With countless thousands affected by grief and loss, and with an unprecedented economic situation in view as lockdown lifts it’s important not to pretend that everything is upbeat. Businesses are going to face types of uncertainty as we enter the ‘new normal.’ But having continued to work with businesses in all kinds of sector throughout the peak of the crisis I’ve seen businesses really looking to change their practices for the better.
Firstly, several of them have taken the opportunity of a few months of relative inactivity to look very closely at what their core business actually is and requires. Quite often, companies grow in ways they didn’t expect to. And sometimes that means they have some functions that aren’t core to their business.
The enforced period of lockdown has caused several of my clients to look at these activities and conclude that they are doing things that simply aren’t necessary. In some cases this has sadly meant some redundancies, but in other cases it’s offered an opportunity to move resources around internally to improve their services with a renewed focus on value.
Another area where people have definitely made changes is in their approach to working practices. People have been talking about flexible working and working from home for many years, but few have taken the leap – afraid that if their employees cannot be seen they cannot be trusted. But now? Meetings have been conducted by Skype Teams and Zoom. Email and phone have taken up the slack. And businesses have learned that they can in fact carry on without everyone needing to be in a single big office.
And so finally to the employees themselves.
For many, unfortunately, they have found themselves redundant and it is hard to say at this moment that this is a new opportunity (although for many it may well be that). But for those who have kept their jobs the prospect of new working patterns that fit their lives better is now also open – be it working from home, or in new shift patterns that better reflect their lives. The tyranny of the daily commute and the informal extension of the working day by an hour or two is a step nearer to extinction.
There are still a lot of caveats around all of this of course, as we head into the next few months. Perhaps a year from now it will be like nothing ever happened, and we’ll be back doing what we’ve always done, but I’m quietly hopeful that some of the positive changes that have come about during the pandemic will persist and help to move us into a world with some positive changes.