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The Day after Corona – Ideas regarding digitalization and corporate culture

What will (perhaps) be different in autumn 2020 – Looking back at how coronavirus changed the way we live and work together

Crises bring about profound changes and release great energy – that’s something that we are observing every day. Due to the current coronavirus, we are seeing how habits are changing in many areas of life. Is it conceivable that everything will return to normal afterwards? Definitely not. But what will be different? What will stay the same?

Loosely based on a forecasting technique used by Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute), let us dare to a deliberately confident look from the future back to the present. How will we see the world (perhaps) in autumn 2020, how does this affect us and our work? And what will we find strange when the crisis is over? Join us on a journey into the time ‘after’!

1. Following the initial chaos of transition, the slowdown was accompanied by greater concentration.

Fewer trips, fewer distractions and fewer options have taught us to look at what is truly at the heart of matters. Social relationships in families, with friends and at work, have all become even more important. We have reduced communication, but at the same time increased its intensity. We have focused on what is closer to us.

2. We have learned that what is supposedly self-evident is not self-evident at all.

But also, that we can handle uncertainty. And that each one of us, but also, we as a community, can learn quickly if necessary. The actions of each individual have taken on a different meaning, they have affected the community as a whole. We would never have dared to do all this before.

3. Our view of what is important has changed.

The joy of seeing fully stocked supermarket shelves shows us again every day that the satisfaction of basic physiological needs, such as food, is not something we can take for granted, even in our developed world.
The huge efforts made to safeguard health, but also to save jobs, served the second elementary need, that of safety.

This was immediately followed by the focus on families, friends and communities, the third level, i.e. social needs. We discovered what we lack when basic conditions are not fulfilled – and that is why we are now experiencing a new level of appreciation.

On the other hand, the levels of individual growth needs, such as prestige and recognition as well as the need for self-realization, have receded so noticeably into the background that one can probably speak of a re-orientation of values that is likely to continue for some time.

4. These experiences have once again made many people more aware of the importance of services of general interest.

We have developed a new appreciation for the people who helped to ensure our well-being, also and especially in times of crisis:

  • The fact that reliable and smooth supply and disposal is a prerequisite for the essential necessities of life has once again become apparent in everyday life.
  • We had to painfully experience what mobility had to offer for our everyday lives when traffic was significantly restricted.
  • The importance of the companies of general interest, but also of their employees, became obvious in ‘We’re here for you’ campaigns – and the appreciation of this in ‘Thank you for being here for us’ concerts. This has also created a new kind of self-confidence that we notice in everyday working life, because employees now feel their work is more fulfilling.

5. The corona crisis has created a new self-understanding in everyday working life.

The tired sense of ‘having to work’ and moaning about everyday things have made way for a feeling of gratitude for professional activity and social security.

Leadership has taken on a new meaning, because the crisis has shown what makes good leaders. At the same time, hierarchies have become flatter, decisions had to be made quickly and decentrally, and the positive experience gained here has strengthened mutual trust between managers and employees.

The mood among colleagues has also improved. Today, we take more time for discussions and attach importance to solidarity with each other. After all, the crisis showed us how enriching social contact and mutual support can be for us as a community.

6. Overnight, companies shifted to a new way of working.

And they learned that their corporate culture can change – even much faster than we ever thought possible!

  • Working from home required structure, initiative and trust in each other. The time spent in isolation taught us that successful cooperation is also possible from a distance. This called for fast adaptation in leadership, communication and technology. But today, in everyday life after corona, we enjoy the greater flexibility, but also the strengthened confidence that it is fine to work one day a week from home.
  • Employees, young and old, have mastered the professional use of digital communication channels, because the technical prerequisites were quickly set up along with joint learning and experimental processes. Today, we are amazed that even difficult workshop formats in digital format can deliver productive results.

7. The successful implementation of communication technologies at companies has spurred managers to take advantage of the long-term opportunities digitalization offers for their companies.

This has led to a greater focus on digitalization and automation. This can now also help us in the future, for instance, when it comes to combating the pending shortage of personnel due to demographic change.

Today, in the time after corona, we can no longer imagine many things as they were before. We have learned many things – albeit through necessity, but ultimately to our benefit – which we would not want to be without now. This experience has had a lasting impact on our companies and their corporate cultures and has accelerated a process of change that has increased the resilience of companies, while at the same time boosting the motivation and satisfaction of the people working for them.
What long-term changes do you see for your companies as a result of the corona crisis?