Covid-19 impact: Grenoble Ecole de Management DBA Alumni and students share their opinions and forecasts of the crisis we are experiencing on the Health, Real Estate, Consulting and Human Resources sectors.
Senior strategic officer at the World Health Organization (WHO), Switzerland, GEM DBA Student.
What's your opinion regarding the current situation?
“We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic—it is a once-in-a-100-year event. It reveals that when it comes to a virus, we live in one world, and there are no borders. We have all become faster at responding and understanding this virus than we were in the past, but we were certainly not as prepared as we should have been.”
How do you foresee the future from the healthcare perspective?
“The World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program is supporting countries on preparedness, surveillance, emergency response, and stronger and better-resourced health systems. Now more than ever, these concepts are instrumental in shaping the future of our world. One of the major objectives of the current lockdown was to slow the inevitable spread of COVID-19 so it would not overwhelm the health systems. We have known for a long time many countries are under resourced, and now is the time to act to further build, maintain, and sustain efforts. Without sounding pessimistic, I do not think we have learnt as much as we should have from previous crises. This has to change! It will take a whole-society approach to achieve this with everyone working as one.”
How is the pandemic affecting your activity?
“This pandemic made me lock myself in my apartment in a country that is considered safe. It was a little awkward the first days—I had to rethink the way I work, consume, and look after myself and my family. My motto has been to continue my daily routine as much as possible, eat healthy, and stay active.
Professionally, it has been amazing how the WHO, a large decentralized organization, has managed to implement its business continuity plan so successfully and roll out a teleworking system with relatively little disruption. I have been nominated to be part of the critical staff who can access the WHO site, if required. I have been working from home and have been more productive and focused. But, the time at home has made me more appreciative of the thousands of people who work under extremely challenging conditions to keep us all safe as well as all the people in many countries in the world who cannot enjoy the safety of a home, quality medical care, technology to support their work and education, or even access to basic goods, including nutrition.”
Mahmoud Al Burai
Senior Advisor at Real estate Regulatory Agency for Dubai Government Dubai, GEM DBA 2020 Graduate
“COVID-19 has led to dramatic losses across the globe and brought the unemployment rate to alarming, unprecedented levels, making this one of the worst crises since 1929. COVID-19 is expected to bring behavioral changes in the way people live, work, buy, and entertain. The idea of working from home means disrupting the commercial real estate office market. Online shopping will be more common behavior in the future and may mean smaller shopping malls that focus on social experience.”
“Our planet is the only beneficiary of this coronavirus after suffering for decades from human injustice. China contributes annually to 27% of carbon dioxide gases globally; so, it is no wonder the virus began there and then spread. A recent study from Harvard University found people in cities with higher levels of pollution had higher death rates from COVID-19. I believe COVID-19 will speed up climate change actions driven by people’s pressure on governments and private sectors. The real estate industry is expected to shift towards environmentally friendly development to deal with climate change issues.”
De-densifying and disruption in public transport
“Cities’ high density has been blamed for the spread of COVID-19 and resulted in calls for lower-density cities. The urban sprawl that is typically considered to be “anti-sustainability” may get another chance if it actually becomes a public health requirement.
The market will see the need to develop green and healthy buildings, which focus not only on energy efficiency but also on air quality and material types. Moreover, neighborhoods will be enhanced by providing large green areas, and places set aside for walking, sports, and cycling will be more in demand.”
Senior Manager at Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Switzerland, GEM DBA 2015 Graduate
“COVID-19 is a worldwide health and economic disaster that will permanently alter consumer behaviors and result in lasting structural changes to the consumer goods industry. Our mission as consultants should then be to support our clients in this industry to respond to the crisis, then reset relationships and ways of working, and finally, renew for the new era.
Based on that framework, my job as senior manager at Accenture Strategy has been massively transformed over the last few weeks with a major focus on creating short- and long-term solutions for our clients to face the negative impact of COVID-19. By illustration, we are investigating how to ramp up capabilities on B2C online sales in less than two weeks to support the shift in demand pattern. In the longer term, we are also considering how to rethink field-force missions in a future world where face-to-face activities will be transformed.
So, all in all, as senior consultants, we have shifted our attention from working on the usual ongoing business to acting as a strong support to our clients during the COVID-19 crisis. Surprisingly, even though we have all been confined at home, we have found and promoted solutions for remote working with different online apps that our clients have easily adopted, making it even possible to run a design-thinking session online!
I can’t finish without saying, as a fundamentally optimistic person, I have seen some positive points in this period. For instance, I have heard my 3-year-old son say, “Dad, I love you” more often than “Dad, I miss you!”
Managing Director – HR Business Partner Company – United Arab Emirates, GEM DBA Student
Pondering Flexible Work in the storm of COVID-19.
“When I first started my research on flexible work and career trajectories, I was not thinking about pandemics or global crises. Then COVID-19 struck the world and with it flexible work -- still a somewhat fuzzy concept for many companies -- suddenly became a mass-adoption practice and the only way to move forward and keep work on track. I now had the chance in my research to study flexible work's influence on careers from a much bigger picture. All the disadvantages of flexible work suggested by previous research were cast aside as all companies, households and careers scrambled to bring office work into the bedroom and living room. Everyone began to count on its effectiveness.
Before COVID-19, gender-related questions of equity, unpaid labor distribution in the home, and work-life integration already needed to be challenged, transformed, and modernized in families and communities. More than ever it’s time for leaders to rethink and re-imagine and try to develop a new business paradigm in an unknown future. Companies had to take swift action or find themselves at the risk of immediate bankruptcy. Efforts and successes could literally vanish overnight, much like everything else finding itself in the wake of Covid-19’s path.
It is hard to know what the post-COVID situation will look like; however what we do know is that flexible work worked during COVID-19. How well it worked is another story. Going back to a ‘new normal’ won't be easy –and there are reasons to think that many of us may not want to go back to pre-COVID-19 life, and question the ‘old normal’ as a desirable state of affairs. What if the digital becomes the core and physical the complement? Flexible work will definitely take on a whole new meaning as families and individuals will try out new ways to balance their work-family needs and so will many companies who survive COVID-19 and would like to decrease their costs and improve their employees' effectiveness and efficiency. Flexible work was clearly the main anchor in the storm of COVID-19. Will flexible work be a priority for businesses after COVID-19? What will this change in the work-life balance understanding? How will flexible work affect the careers progression of employees in the days to come? These are questions that I hope my research will be able to answer and explore further.”