Covid-19: Will see more globalisation, not less

Like pretty much everyone else reading this article, I’ve been in lockdown for the past few weeks. As a techie, it hasn’t really affected my work much at all. Give me a laptop and an internet connection and I’m good to go. OK that’s maybe a slight exaggeration. 

Having kids makes WFH – a phrase I just read has been fast-tracked into the Oxford English Dictionary due to Covid-19, along with ‘self-isolate’ — slightly more challenging but I’m coping. Just. The other major challenge is trying to push back Wine O’Clock, all the more so now the weather’s on the up.

As odd as it sounds, the idea for this article struck me during an online pub quiz with some friends. A lot of people are doing things like this now using video-conferencing platforms and apps like Zoom and Houseparty.

It’s suddenly become normal to sit with some nibbles and a bottle of wine and chat with friends online, or even play poorly structured and ill-thought out pub quizzes with them. But what was interesting about the pub quiz I was involved in the other day is that several people in it were from different time zones.

This struck me as fascinating. On the one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic is arguably the greatest threat to globalisation yet. You’ve got countries shutting their borders, competing for ventilators, reducing flights here, there and everywhere and increased caution generally about where anyone travelling is coming from or going to.

On the other hand, you’ve got conversations taking place that simply wouldn’t have happened PP (pre-pandemic). After all, there I was reading quiz questions out to people in squares on my laptop screen dotted all around the world who, were it not for Covid-19, I would absolutely not have been speaking to. And that struck me as a huge opportunity rather than a hurdle.

We’re currently in the middle of an event that could prove a major corporate paradox. The knee-jerk conclusion of many has been that the current pandemic will result in de-globalisation and a much more regional form of business, as companies row back in an attempt to reduce their exposure to future global pandemics.

In reality, there’s every chance the business world will become even more globalised as suddenly it has become far more normal to do business remotely and communicate with people regardless of where they are. This has been happening slowly over a period of years, of course, but Covid-19, in my mind, will see this trend accelerate exponentially in the months and years ahead.

Almost overnight, practices that many businesses felt uncomfortable with have now become normal. Businesses, even more traditional ones, are being exposed to new ways of working that they would never have been before. Geographic distance has become more meaningless than ever. People are seeing that authentic relationships can unfold online as much as in person.

The challenge for companies now, and that includes accountancy firms, is to leverage this new reality and untap its full potential. In just a few weeks businesses have been exposed to how large their potential client base really is. It’s everywhere, it’s everyone and it’s anytime. It’s global.

Jamie Costello, Co-Founder of the cloud-based payroll provider, Paycircle

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