Time has maybe felt like a flat circle since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the reality is that we will emerge on the other side, and hopefully fairly soon as vaccine distribution ramps up globally.

This leads to the critical question for organizations of what their strategies will be after the pandemic is over. Will they simply return to business as usual, adopt completely new plans or fall somewhere in between those two extremes?

The Harvard Business Review offers an interesting view of this question by looking at three types of behaviors:

  • Sustained behaviors are activities that are likely to return to their pre-crisis state virtually unchanged.
  • Transformed behaviors are activities that are likely to return after the crisis, albeit with fundamental changes.
  • Collapsed behaviors are activities that are likely to cease altogether or be replaced by alternatives.

They use the time period around Sept. 11, 2001, as an example. People staying in hotels was a sustained behavior that returned to normal when the dust settled. Flying was a transformed behavior, because airports adopted new security measures that radically changed the process. And for retailers that sat outside of TSA checkpoints, selling beverages was a collapsed behavior, since customers could no longer bring drinks through security.

For businesses in general and mobility teams in particular, it will be important in the coming months to identify sustained, transformed and collapsed behaviors. Although relocation largely paused due to the pandemic, I don’t feel it will be a collapsed behavior — people will start moving for business reasons again. (For more on being ready for mobility’s recovery, check out our recent article that identifies five key tips and strategies.)

I also don’t think it’ll be a sustained behavior necessarily. This past year has taught us so much about remote work, and we’ve seen trends like “de-location” and virtual assignments pick up steam. It’s unlikely that these habits simply go away. Instead, they’ll probably get wrapped into a wider mix of business travel methods, and our industry will look different in the future.

Organizations that can identify sustained/transformed/collapsed behaviors within their mobility functions as well as their larger business plans will be a step ahead when it comes to the post-COVID world.