Where should companies focus their efforts when returning employees safely, effectively and energetically?
The great Steve Jobs has said "innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not as a threat", and I think this disruption to our typical norm is providing just that.
Working from home has caused people to challenge their basic assumptions about careers, the workplace, their use of technology, and many related issues. When the health crisis passes, what do you expect the “new normal” to look like?
I think the biggest thought to think about is that we really can't return to "normal" because that normal we had before was our problem. I love that many of us have had the opportunity to pause, and take time for reflection and introspection. And now, companies are ready for a comeback.
Where to start?
First, companies will need to reconsider how they can establish more resilience. This pandemic has been unreal in terms of economic damage - can we all agree to that? The U.S. Congressional Budget Office has projected that in Q2, GDP could fall 12%, and that unemployment could stick at double digits into 2021.
Companies will have to rethink their business models. For example, supply chains built on just-in-time / lean inventory may have to be reconsider, given the way many have been disrupted. From my experience and introspection, companies will need to build, or strengthen, backup and safety plans, such as deeper layers of succession planning or significantly expanding work-at-home capabilities for more employees.
Investors are for sure going to need to devise ways to incorporate new resiliency metrics into their valuation, as they have begun to do with climate-related risks. Many companies will need to re-evaluate their priorities, making additional resiliency measures as important to their strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.
Second, I do believe the best part of this pandemic are the positive outcomes. EVERYONE is learning new ways to connect. And my favorite part is businesses are using creativity to find faster and cheaper ways to operate.
Remote working being one of them. Think about this, your company should be thinking about their expensive office space. Is it worth it to have those spaces anymore? Or should they be optional co-working spaces? Or monies used to help those working from home to have better technology and supplies?
This pandemic has made employers move away from traditional thinking that productivity is contingent upon set hours within an office environment (who has EVER worked a full eight hours in an office anyways?).
Third, the mental wellness of employees who will shift to permanent work from home environments. Companies need to prepare their management team to check in on remote employees. During this pandemic, many people have been polled and share that they feel incredibly alone and perhaps more depressed not being around co-workers physically.
I highly suggest that HR departments have a set of resources employees can access in regards to mental health. Perhaps counselors on staff, employee assistance programs, etc as a part of new benefits.
Setting your employees and teams up for success in this new "norm" will be key to having a successful comeback as a company. For all of us, instead of looking to the past, it will be critical to reconstruct for the future.