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Coronavirus has upended our habits. Which changes are permanent?

If you’re running a business during this pandemic, you’ve probably already had to pivot once or twice. You may have had to figure out how your employees could get the same work done from home. Or, you may have had to switch to an online model of sales. Perhaps you have only had to reduce your customary business travel.

According to the CEO of Delta Airlines, business travel could be permanently at a “new normal” of 10% to 20% below its previous levels. Southwest’s CEO says that business travel has dropped off by 90%, whereas passenger travel is down 70% overall. He expects that to continue for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the retail sector has vastly changed. Faced with shoppers flooding to online sales instead of risking in-person shopping, major retailers have added curbside pickup, in-store pickup and deliveries of online orders.

The swap from brick-and-mortar shopping to online shopping was already on its way, but the pandemic accelerated it. Similarly, there was already a change underway towards more work from home.

Some changes are quite welcome. For example, the changeover from office work to working from home means that employees are no longer tied to expensive communities within driving distance from work. Now, employers in New York, California and Texas can bring on staff from less expensive areas and pay correspondingly less in wages.

Many of these changes may be permanent.

“We’re not going back to the same economy,” said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell recently. “We’re recovering, but to a different economy.’’

Those able to foresee which changes are permanent are likely to be the winners in 2021. Will workers return to an office setting? Or is it simply more efficient to continue interacting via Zoom? Will people return to restaurants, bars, movies, plays, symphonies and the like? If they don’t, will those industries be erased?

Not everything is changing. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, only a small fraction of jobs can actually be done remotely. In the U.S., it’s about 30%.

Yet some change is already coming. McKinsey also found that 38% of corporate executives worldwide expect their workers to continue working from home at least two days a week even after the pandemic subsides. Before the pandemic that number was only 22%.

How is your business managing during these peculiar times? The ability to gauge whether to pivot, and pivot again, could make all the difference in your success.

Talk to an experienced business attorney for a broad overview of what’s next for your company.