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6 Things Business Need to Know: Operating With COVID-19

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

COVID forced businesses around the globe to drastically alter the way they operate. For those that could, working remotely became the new norm.

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many businesses. Everyone calls it “the new normal,” but it’s really anything but. How consumers are operating, how employees feel and how businesses plan to rebound are all driving huge changes. The physical workplace is changing, consumers are increasingly going online for everything and leaders are increasingly confronting an uncertain future.

Digital initiatives are on the rise as businesses increase the number of people working remotely and customer demand for online services and purchasing increases.

Through it all, the pandemic taught us all invaluable lessons. To carve the path forward, it’s crucial to adopt new strategies and procedures, and to adapt to the current business landscape, which is being shaped by these six essential things.

The Time is Now for Reimagining the Workplace

We’ve all learned a lot about just what is and isn’t possible. With the exception of businesses deemed essential, the choice became clear: Work from home or close altogether. In turn, this has forced businesses of all sizes to adapt.

Whether you choose to offer ongoing remote work, include it as an option or bring most workers back into the office, the workplace is undoubtedly already changed. In the future, video-based meetings might replace the need for frequent travel. The office footprint is changing for many businesses with the need for physical distancing and the flux of workers who may choose to remain remote on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. For example, in early October, Microsoft announced that it was going to allow more employees to make remote work a permanent arrangement, with other employees being granted more flexibility for relocating when offices reopen.

Now’s the right time to consider what the future of work will look like for your business. There may be no “business as usual” for a long time, if it ever returns. Design, sanitization, amenities and interactions — that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential changes ahead.

You Need a Crisis Response Plan

COVID isn’t the only crisis that could disrupt operations. But for many, it has been a jarring wakeup call, sending alarm bells ringing and underlining the critical nature of having a crisis response plan. Pandemics, natural disasters, catastrophic IT failures — there are many types of crises that could put a wrench in things. Even if you had a plan before, you need to update it to deal with all the strategies you're using or plan to use to cope with COVID. That could include when and how to safely bring employees back to the office, how you'll cope with COVID exposure and the measure you'll use to reduce exposure.

Having a plan in place makes it that much easier to cope with anything that comes along. It has the added benefit of easing any concerns that investors and customers may have about the future of your business. To make your plan:

  • Identify potential problems that could affect the business

  • Figure out ways you can reduce the risks of those crises happening

  • Create a detailed plan for how you'll react to each crisis

  • Test it out regularly and adjust as needed

It’s Important to Create a Dynamic, Adaptable Company Culture

COVID forced businesses around the globe to drastically alter the way they operate. For those that could, working remotely became the new norm. CORT, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, conducted a workplace survey to get a feel for how the pandemic is expected to alter the workplace. As many businesses have been trying to create a plan for when and how to bring remote workers back into the office, 75 percent of employees responding to the survey indicated that they want the option to work from home (WFH).

While working remotely helps keep things rolling during times like these, as stay at home orders ease, concerns about WFH’s impact on company culture have steadily grown. Not being able to meet in person and collaborate in a group setting can have a huge impact on company culture. To help keep it strong, it's important to create a culture that can adapt to the environment in real time.

You’ve Got to Embrace Digitization

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that already existed: Digitization. In just the last few months, COVID has forced businesses of all sizes and types, in all regions and sectors to change the way they operate, accelerating digitization throughout the supply chain. Research from the McKinsey Global Survey of Executives shows that businesses embraced digital interactions and products at a rate three to four years ahead of what would otherwise have happened.

Digital initiatives are on the rise as businesses increase the number of people working remotely and customer demand for online services and purchasing increases. If you haven’t already, the time to embrace digitization is definitely now — not just for operating with COVID-19, but to prepare for the future. It's crucial for maintaining productivity even during a crisis, while keeping your employees and customers safe and your business sustainable.

Image by PhotoMIX-Company from Pixby

Data Might Be Your New Best Friend

No matter how hard they try, humans often make decisions with an emotional bias. But when you rely on data, those decisions can provide essential insights to make better choices. This is more important than ever as businesses start rebuilding.

Embracing digitization makes harnessing data even easier. That data could come from a variety of sources ranging from the business's website to its payment transactions to sensors that it utilizes in its office space. The information that comes from data can help you create a better customer experience, increase employee productivity, boost your business's operational efficiency and even help you find new revenue streams.

It’s Time to Prioritize Agility

No one can predict huge events like COVID. But resilient companies are able to weather volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) events like the pandemic because they're prepared and able to act quickly. Some of the things that agile companies do differently include their commitment to ongoing learning and experimentation.

Agile businesses have plans in place for business continuity during a crisis, having identified critical processes and created back-up plans to stay on track. McKinsey surveyed businesses that remained agile during COVID-19 and found the following shared characteristics:

  • Practice clear, frequent communication with employees and articulate their shared purpose/vision

  • Create the structure needed to make fast, efficient decisions

  • Build team networks with clear roles, accountability and best practices

  • Reliance on new technology that integrates seamlessly and improves workflow s onsite and from home


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