Since March this year, the business landscape as we know it has shifted dramatically to something unrecognisable – CBDs are empty and shopping centres deserted. Government shutdowns, social restrictions and travel bans have all left a mark on the economy that won’t be going away anytime soon, writes Jackie Olling from small business legal specialists Lawpath.
But as recent trends indicate, businesses have demonstrated their ability to adapt in uncertain circumstances. Here we list 6 trends that have emerged since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Australia. Some may surprise you, some may make a lot of sense – but all of them indicate that businesses will come out of this in a very different position from which they went in.
- Businesses and consumers are more concerned about cybersecurity now than pre-COVID
Legal documents such as privacy policies and email disclaimers have seen a sharp increase in downloads since the same time last year. Although cybersecurity has become a prominent concern for businesses over the last few years, this has increased exponentially in the first few months of 2020. More businesses and people in Australia are doing the bulk of their work online, but this has also meant an increase in online scams. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Australians have reported that more than $700,000 has been lost due to scams. Privacy policies and email disclaimers have provided businesses with an extra layer of protection whilst also assuring customers that their information is secure.
- People are organising their affairs
Global events have the effect of putting things into perspective. It comes as no surprise then that many people have started getting their affairs in order. Wills have seen a 725 per cent increase since April 2019, with trust variation documents increasing by 281 per cent. This may sound morbid in the midst of a pandemic, but it also reflects that fact that people are taking the extra time afforded by social distancing measures to get their house in order.
- Businesses are adapting by selling their products online
With many more people now purchasing their goods online, businesses have been quick to meet consumer demand. The rise in documents such as website terms and conditions can be put down to more businesses going online in the wake of COVID-19 (such as restaurants moving to accept takeaway orders through their website). In fact, Australia Post has reported an 80 per cent increase in parcel deliveries, meaning that although consumers cannot buy goods in person, online demand has never been higher.
- Part-time and flexible work arrangements are becoming the norm
The benefits of promoting flexibility in the workplace have been lauded for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend dramatically. Businesses have now seen first-hand that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean reduced productivity. Part-time employment agreements have increased by 243 per cent, as have working from home policies. However, this may also reflect the need for many businesses to decrease staff hours due to reduced turnover.
- Businesses will take social distancing seriously
The search volume for waivers has doubled since this time last year, indicating that businesses want customers to understand the risks they’re taking by being out and about again. Although businesses have indicated that they fully intend to enforce social distancing measures once they reopen, they also do not want to be held responsible if someone contracts COVID-19 on their premises.
- Many businesses are already making moves in anticipation of a deep recession
Employment figures released for the month of April increased to 6.2 per cent and it’s predicted that this rate will increase in the coming months. Many businesses have taken preemptive measures to reduce the impacts of a recession, for example, company-wide salary cuts or reductions in working hours. However, downloads of redundancy letters have increased by 185 per cent since this time last year. We’ve been told that it’s likely the Australian economy will go into recession, and it looks like businesses are making the difficult decisions now to ensure their long-term survival.
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