The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the world into turmoil, claiming lives, crushing livelihoods and wreaking economic havoc. Yet, despite the deep and widespread damage it has caused, the crisis has also brought about changes that will benefit business in the longer term.
In fact, in many ways, post-pandemic business will be better, stronger and more human than before.
Businesses Will Be More Flexible
The coronavirus crisis has been described as the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment, and by all accounts it has worked!
By forcing people to work from home, it has proved to employers – even the staunchest remote working opponents – that people can work away from the office and still be productive.
In the space of three months, businesses have put in place the systems and infrastructure to offer employees greater flexibility in terms of where they’re going to be working in the future. This will look different for different organizations. Some, such as Twitter, have offered staff the option of working from home permanently, but the most likely scenario is a hybrid model that will combine the benefits of both worlds – the culture and face-to-face collaboration of office life with the flexibility and quiet concentration afforded from working at home.
This is great news for employees who have been saying for some time that flexible working is what they want.
Employers are also set to benefit. If more people work remotely, they’ll need less office space and save on overheads. They will also gain a powerful staff attraction and retention tool.
And because they now have the proper set-up, companies will be better prepared for a second coronavirus wave or a future crisis situation.
Increased Agility And Innovation
According to a report from Be The Business, a business charity set up to drive productivity in the UK, small businesses have achieved three years of innovation in just three months. This is mostly being driven by companies turning to technology.
In order to survive, companies have had to think outside the box, either by looking at alternative revenue streams or adapting their existing proposition.
Restaurants have become takeaways, physical stores have become e-tailers, while hotels have become temporary accommodation for frontline workers. Recruiters, fitness instructors, event organizers, tutors and more have all successfully switched to providing their services online.
Businesses have proved their ability to make decisions and diversify at speed, paving the way for more agile innovation in the future.
Better Run And More Resilient
Businesses that learn from their pandemic experience will be better run, better able to withstand future black swan events.
After the financial crisis of 2007-08, Basel III reforms required banks to hold larger cash reserves as part of measures to improve their ability to handle shocks from financial stress.
The hope is that Covid-19 will encourage similar anti-risk behavior from companies themselves, making them cautious about taking too much money out of their business and encouraging them to have sufficient cash to cope with future disruption.
The result will be better managed businesses, better equipped to cope in downtimes and give their employees greater stability. So, if a crisis of this magnitude strikes again, the job losses won’t be quite so acute.
They say adversity brings out the best in people, and this has been evident during the pandemic. Companies have been donating food and other essentials to frontline workers and families in need while others have been giving up their time to help their neighbors and local communities.
Workplaces have also responded to the crisis with humanity. In my experience, people are more considerate towards one another, mindful that people are juggling different responsibilities alongside work, whether that is caring for young children, homeschooling or looking after elderly relatives.
There is a greater realization that employees are individuals who are wired in different ways. Leaders who get this and show compassion will be rewarded with more loyal and engaged employees.
Team spirit has also been given a boost – there is a feeling that we are all in this together – which has resulted in greater collaboration. This collaborative culture will help organizations become better problem solvers, steeling them for the road to recovery.
More Tuned In To Mental Wellbeing
The pandemic has helped put the issue of mental health and wellbeing center stage.
Businesses have seen that even the most outwardly resilient employees have struggled during the crisis, highlighting how mental health concerns can affect anyone.
As CIPD’s Director of Membership David D’Souza says, “There has never been a more legitimate time in most of our lifespans to ask people how they are doing and genuinely mean it, and for that not to feel like an intrusive question.”
This new openness is healthy and will help ensure that mental wellbeing rises up the agenda – no longer a nice-to-have but a fundamental part of businesses’ duty of care.
Some worry that business will go back to its old ways and that the changes accelerated by the pandemic will be forgotten. That is always a possibility, but smart organizations will harness the positives. Doing so will help them weather the tough economic times that lie ahead and be better, more people-focused employers in the long run. Leaders now should take time to reflect with their management teams on the lessons they have learned during the crisis and commit to the changes they will make as a result. This is an unprecedented opportunity to shake things up – make sure you take it!
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