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After about two months in lockdown, the world of business looks completely different from anything we’ve ever seen. According to multiple sources including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNBC, The United States’ unemployment rate has spiked to a rate comparable to the Great Depression in the 1930s, with over three million workers furloughed or laid off.
With the drastic change in the economy, many industries across the U.S. are bracing for what might be the new normal and are thinking of new strategies to get up and running once the time comes.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, healthcare professionals and providers have taken their practices digital with virtual appointments via video conferences and over the phone for non-COVID-19 related symptoms and checkups.
As the amount of daily cases slowly begins to decrease, many practices are beginning to revert back to in-person visits under the guidelines and restrictions set forth by the state. Although patients will be allowed back into doctors’ offices in the near future, there will still be restrictions on the number of people and face covering requirements to prevent more spread in waiting rooms.
The bigger picture is the virus’s impact on healthcare consumerism. According to Managed Healthcare Executive, more families stricken by unemployment are faced with the challenge of paying for healthcare out of pocket. Without a way to make a steady income, this puts a huge burden on those struggling to get their hours in for the week to afford medication and medical necessities.
Along with the spike in unemployment numbers, the amount of people now uninsured has also increased, leaving those who have gotten benefits in the past stuck with a huge decision on how to approach their healthcare needs and what sacrifices they need to make.
While many other industries in the U.S. have had to make drastic changes in their daily operations, insurance companies have not faced the full wrath of COVID-19. According to the Insurance Journal, the surplus lines insurance industry is obligated to keep up with their insureds’ COVID-19 claims. These claims are still being reviewed on a case-by-case basis depending on state regulations and guidelines.
According to The Washington Post, as of April 13, over 17 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment benefits and will soon lose their health insurance as well.
PwC predicts that with the lower interest rates in the country, the industry will continue to feel margin pressure and have to resort to going back to the drawing board and reworking their operation strategies.
It also predicts that insurance claims are most likely to rise, especially for those that provide travel, short-term disability, and business interruption coverage. PwC recommends companies faced with the outpour of claims to consider the worst-case scenario and discuss options that will protect both the company, employees, and consumers without putting their financial stability and reputation at risk.
According to Insider, after travel restrictions hit the world in response to COVID-19, passenger volume has drastically decreased by about 90% in comparison to reports from this time last year. As a result of the loss of airfare, airlines were given $60 billion in financial assistance from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Although there are still many restrictions in place, airlines have begun exploring ways to get back in business and they are starting with safety regulations. It was announced the last week of April that all Jet Blue passengers, attendants, and pilots are required to wear face coverings on all flights leaving and coming into the U.S. Other airlines such as United, American, and Delta have not officially required all passengers to wear masks yet but have required all flight attendants to do so. According to CNN, United will begin providing masks to passengers beginning in May, but they will not be required to wear them. Along with face coverings, airlines have also reduced the capacity of their flights to fit in with social distancing guidelines.
While airlines are starting to get back into operating, CNN reports a slow recovery to get back to business as usual. Fares are being raised and jobs will continue to be cut to keep up with the cost of maintenance and operation.
The real test for airlines to return to normalcy will be dependent on the passengers. Passengers need to be reassured that their safety is the utmost priority. According to Bloomberg, airports are taking measures to prevent the spread, in a way that parallels safety measures implemented after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. Examples include conducting temperature checks and some airports temporarily limiting their operations to essential travel only.
After this crisis is over, Bloomberg predicts that travel will be in high demand to visit friends and family and after a spike in airfare, airlines may need to rework their strategies to accommodate travelers’ needs.
The manufacturing industry is one of the most essential businesses needed during this crisis. It has become so important that the government has reinstated wartime operations in order to get the proper equipment and materials needed to combat the virus spread in hospitals. President Trump has ordered manufacturers such as General Motors to being producing ventilators to be distributed to hospitals around the country.
Along with the rapid production of equipment, many clothing companies and fashion brands have started making masks for hospital employees including those behind the shoe company, Bass. The creation and selling of masks have also come to websites like Etsy with over 100 sellers now advertising masks on their pages.
According to Industry Weekly, between 40-50% of the manufacturing workforce has not been allowed to work due to the social distancing guidelines. While some employees have been allowed to work remotely, a majority of the workforce has not been able to work without access to essential materials and equipment needed for production.
Just like many other industries affected by COVID-19, the future of manufacturing is very uncertain right now. Many factories have started to revive the use of machines to accommodate the work of employees unable to work. The downside of this is that with the work being done by machines, it will reduce the need for more employees.
Industry Weekly also predicts the rise of remote work to become a part of the new “normal.” As the economy begins to recover from the virus, this will continue to be one of the best work strategies for anyone who’s work can be done outside of the factory or office.
According to Consultantcy.org, the sales of SUVs in Europe dropped by more than 50% and 40% in the U.S. Along with a drop in sales, many automakers including GM, have halted vehicle production to create ventilators. As a result of COVID-19, Forbes predicts that the production of vehicles will be light after a 21% drop from last year. However, they do predict that as the crisis begins to subside, production will start to return to normal by 2021 and recover fully by 2023.
Along with the sale of motor vehicles, the use of rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft has also decreased due to social distancing guidelines. With a majority of the workforce no longer commuting to the office, the demand for ridesharing has temporarily halted. Not only has this negatively impacted the companies themselves, but also the drivers who depend on their daily rides to pay the bills and sustain themselves. The drivers are also not provided health insurance by the companies. For those who still try to accommodate essential travel, both the drivers and passengers are putting themselves at high risk for contracting COVID-19 because of a lack of cleaning in between customers.
As a result of the decrease in automotive sales and production, Forbes sees an opportunity with bike-sharing in areas like New York City and Washington D.C. With safety precautions like requiring riders to disinfect bikes before use, companies like Citi Bike and Bird have potential growth, especially with the spring and summer seasons approaching.
Restaurant and Grocery
Local and chain restaurants around the country have been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and have been forced to limit their operations and capacity to fit social distancing guidelines. One of these strategies is limiting business to take-out or delivery options only. Many believed that this option would hurt local restaurants, but those that offer contactless delivery and curbside pickup are beginning to thrive. It has also exploded the popularity of mobile delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash. While this method still allows for restaurants to keep running, many individuals have expressed concern over not being aware of who their food has been in contact with.
Popularity has also soared in the grocery delivery industry, with supermarkets like Kroger, Meijer, Shoprite and Costco, partnering with companies like Boxed, Instacart and Shipt to deliver groceries right to your front door. One of the downsides to this increase in popularity is that delivery timeslots are taken up very quickly, forcing customers to have to plan for deliveries ahead of time to ensure that they have what they need. Supermarkets have also reduced the capacity of their stores to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The future of the restaurant business is already seeing reduced capacity for dine-in options in states like Georgia, and an increase in disinfecting and safety precautions when handling and serving food and cleaning tables for customers.
While economically, restaurants and supermarkets are still staying in business, many employees worry about their own health and safety. There have been reports from multiple states of supermarket employees being diagnosed with COVID-19 on the job. Because of the increasing risks, petitions have begun to surface online requesting more safety precautions and benefits for staff.
It is going to take a lot of steps for the food industry to get back to normalcy, and it starts with ensuring the safety of both customers and employees. For now, the popularity of curbside pickup and contactless delivery is what is mostly keeping these businesses alive.
As the unemployment rates continue to spike across the country, many individuals will be dependent on recruiters and staffing companies to help them get back on their feet. The Oakland Press reports that COVID-19 has bolstered faith in the remote workplace, which is something that many companies have steered away from in the past.
Companies are seeing the potential that online collaboration has on the workplace and that working remotely allows employees to work through crises like COVID-19 without complete interruption in the business. While many people may not be fans of working remotely, it definitely will be something to consider as the world begins to transition back to normal.
In a post-COVID-19 world, not only would working online be a new normal, but also holding online recruiting events like career fairs and even remote job interviews. This trend has been seen at many colleges around the country after students were sent home to stop the spread of the virus.
With applications and online resources like Zoom, Google Docs and Sheets, communication and collaboration have never been easier. This new approach to the job search process might take a lot of stress off of applicants who are unsure of applying for jobs during this difficult time. Just like everything that has been reworked to fit into the online workplace, it will take some time to adjust and work out the glitches for it to become an option for new applicants.
There is a lot of work that still needs to be done in order for our economy to fully recover. Business and companies are still trying to figure out how they will get through to the other side of this pandemic without completely dismantling their operations.
During these times of uncertainty, it is important for both companies and employees to think of alternate routes to getting back to work while also putting everyone’s safety and comfort into perspective.
May 19, 2020