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Emerging Business Models and The Future of The Workplace

Allen Associates, News & Blog

As the English proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention” - and what could be more true today? As the impacts of Covid-19 are realised within Oxfordshire, nationally and globally.

According to data from Emsi, Teaching, Nursing, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Risk Analysis were among the hard skills in highest demand in Oxfordshire in April 2020. So how are the relevant industries transforming to adapt to a fast-changing landscape?

Medical developments

In Hubei province, the UK and around the world, online medical platforms, like AliHealth and Tencent HealthCare, are fast emerging to provide free online diagnostic services for members of the public. The intention is that the services will be equipped to screen out suspected COVID-19 patients from common cold sufferers, alleviate the drastic shortage of offline resources, reduce the risk of further infection and enable more people to experience treatment – be it virtual or otherwise.

The growth of telemedicine is also tangible – as well as pharmaceutical industries providing medical equipment and supplies as we recognise global demand for healthcare products, PPE and medical insurances.

Mobile Commerce and “No Touch” Payment Alternatives

Giving the term “hands-free” a whole new meaning, an area which is continuing to innovate (particularly online) is actually how we pay for our goods and services. PayPal, bitcoin and Apple Pay have all become increasingly widespread internationally since the Covid-19 epidemic has been placed at the forefront of public knowledge– as businesses realise the potential for broadening their customer base simply by widening payment options.

According to ACI Worldwide, 55% of e-commerce purchases were made with “non-card” payments last year, and these numbers are steadily increasing as new options offer the comfort of contactless as well as ease and speed of transactions.

Delivery services

We have already seen a huge surge in delivery service options in the local and national community, with larger companies like Deliveroo being criticised in the headlines for taking advantage of and dominating the new ‘sit-in-restaurant’ free market. Meal prep delivery services including Gousto, SimplyCook, Pasta Evangelists and many more seem to also be benefiting from a forced landscape in which “staying in is the new going out.” With that in mind, the demand for faster and more efficient delivery than ever is seeing a rise.

Large retailers like Amazon and even smaller bespoke stores are adapting fast and beginning to offer a larger range of shipping options to accommodate their customer base – with free delivery becoming a more oft-used bargaining chip for retailers wanting to secure a larger market share as consumer expectations rise. A survey from RetailWire found that the standard “maximum number of days people are willing to wait for an item to be delivered in exchange for free shipping has decreased from 5.5 days to 4.1.”

Opportunity and Loss through Automation

According to data from invesp, by 2020 “85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent.”

Simply-integrated automation tools like Kajabi are already helping business leaders with client delivery and converting leads without the need to be at their desktops: the reality being that information products and tools can be a huge time saving option.

The data found that on average four out of five standard customer queries could be handled quickly and efficiently by a Chatbot, with customers finding it easier to get answers to short simple questions online instantly, rather than make a phone call or compose an email.


Amidst the significant news that Oxford University will be implementing a full recruitment freeze for a predicted 12-months and have, like many other universities in the UK, moved lectures and examinations online, it begs the question, will the format of education as we know it change? And is an online culture of learning in the best interests of both the students and the economy?

In the Harvard Business Review, Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava deftly argue that in theory, education lectures and classes requiring little to no personalisation or human interaction can be pre-recorded or live-streamed as presentations. Plus, commoditized parts of curriculums which are globally identical (some elements of mathematics for example – Pythagoras’ Theorem) can be delivered to large audiences at low cost, just as live fitness broadcasting with household names such as Joe Wicks become “the nation’s PE classes”. But what human price do we pay for the future of an efficient, cheaper and E-commerce-centric offline market?

If remote teaching proves to be a success in terms of results, three or four-year residential experiences could become a thing of the past. Final decisions would have to be based on which parts of the degree and other educational models can be substituted and which parts can be supplemented. Online platforms are fantastic for assisting learning but no matter how long a list is created of pre-populated answers – questions will always be asked that haven’t been anticipated.

Within the primary and secondary sectors, it could be argued that education cannot move online for a number of reasons. In recent weeks and months society has become painstakingly aware of one primary function of schooling that is often overlooked: the school will take care of the children for the vast majority of the working day. So irreversibly interlinked is the economy and education that parents cannot return to work until children go back to school. Furthermore, social distancing in the current design of many schools is virtually impossible.

Those arguments aside, there is one very obvious downside of an education based entirely online. And that is the silent extra-curricular which rounds students as individuals – functioning members of society and essentially people. That extra-curricular is the school play they practised for weeks and the tears in their parents eyes when they see their child on the stage. It is the football team, the debate team, it is the ambassador and student leadership roles that can only be truly realised (and moreover valuable) in an interactive environment.

That aside, without parental support and active teacher guidance, the vast majority would struggle to achieve the same results they may have done otherwise – and essentially plug the gap across all subject areas.

While children may fare only a little less academically, the majority of suffering is likely to be seen in other areas and be detrimental to the society which that generation would eventually form.

“What is now proved was once only imagined” – William Blake

As the culture of working and learning from home becomes the new norm, discussions around the benefits of face-to-face contact and significantly the detriment of none - have become increasingly widespread.

Have thoughts you want to share? Email Kate Allen at

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