We are at a crossroads in post-pandemic America. More and more companies are deploying phased plans for returning to the office, and conversation is humming around flexibility, remote work, and employee benefits. But how will business strategy and operations, profit margins, and customer engagement thrive in this new society? While only time can tell, we can prepare for what is to come.
Though we are experiencing new developments daily, we have the chance to learn from the past year, implement new policies and business infrastructure, and seize opportunities for a stronger, more resilient workforce.
Build Pivoting Into Your Company Strategy
We need to operate under the assumption that anything can happen. Leaders must forecast trends and set their company up for sudden changes. This could look like a variety of things – being careful about where or how you invest your money, reevaluating your business expenses, or making sure you have a tight team of skilled employees who know how to get the job done effectively. But it’s important to remember that we can’t predict the future. All we can do is steward what we have and be wise in our choices.
Value Your Employees’ Mental and Physical Wellness
Even though some offices are opting to go back to working in person, some studies suggest that roughly 25-30% of every company will be remote from now on. Some leaders think that a significant amount of companies will continue operating 100% remote for the foreseeable future. When discussing why business leaders anticipate the “new normal” functioning well under remote working conditions, Mark E. Watson III, Founder and Chairman of Aquila Capital Partners, says “jobs today are based more on the outcome than process, meaning people want to see the result rather than the hours employees put in. If goals are met, most people are happy.”
But working remotely still has its pros and cons. Where we’ve gained flexibility, we’ve lost connection with our fellow employees. In place of moments around the water cooler, we have scheduled Zoom happy hours that often contribute to the exhaustion of being on video calls all day long. “Zoom fatigue” is now a diagnosable side effect of this pandemic and the long hours spent talking to coworkers via video, and sometimes, it feels like we are just going in circles instead of getting things done. “We cannot confuse activity with accomplishment.” Mark says. “Your schedule might be packed, but at the end of the day, you need to know if you moved the needle or not.”
If your office is going back to in-person work, make sure you are listening to employees’ concerns and finding a solution that prioritizes their well-being. If your company is continuing to work remotely, check in on them consistently. Mental health is often just as important as physical health. Maybe even consider adding funds for virtual therapy to your health insurance policy. Retaining employees and keeping them happy should be a primary concern.
Become Digital or Be Forgotten
As a society, we were already on a path toward automation and the digital economy. COVID-19 gave it the final push toward becoming a reality. With millions of people still out of work, an increasingly digital economy could seem threatening to some. But really, it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow.
According to McKinsey, 67% of companies have reported an increase in artificial intelligence and accelerated automation. This includes robotics, automated vehicles, and AI-driven software. Adapting to new technologies is only going to become more vital year after year. It shifts the job market, the way people choose college majors, and the continuing education programs available to employees.
Though many have adopted some level of digital life, are you pushing your clients to stay ahead of the curb? Despite it being frustrating at first to convince a client to market outside of their comfort zone, their livelihood and your working relationship depend on it. How are you challenging your clients to not just ‘recession proof’ but ‘pandemic proof?’ There have been half a dozen epidemics in the last two decades that could have become pandemics. Through a whole lot of luck, we have avoided them. But there will be more epidemics and pandemics in the future, and we need to be prepared for them. The clock reset at 2020, and we’re all being pushed to rewrite the playbook and run new drills.
Surviving 2020 as an individual or a business was a feat. We should celebrate such an accomplishment. But we can’t afford to rest or get comfortable now that the worst is behind us. Despite vaccines and plans to return to the office, businesses can only thrive with preparation, an agile team, and those who can remain fearless in the age of pivots.
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