For over a year and a half, we've altered the "regular course of business." Many businesses have gone remote. We have participated in countless video calls, we have socially distanced, and have complied with health practices that lead us to the best path of safety for everyone. But as COVID-19 vaccines have entered the equation, the business world now progresses towards reintroducing elements of our pre-pandemic lives. However, the path to returning to business "normalcy" isn't as simple as flipping a switch, and what is considered "normal" may end up taking on a different appearance and meaning than what once was as the world continues to navigate the ebb and flow of a still changing environment.
It worked yesterday, so it must work today. Right?
The massive change in the business world brought on by COVID-19 was palpable. Immediately having to pivot to a remote work environment was not without some initial transition pains. Still, it was swift, in large part because the technologies needed to foster such a situation were available long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. While the new “remote” normal was seen as a temporary arrangement, businesses began to see the long-term benefits this pivot provided, especially since the initial fears associated with it never materialized.
While remote work was the clear factor in the entire spectrum of consumer and business attitudes changes, there was a common thread bringing all these changes together: the jump in reliance and use of technology to bridge the gap of interpersonal activity. Conferences became virtual gatherings, online banking became an essential service, and consumerism was ordered entirely online, including groceries and meals.
“The truth of the matter is that the efficacy of remote work is determined by each employee's role and abilities.”
The next steps...no matter what
Business, as we used to know it, is history. The digital customer experiences that blossomed during the pandemic which most have come to expect now are here to stay. If the pandemic never happened, this new reliance on digital experiences may have been slower to develop, but it still would have happened. Technological progress is not stagnant or reversible. Yet, there are rumblings of many companies thinking there’s no need to re-prioritize resources to enhance customers’ digital experience. This is a critical miscalculation. As aforementioned, there’s too much uncertainty; so what is a business supposed to do? In the interest of future stability, a plan must be created:
- Take stock of the past year
The first step in planning for the future is to analyze where your business currently stands while forecasting any scenarios that may become problematic for you in the future
- Identify in which segment of the business lifecycle your business sits presently
How much more are you willing to invest into your company, and what will it take to maximize its value?
- Forsake short-term profitability for long-term stability
Improving cash flow via better-managed balance sheets can increase liquidity to ride out future calamities
- Anticipate disruptions within your supply chain
Are you reliant on a single entity for either supply or demand side? Look beyond the surface layer and determine what works and what doesn’t
- Ensure you have professional outside help
Who can help you manage non-core operations to streamline your business?
Wait, but why?
The number one reason is that it’s better to have the infrastructure in place to weather all manner of disruptions than to start all over after each one. In order to possess that kind of stability, you need to be versatile with reestablishing previous norms while re-examining resources and information to best put your company in a position to thrive. For companies that have done the prep work, it means it’s time to strike while the iron is hot – cultivate an advantage by expanding the digital experience you provide and allocate resources accordingly. Continuing to wait idly to see how things shake out is only ignoring history and further puts you behind as your competition advances. Every business faces its fork-in-the-road moment, and the decision about which path to take could be the difference between the success and failure of that business.
An important factor that has unveiled itself is that it’s possible to compare customer experience metrics from before the pandemic with current metrics to see how drastically customer behavior has evolved. This new dataset could provide valuable insight into which strategies you should prioritize to maximize improvement.
“The leadership steering the company must be thinking progressively about the future.”
The missing ingredient
But what if your company is a more team-focused company and the camaraderie and back-and-forth meetings that result from it are what make the company strong to begin with? The truth of the matter is that the efficacy of remote work is determined by each employee’s role and abilities. And how do we determine that with new employees? It won’t be easy to ingrain your company culture into new employees. Building relationships with your team happens with compelling group experiences and is difficult to accomplish in a remote environment. Remember those casual conversations we have in the hallways? They build strong bonds, and there’s real value in a culture that grows from laughing and sweating over projects together. It is impossible to know how a protracted remote work environment will affect the personality of your company you’ve spent years building.
Continuing to navigate through all of this will be one of the biggest challenges of our time. Understandably, it can be overwhelming, and it would be easy to conduct business like before. It would be a familiar road taken. Yet, it would be a mistake of enormous proportions, and the leadership steering the company must be thinking progressively about the future.