Getting Back to Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how global consumers learn, shop, travel and work, as well as how they fulfill entertainment and health care needs. Franklin Equity Group’s John Remmert and Donald Huber share which trends they think are permanent and which are likely just a phase.

Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a drastic change in human behavior. The global pandemic’s severity and the unprecedented measures to stem the spread have made it difficult to envision what the world will look like after the outbreak subsides and humanity starts to get back to something approaching a new normalcy.

Although social distancing and stay-at-home orders are currently the norms, many of the technological trends that have emerged or accelerated to help people cope in the current moment may not last much beyond the outbreak, in our view. As social animals, we expect human nature to reassert itself, ultimately limiting the impact recent technological changes will have on our daily lives over the longer term.

For one, we believe the technology that has allowed those who can work remotely to do so through video conferencing will never be a great substitute for face-to-face contact. In our view, video conference calls and remote working are unlikely to replace the office, conferences, networking events or the business meeting over the long run.

Other technology trends may prove more durable. Remote work has accelerated existing trends toward cloud-based computing and digitization. We expect these trends to continue long after the coronavirus outbreak recedes. Nonetheless, while workers may have greater flexibility in their working arrangements as it becomes easier to work outside the traditional office, we would expect much of how people work and interact to look like it did before the outbreak.

We do not see the home office replacing the corporate office and believe people will quickly return to working in-person once it is safe to do so again. That said, in the health care space, we would not be surprised to see telemedicine persist for minor health issues that a doctor can resolve without a patient making a trip to the office. The UK’s National Health Service, for instance, is seeing a significant acceleration in general practitioner and patient adoption of online tools during the outbreak. While much of this is out of necessity, the greater flexibility that telemedicine offers patients and doctors could help ensure it remains an integral part of health systems around the world once the outbreak is over.