As the states and municipalities begin to ease restrictions and we all slowly begin to resume our work lives, business leaders will need to navigate the “new normal” and shift many of their outdated norms and thoughts about how we work and what work looks like in a post-pandemic world.

The pandemic has exposed the fallacies and weaknesses of the current ecosystem of work, social order, and commerce. Our assumptions, expectations, businesses, and lives have been adjusted in a tectonic fashion in a few short weeks. The pandemic has accelerated trends already underway, destroying whole industries, skyrocketing others, all while putting over 20 million of our fellow citizens out of work.

1. Workspace

For the past 20 years, companies have continued to squeeze more employees per square foot in their offices, hailing “open spaces” as more collaborative and more productive. Numerous studies that have recently emerged proving that was not so, but the marketing and cost savings of the “open space” philosophy was too appealing for corporate leaders to ignore. The pandemic has destroyed that myth and exposed it.

As anyone who works remotely knows, they are more productive, typically happier, and more focused. Millennials in particular, who are the largest segment of the workforce, have built blockers to adapt to the open workplaces by wearing earbuds throughout the day and escaping to huddle rooms as much as possible, and doing the “real work” that requires concentration in their non-office hours, typically at home.

The workspace will adapt and businesses will need to make changes to floor layouts, creating more closed doors, higher cubicles, and less “open” and shared spaces; they will also have to make modifications to HVAC systems. There will also be new and enhanced rules and guidelines placed on common areas, their use, including elevators, bathrooms, and lunch/break rooms. Human Resources, along with technical and medical consultants, will be knee-deep in defining and managing these new policies.

In addition to changes in the physical workspace, companies will need to reexamine the need for any physical space, structuring their business and organization in a virtual and remote fashion. This will require more tools, processes, and bandwidth, both at home and in the data center, as the cloud becomes an even bigger driver.

2. Liability & Health

While congress continues to battle on the rescue packages and legislation governing a post-pandemic world, one thing is clear: lawyers are keeping their PC’s humming, looking for ways to cash in on going after anyone who threatens the safety and well being of workers and consumers, exposing them to a disease they knew as out there. While there are already some protections in place, employers face the real possibility of lawsuits and health claims that could destroy small to medium businesses, and even take down large companies as a result of class action suits.

Health and safety will take a front seat in every organization, bringing chief medical and safety officials into boardrooms and garnering them a seat at the CEO’s table. They will be given budgets, tools, and tremendous sway in decision making, along with veto powers on an array of projects and initiatives.

Employees and customers’ voices will become louder and resonate across the board and expanding social media platforms people now use. Companies will need to spend more, be more cautious, and lobby legislators at the federal and state level for more protections and guidelines on how to deal with the post-pandemic world.

Finally, business leaders will need to address how we pay for all of this, including the increased need for healthcare for workers. As companies have hammered away at the runaway costs of healthcare for the past two decades, a good portion of those gains will be lost: employees will be more prone to demand those benefits; versions of universal health care (more cost-sharing, more calls for universal coverage) will again dominate the business and political landscape; “Obamacare” will look more appealing than ever as more Americans become infected, sick, and even die.

3. Telecommuting

The 5 “any’s”, or the ability to work, anywhere, any time, on any device, in any way, and by anyone will become more important than ever. Telecommuting is and will continue to be the new norm. Mobile devices and mobile work tools will drive the next generation. While this trend was already well underway it will be accelerated and inspired. Gone are the days of being required to come to an office, for, well, just about anything! Both government and corporate organizations will need to invest and retool their infrastructure for applications to allow for all processes and documents to be completed, exchanged, signed, and paid for remotely.

Cashless and touchless transactions, all mobile-enabled, allowing for seamless access to banks, government services, and business services will become the norm; even more so than prior to this pandemic world. These changes will drive a massive push for even more bandwidth at the endpoints. 5G, fiber optic networks, and massive bandwidth upgrades to homes and businesses will need to be deployed faster than current plans. Cloud computing and omnichannel tools and platforms will be the norm as we scale to meet the new post-pandemic telecommunicating culture.

Along with our “always-on” business culture, telecommuting technology shifts will come rapidly and drive business culture changes. Changes in business culture and processes that were previously not thought of will need to adapt to the new socially distanced and remote, telecommuting culture. HR departments will need to rethink, retool, and rework all employee policies to take into consideration the new norm; including what paid time off looks like when 80% of your workforce is sitting at home, and in their pajamas, at 1 PM in the afternoon.

4. Commerce

While e-commerce had received mountains of press before the pandemic, in reality, it only comprised about 15% of all retail sales in the US, still a relatively small portion of nearly $5 trillion marketplaces. Those numbers will be shattered in the next 6 to 12 months as behemoths gobble up the retail services industry that now knows that the vast majority of goods and services can be consumed remotely. The recent string of bankruptcies, including long-established retailers, restaurant chains, and small businesses will continue to grow exponentially over the next 12 months.

Travel and hospitality will rebound, but, it will have to be retooled, more spacious, and ultimately more costly for the consumer. This cost, whether driven by increased medical screening, more distanced space on ships, planes, and hotels or increased sanitation (or all the above) will dramatically change how we travel.

Massive changes are upon us and navigating them will require new thinking, investment, and more importantly, a mental and cultural shift for leaders in government, board rooms, and across the corporate landscape. Employees will demand and expect change, as will consumers, all while fretting their safety and concerned as to whether they are being heard. Leadership will be required at all levels, and most of all, planning, communication, and collaboration combined with a deeper inclusion of both technology and human resources leaders who will play an ever-increasing role in guiding and consulting in the post-pandemic workplace.