David “Rocky” Rockett GBEDF Executive Director

Up next … the New Year! The coming of a new year usually brings hope, optimism and a chance to start fresh. This year it’s no different however; it’s also brings with it the next new normal. Change is also a main theme whenever a new year approaches and it’s safe to say that almost every aspect of our daily routines was significantly impacted by the events in 2020. Change is not always terrible, but it is always inevitable as markets shift and industries continue to evolve over time. The lasting impacts of the pandemic will bring on a new normal for many industries as we continue to pivot our way out of the greatest disruption observed in modern times. Here’s a look into how some sectors and the workforce will operate under a new normal moving forward:

Retail, Service Accommodations

Both the retail and service accommodation have been among the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic. Some experts suggest that this sector will be led by safety and convenience in the future. Online shopping is here to stay and with it comes the expansion into the materials movement sector. Retail warehouse and distribution jobs are expected to increase as the push for the “click to buy” and ease of shopping online continues to dominate consumer preference with more and more deals popping up advertising a Home Depot promo code or a variety of retail coupons, there is much that can be saved online.

Restaurants will likely continue to see adjustments to operations as the new normal takes shape. To top it off, the major competitor presently for restaurants is the homemade meal. For a brief moment, allow your mind to go back in time and remember the pre-pandemic world of dining in a restaurant while sitting elbow-to-elbow. For the foreseeable future, that will remain a memory as limited, distanced seating, along with outdoor dining or curbside to-go will be the only few options to enjoy your favorite meal. Challenges with staffing, coupled with issues sourcing PPE and sanitation supplies have added to the sting of the pandemic restrictions on restaurants and eateries. Buying gift certificates to your favorite dining or retail spots is a great way to support local and keep the cash flowing into businesses.

Hospitality, Leisure and Travel

No doubt there have been effects on the hospitality, leisure and travel industries as the restrictions from the pandemic have caused a reduction in the need to travel; whether it be for leisure or business. Workers have shown increased productivity and effectiveness with a home office set up due to the flexibility offered by the new normal workday. Additionally, companies are finding they can host meaningful and productive seminars virtually. Not only is the virtual option cost effective, this option is convenient and sustainable rather than budgeting employee time for overnight travel. Many business travelers are used to enjoying special perks and discounts offered to entice extended business stays and turn them into leisure experiences. You can expect to see those deals resurface in the future. Pre-pandemic, Americans were spending billions per year on “experiences”. Those behavior trends are not expected to stay in a decline as restrictions will lighten in the future.

Workforce challenges

Industries and employers have felt the squeeze of remote working. Not all experiences have been negative, as many employers report a spike in productivity, but that increased productivity comes at a price on the workforce. Employers are closely looking for ways to engage with remote workers in order to retain them. It could be in terms of better insurance policies that can help aid employee health, or regarding different methods of employee engagement, like hosting casual virtual meets online. They are also finding ways to adapt shifts to assist with childcare needs, and offer virtual training options as opposed to traditional in-person initiatives. Due to the increased at home workforce, companies can now look outside of their static geographic locations to pool employees from wider areas. This spin on workforce recruitment can boost rural economies and companies will benefit due to emerging remote workforce incentives.

As 2020 approached last year, many looked at the coming year with optimism and hope. Let’s carry the same – if not more – into 2021.