a permanent way of thinking.”
Drennan lived through the drought as a local, but led the Drought taskforce at Brisbane City Council during this time.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life saving water because the impact and the duration were so deep and for long enough that it permanently changed how I see the world.
“That’s what’s going to happen with this pandemic because we’re all going to be hanging on tenterhooks until we get this vaccine in 12 to 18 months’ time.
“That’s a long time to live with the threat of ending the reality of people getting very sick and dying in numbers that far outstrip what constitutes normal.
“It can’t help but change the way people think and interact with each other.”