8 Workplace Lessons From the Pandemic

Business faculty share how the ‘black swan’ event is changing American enterprise.

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons have American business leaders learned? How have they changed company operations and what will the workplace look like post-pandemic?

Faculty from Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics weighed in on these questions, and their answers centered on three areas: building resilience, embracing technology and navigating changes in relationships.

The experts also shared what they’ve been reading while working from home this past year.

Gain Strength From
‘Black Swan’ Events

“This pandemic is a ‘black swan’ event — something you don’t prepare for because you didn’t expect it. Stressing any system is good to create anti-fragility. Mohammad Habibi, assistant professor of marketing, and I wrote a paper on how companies can use drastic economic downturns to come out stronger. The cliché, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ turns out to be true.”

Chiranjeev Kohliprofessor of marketing

Embrace a Hybrid Workplace

“Remote and flexible work settings seem to work just fine in many cases. Sometimes they work even better: online meetings rather than flying people in, or remote work instead of relocating employees to an expensive market. These experiences will likely push organizations to consider a different blend of local, remote and flexible job settings, a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions, reduced reliance on office real estate and increased reliance on technology.”

Ofir Turelprofessor of information systems and decision sciences

Reimagine Leadership
and Organizations

“Business leaders have learned the internal and external sides of agility. Internally, the pandemic taught us the true possibilities of telecommuting. But now leaders need to address new challenges like: Where does the organization begin and end if employees are not physically present? How do leaders manage remote teams? What does work-life balance mean if people work from home? Externally, leaders learned how to pivot amid uncertainty, but new questions have emerged: How can the firm survive changing laws and policies? How does it build resilience into the supply chain? How do we create ‘back-up’ revenue sources? Leaders have been given a chance to reimagine and reinvent our industries and organizations, and part of that will involve addressing these new questions.”

Jennifer Chandlerchair and associate professor of management

Anticipate More Artificial
Intelligence, Big Data

“Working from home and conducting business online will be the new normal, and such transactions will become smarter and more automated. This transition may facilitate the integration of artificial intelligence and big data analysis into business as virtual transactions give us more trackable and complete data.”

Yinfei Kongassociate professor of information systems and decision sciences

Expect the Unexpected

“Companies learned that adapting is surviving. Firms such as Amazon were inherently well-equipped, although not immune from the need to adjust. Other models, such as those dependent upon brick-and-mortar locations or face-to-face interactions needed to make meaningful pivots for survival. Businesses also learned to expect the unexpected. Many have revised their business plans with an eye toward contingencies and anticipating unexpected events.”

Joshua D. Dorseyassistant professor of marketing

Jump on the Digitization Train

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for the enormous growth of e-commerce customer interaction, artificial intelligence, automation, remote working, telehealth and online education. Augmented reality has become an essential technology for retailers of furniture, cosmetics, jewelry and apparel. The pandemic has created a tipping point in business history, and those who miss these new opportunities will see their competitors joining the emerging resilient organizations in the next wave of growth.”

Sean Hsuassistant professor of management

Treat People Right:
It’s Good for Business

“COVID-19 has shown business leaders that policies aimed at improving people’s lives are also good for their company’s bottom line. It has also shown Americans that we ignore inequality and its consequences at our own peril. Mandated paid sick leave, health insurance and a livable minimum wage would level the playing field and disrupt the market advantage of companies who take advantage of their workers. Women have carried much of the burden the pandemic has placed on families. As a result, a record number of women have dropped out of the labor force, worsening staff shortages and costly employee turnover. Fortunately, women’s unemployment rates have recovered faster than expected. But the pandemic’s differential effects on women and men will increase gender inequality in income and labor market outcomes if they are not addressed.”

Kristin Kleinjansassociate professor of economics

Prepare Future Employees
for the Post-Pandemic World

“The pandemic has put a focus on the need for future employees to be equipped with technological resources, communication and critical thinking skills. With fewer face-to-face interactions, employers are going to expect a higher level of technological expertise and the ability to communicate very clearly about expectations from team members and clients. Through technology, we are now providing students with real business problems using real data, and they are learning critical thinking and analysis.”

Vivek Mandechair and professor of accounting and director of the Center for Corporate Reporting and Governance
April Morrislecturer in accounting and co-director of the Center for Corporate Reporting and Governance

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