4 regions, 4 views, on the world post Covid-19: Europe By Eric Bemelmans, Director Digital Consulting

Depicting the impact post Covid-19 in Europe

As the measures are lifted and the end of the confinement begins to take effect across European countries due to Covid-19, many editorial writers are debating the rebound and the need to look ahead towards the post-pandemic period. They also say, “there will be a before and an after”. This puzzles me and raises a number of questions. Defining the “before” on a timeline is rather easy: it corresponds to the day before we are quarantined. But when does the after start? Do I have to wait until after? What should I expect? What will the impact be? Is it going to be a return to the prior norm, like a stretched elastic band that returns to its original shape? Or is it going to be a rather different situation, just like that of a heated and deformed metal?

When does the “after” start?

According to what I observe, the “after” has in fact already begun. We entered this stage, cautiously and without defining it as such, the day we accepted the impact of Covid-19 on our current way of living, when we started to envision ourselves into the future. It started when we understood that, in fact, this unprecedented episode is above all a health crisis that imposes a distancing (social and physical) on us, and impacts the structure and operation of our society, based on the sharing of places, means, and exchanges.

Those who have integrated and accepted it have already begun to reinvent themselves. It is not always that simple, because agility is challenging, and some sectors need more time than others depending on the nature of their activities.

So far, I have not heard of any measures promoting change, such as those proposed to carry out major corporate transformation programs. How can this pandemic not be equated with a major program for the transformation of our society and widely of our world?

This should inspire us. During change management, the pivotal moment is not “after the change”, but in very early stages. This allows us to anticipate, to understand, but also to reinvent ourselves in order to continue bringing value to the company, even if the modalities to do so are different.

Do I have to wait until afterwards?

Of course not! Many companies have already started redefining their operations and processes. In fact, creativity feeds on urgency. In any case, all companies are working towards understanding and analysing the impact of the pandemic to come up with recommendations and ways to address it. This change could be defined as a profound, long-term transformation of our life models. Entire sectors of our economy need to be redesigned. What is happening today will not be the norm for the future, but it will leave its mark and induce profound changes.

For example, the aviation and public (non-subsidised) transport sector is faltering. It will take ten years to return to the pre-crisis trajectory, predicts the specialist consultancy Archery Strategy Consulting. This sector will have to reinvent itself in the long run and indirectly the economy linked to it will have to as well.

Our economic and profitability model is, of course, being questioned today: consumption, activity and the rate for low prices raise questions around the limitations of this model. The relocation of our basic necessities factories is also being blamed. The pandemic will have proved that the major globalized production chains could be brought to their knees in a few weeks. Warnings calling for relocation are getting louder and louder. Some of us are already in the aftermath, as we have started to relocate certain areas of engineering (especially medical) in an artisan way to try and break our dependencies. it seems like “Made in Europe” can be quite popular at the moment!

What will the impact of Covid-19 be?

As I am writing this blog, Europe is being hit hard by the pandemic caused by Covid-19. We can’t talk about a single but several impacts that affect all aspects of our lives such as transport, trade, education, work, justice.

An opportunity for a stronger Europe

The uniqueness of the situation means that we cannot be certain that our society will be identical to the one we lived in. We will probably return to a model close to our previous one but imbued with new behaviors adopted by billions of people in the past recent weeks.

This is an opportunity for a stronger Europe. Should we consider repatriating our industries and engineering to Europe? And so, this calls for a fairer European tax system and less intra-European competition to be put back on the table. We need to bring our basic necessities back to Europe.

Access to work via remote working

Access to the workplace should increasingly be via remote working, when conditions allow it.  This will require a review of the labour and the intra-Community tax provisions laws. Europe is not yet ready for a European labour law which includes cross-border workers based across Europe. However, this life-size test has proven that remote working works when possible and it is beneficial for everyone as it enhances mobility. If remote working helps to reduce traffic, it will have a positive impact on the economic loss due to traffic jams on the outskirts of big cities and a positive impact on the environment.

On the other hand, the distancing we are experiencing should not favour public transport in the coming months and it will intensify the use of cars or individual transportation means. Several large cities (Paris, Brussels, Rome, London) are taking steps towards extending their cycling network and pedestrian walkways.

Digital, a channel in its own right

Further opportunities for the use of even more digital channels in our lives arise. This period has proven that digital is part of our lives and its adoption by the entire population is beyond doubt. It is no longer a complementary channel, but one in its own right with a predominant place in our social, economic and educational activities.

Today, online sales platforms are no longer exclusive to large groups with a global presence; local shops are taking the plunge. They are reinventing themselves and offer us the opportunity to participate in a more local and solidarity-based economy through digital channels. While many of us seek the opportunity to consume differently and more responsibly by using digital channels, in other parts of the world, like South Korea, people are adopting a new buying mode called “Revenge Shopping” which is nothing but excessive consumption to make up for the lost inactive time. To be continued, as they say…

Strengthening evidence and biometrics

In regards to legal matters, the European directive regarding the probative value, archiving, electronic signatures, and the use of the digital safe must be applied in our digital solution to reinforce the virtualization of legal acts (notary, lawyer, contract) which still today is often done on paper with physical contact. One of the success criteria for digital strategy is to be able to offer the same capabilities on the digital journeys with the so-called traditional channel. To do so, the electronic signature, the notion of probative value, security, biometrics and time stamping will be fundamental.

Don’t wait for the future; let’s implement together the solutions to strengthen your digital strategy in order to meet any operational efficiency challenges and break down the silos of your company; let’s set up together digital paths for your customers and users for a better experience but also to make digital a channel in its own right driving your business and your economy.

Finally, we will help you equip yourselves with the technological and business tools to address these challenges and accelerate the implementation. By acting now, together, you will realise visible results in the short term.

Contact us to talk about how we can help you towards your digital transformation with a proven business-oriented approach at info@vermeg.com