Many of the changes companies will make in the short term are obvious: dramatically reduced travel, more work-from-home opportunities for white-collar workers, and changes in business operations to reduce human contact and to improve workplace hygiene.
I believe the more interesting changes will play out after this public health emergency is behind us. In the past, companies have used the lessons learned during periods of disruption to improve their standard operating practices. For example, the great recession forced employers to revisit their staffing models. The result was a permanent shift in the ratio of part-time workers to full-time workers across the economy. COVID-19 may yield similar changes.
[In terms of the businesses most impacted by COVID-19], certain sectors—air travel, hospitality, tourism, and high-end consumer brands that rely on traditional retailing for the bulk of their sales—have already been demonstrably affected. So will industries that revolve around large gatherings, such as many forms of popular entertainment—sports, cinema, concerts—to business conferences and trade fairs.
In the intermediate term, we will see companies that rely on global supply chains be hurt. Once companies run through their existing safety stocks of raw materials or parts provided by a far-flung supplier base, they may face challenges filling demand as their supply chains begin to ramp up.
Joseph B. Fuller (@JosephBFuller) is a professor of management practice in the General Management unit and co-leads the School’s Managing the Future of Work initiative.