By now it should be no surprise that grave impacts are being felt around the world. Businesses big and small were affected in some capacity. It has undeniably been one of the most challenging times in our recent history, yet it’s left many of us still hopeful that things will eventually return to normal. While it would be ideal for things to switch back to life pre-COVID, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we likely won’t be returning to our version of ‘normal’, even once the pandemic is behind us.
In the past 2 months of lockdown, people and businesses have been scrambling to restrategize, reorganize workflows, and already tapping into contingency plans they’ve only just developed out of response to the crisis. Everyone was fixated on making temporary adjustments to meet the environments of the pandemic and understandably so. However, things are rapidly changing and continuing to unfold each and every day. As every region is somewhere along the road to opening up again, we need to assess the immediate shifts and adaptations that were implemented not too long ago and learn how to bring them forward with us. It’s time for a directional shift that’s inevitably going to change the way we interact, the way we work, and the way we communicate.
So how can you ensure that you’re prepared to thrive in the new digital world, and which of these temporary changes are really permanent?
There’s little argument against the fact that our world was already going digital prior to the pandemic. Our lives were already online – we wake up and check our phones, we go to bed and check our phones, and everything in between involves us interacting in some way online. Digital is a part of every routine we have and it’s no surprise that the largest cap companies around the world are all in the technology sector (think Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon). Digital was already the rising trend,but what COVID-19 has stirred was the acceleration for businesses to really shift their focus online.
Throughout the lockdown, online consumption soared as it became a necessity. Brick and mortar businesses were forced into a new environment – panicking to get online quick. It became more important than ever to have an online presence to sell goods and services. ShopHERE, an amazing response initiative led by the Digital Main Street, is on a mission to help independent businesses and artists launch their online stores and adopt digital best practices at no cost. They aim to launch 3,000 online stores over the next 3 months.
We’re anticipating more and more businesses to get the ‘a-ok’ to open up shop again, but it’s important to take the learnings from the pandemic into account. While people may be released from their homes, there will still be caution around social distancing and naturally some skepticism on interacting with others without a vaccine distributed. Consumers are now comfortable with their online consumption habits and routines and are likely going to continue shopping online wherever they can. It’s vital for you to continue to build an online presence to diversify your source of revenue and perhaps even have it take sole precedence in driving your business.
When workplaces were ordered to shut down, many businesses had no choice but to turn to work from home as a means to keep operations going. But the ‘work from home’ (WFH) concept isn’t new, and it certainly wasn’t out of the question as companies continued to evolve their business processes. Startups in particular leveraged WFH options as a way to attract talent and keep overhead costs at a minimum. Regardless of your opinion of WFH, virtually every company was put to the virtual test throughout this lockdown. If you didn’t like WFH before, it didn’t matter because you were trying it anyway. It was considered a means of survival. And if you could WFH and still manage to maintain output, you were absolutely winning.
What you could have imagined as an opportunity for employees to laze around in bed and kick it in their sweats was the opposite of the truth. According to Business News Daily, employees proved to be more productive working from home. The study showed that remote employees end up working 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts. This would equate to more than 3 additional weeks of work per year. With WFH, you’re empowered to make your own schedule, find a routine, and take the necessary breaks to keep your productivity at a high level. In fact, big tech giants like Facebook and Google are in no rush to bring workers back into the office, where Twitter and Shopify have already publicly announced that their employees have the option to work from home…forever. It’s the perfect time to reassess your operational framework and evaluate whether you can also integrate partial or indefinite WFH as a way to reduce overhead costs in the workplace and allow employees the flexibility to determine how they want to work to maintain productivity.
How we interact with one another post-pandemic will probably be the biggest challenge to come, both physically and virtually. In the temporary situation we’re in, we’ve pulled up the bootstraps and found a way to work collaboratively and effectively online. As interacting with each other from a distance becomes the new norm, work culture will also be affected (if it hasn’t yet). While (for the most part) there will be a screen between us, it’s important to remember to keep the human connections we once had when we were all in the office and interacting face to face everyday. For leaders and managers, this will mean finding new and creative ways to connect with their teams to keep them engaged and motivated to grow in the new environment.
At S+G, our team has arranged recurring morning meetings to ensure we’re able to connect on various opportunities or challenges we’re facing. Some meetings are strictly business, but often we’ll find time to have some fun. I’ll bet it’s the Monday Morning Stretch – or better yet, the Friday Happy Hour call that we all look forward to, where we get to kick back, relax, and socialize like we did when we were all together in our office. Of course, these meetings take place on Zoom, rather than face to face. While nothing can replace the feeling of being together in the same space and sharing each other’s company, we’ve learnt to adapt and appreciate the time we do have together.
We’re entering new phases everyday. You’ll get the best out of the situation if you follow the movements and push forward into the new direction rather than wait for things to return back to normal. If you take this time as an opportunity to learn, change, and embrace the ‘new normal’, you’ll be much more equipped for the unpaved road ahead. In an unpredictable time, let’s all try to look for the silver lining and stay prepared to evolve tomorrow, together (but six feet apart).