Official ‘lockdown’ was announced across Northern Ireland and the UK on the 23rd march plunging businesses, organisations and householders into an unexpected, and wholly unprepared for economic shutdown.
The business world immediately went into an ‘all hands on deck’ response, through to eventual stabilisation. Now, 8 weeks on, we are beginning to see the emergence of businesses re-strategising and forging ahead in a bid to get back to ‘business as usual’.
But the big question is, what kind of normal do we really want, or need to see in the business world moving forward?
Whilst the pandemic has caused widespread chaos to both work and home life, there are a few major takeaways that have become apparent.
1. (In many roles) working from home is not only achievable but more resource-efficient:
For all those sceptical employers out there, who didn’t believe that the workforce could deliver the goods without being ‘in-situ’, it turns out, that for the most part, this has been proven to be a managerial myth!
Obviously, productivity has had its challenging moments, especially in the face of ‘home-schooling’ (more on that below) but it is working. Which then raises the question; are there more efficient and productive ways of working that allows us to reduce office size, heating and lighting costs, reduce travel and emissions whilst offering our employees a more flexible approach to their work-life balance?
Yvon Chouinard’s, owner of well -known outdoor brand Patagonia, principal concern was taking care of employees, customers, and, above all else, the planet.
Patagonia’s employee handbook is entitled “Let My People Go Surfing,” which gives a pretty good indication of how deeply committed they are to employee flexibility. This has proven to be an outstanding retention play for its workforce as the company only has approx 4% turnover each year (Bruce Anderson, 2019).
Data from Global Workplace Analytics has also shown that companies can save an average of $11,000 (in today’s market approx. £8,900) per year for every employee who spends half of their time working remotely, as well as providing a wide range of other benefits surrounding positive impacts for staff wellbeing, retention rates and environmental sustainability. (Global Workplace Analytics, Costs & Benefits).
Global Workplace Analytics has also found that 77% of the workforce say they want to continue to work from home, at least weekly, when the pandemic is over, representing a rise of 132% over those who did so before COVID-19, stating:
“[this] will lead to profound changes in office space needs, workplace design, workforce policies and practices, and employer, employee, and environmental outcomes.”
2. Online is the new norm
Online conferencing providers across the board are reporting unprecedented growth in usage.
Webex reported 6.7 billion meeting minutes in March alone and is hosting more than 4 million meetings a day globally. Microsoft reported that its Teams collaboration platform has seen a 500% increase in meetings, calls, and conferences and by March 11, 343,000 people globally downloaded the Zoom app, according to Apptopia. (Roopam Jan, 2020)
Forget the well-coined phrase ‘content is king’, as moving forward, it appears that ‘connectivity is king’ stating:
“many of the consumer behaviour changes we are seeing are…structural and will be the “new normal” going forward.” RCR Wireless
3. Technology is allowing even the smallest of businesses to access a worldwide market
RCR Wireless has also stated:“
“this crisis has created a significant shift in terms of consumer behaviour, impacting how we consume products, interact with other people, learn and shop.”
What this increase in online interaction and activity has effectively allowed businesses to do, even for the most micro of operators, is to access to a global platform for training, networking and selling.
Many businesses have moved, or are in the process of moving, their businesses, or elements of their offering, online and with the globe currently accepting this as their new norm, for the foreseeable future, now is the perfect opportunity for businesses to use this launchpad to really put their business on the map. All whilst reducing costs, saving time and eradicating the need for high carbon travel.
“The aftermath of the pandemic will certainly create opportunities for start-ups to innovate…the combination of shifts in consumer behaviour with a powerful technology will result in a dramatic transformation…” (RCR Wireless, 2020)
4. Global health and human health are inextricably linked
Paul Polman, former Procter & Gamble president for Western Europe and Co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE, recently shared a video calling on scientists, business leaders and individuals to open the window on post-pandemic environmental perspectives.
Within this video, he highlights that:
“global health and human health are not in sync”
It is anticipated that outbreaks of animal-borne disease are on the rise with the destruction of biodiversity at the root of this global problem; ‘We are all discovering the shortcomings of our current economic system’ and the costs are high.
As Mr Polman rightly states:
“life after Covid19 will be different, whether it is better or worse is up to us.”
Isn’t it time for businesses to consider a more inclusive and sustainable growth model that benefits not only profit, but true purpose, and embrace a paradigm shift from activity that creates a negative impact on the planet, or society along our value chains?
If we fail to act now, the cost of our inaction will ultimately be much higher than the cost of action.
5. Society and businesses can and are pulling together for the greater good
Since the beginning of the crises, we have seen society, business and global partners pull together in a bid to save lives and protect our people. Whilst this is something that should have been a socio-economic norm it has taken an ‘invisible enemy’ to force a society that is staying alive by staying apart, to somehow still come together in ways that matter the most.
Working together to saving human life is not the only things that have emerged from this disaster, however, as global leaders from across the world are increasingly calling out to peers and governments to ensure that a ‘green recovery’ is on the agenda for moving out economy forward.
Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland Foods has said:
“The economic recovery from this global health crisis must put the restoration of nature at its heart – because that is the only way we can continue to power our human endeavour sustainably. If nature is protected, we are protected.”
These sentiments are echoed by Chief Executives and leaders from across the globe right now with over 40 global organisations including bp, Heathrow Airport, Shell and HSBC, calling on governments to focus economic recovery packages in ways that enable sectors and businesses to transition to low-carbon and resilient models of operation.
This coalition of business leaders has gone one step further in issuing a letter to governments detailing their recommendations on how nations can “unleash massive investments into renewables”, phase-out fossil fuels, and incentivise businesses to set net-zero emissions targets in order to spur long-term green growth. (edie, 2020)
6. “No one should ever have to teach their own children!”
OK, so this is a bit of a light-hearted one quoted from my very good friend, who also just happens to be a teacher and I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t agree more!
I have worked on annual budgets and completed my tax returns, I have strategised on delivery pathways for local, nationwide and European campaigns, have developed new business plans, working with many businesses and mentees and I have never experienced the hidden frustration and sense of ineptness that has been ‘gifted’ to me through the act of teaching my own child.
I am certain, that this is not a sentiment shared only by myself and my friend, especially if social media video evidence is anything to go by!
What is has taught me however, is that it is important to stick to our strengths, and remember why we decided to pursue our own passions through our businesses.
For me, this is all about enabling positive change for individuals, for businesses, for society and for the planet. However, I’ll do my best in the meantime trying to educate, empower and enthuse our little entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs, of tomorrow to ensure that they can also play a part in helping to create positive change and deliver a healthy and sustainable future for all.