Post-Covid Predictions from WSU’s Goddard School of Business & Economics

Q: What changes made during COVID will remain once the pandemic wanes?

Many faculty members who responded to The Spark indicated that remote working, in some capacity, is here to stay.

“In the Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, we revamped our entire entrepreneurship curriculum, went through the university approval process, hired new faculty, etc ... all while working remotely,” said Brandon Stoddard, faculty director of the Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center. “In our family-run business, we simply worked remotely. I question whether our business needs an office any longer.”

Wendy Fox-Kirk, chair of WSU’s Department of Business Administration and Marketing and an authority on organizational behavior, also saw a new emphasis in remote working.

“The significant social experiment in home working and teleworking has proved to organizations that there are huge benefits to individuals and organizations,” she said. “Larger organizations will not go back to the old presenteeism.”

Randy Boyle, an associate professor of management information systems, expected that many organizations would return to in-person work. With that said, he had an ominous prediction for many remote workers in the U.S.

“One thing these new remote workers may not have considered is that they will have to compete in a GLOBAL (his emphasis) workforce now that their job can be done from anywhere,” he said. “Remote worker wages may drop precipitously.”

More jobs could also be headed for automation because companies who had to shut down because of humans in factories are now seeking solutions from AI and robotics, Boyle said.

Economics professor Doris Geide-Stevenson found reason to hope, however.

“I hope that in the private and the public sector all employees will remain eligible for paid sick leave,” she said. “There will be a realization that employees at all income levels will be more productive with better protection when they are sick.”

Q: What are the things that businesses will run back to after COVID-19’s impact has decreased?

While some things may change moving forward, there could be other habits that industries will quickly return to. One could be a return to calling upon Asia, and especially China, for sourcing, said François Giraud-Carrier, assistant professor of supply chain management.

“Although we would like to see more re-shoring or near-shoring in the future, my estimate is that it's just going to be too difficult to find sourcing alternatives in or close to the U.S. that are as good as China,” he said. “I hope I'm wrong though because the pandemic showed the benefits of producing close to market.”

Q: What will the biggest challenges be post-COVID?

As workers struggled to adapt to remote work, COVID has presented challenges to customer service, Boyle said. The brass ring, then, belongs to those companies who focus on customer service.

“Customer service, great customer experiences, personalized service, etc... have all suffered greatly during COVID,” he said. “Companies that can effectively re-mobilize their workforces to get back to pre-COVID customer service levels will beat their competitors.”

In fall of 2019, many businesses probably didn’t have “pandemic” on their threat radar. For Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor Shane Schvanevelt, the real challenge comes from the tension between managing the realities of today and being prepared for the unknowns of tomorrow.

“Companies face a never-ending decision of how to make their business systems more resilient to whatever shocks may come their way: whether pandemics, climate change, natural disasters or unforeseen social change,” he said. “The crux of the matter is how much resource and effort to devote to low-probability events that are not happening this year and probably not next, especially since it likely will be a later manager, not the current decision-maker, who will be the beneficiary of the fruits of those investments.”

It’s a challenge that businesses, supply chain managers and governments will continue to face, pandemic or not, he said.

Making predictions based on sound knowledge is the name of the game, but what really lies ahead? There’s only one way to find out.

Move forward.