Posted on: March 21, 2021

New ways of working: Pandemic practices that are here to stay

What a difference a pandemic makes.

It changes the way we work, interact, and think about the future, not just temporarily, but possibly permanently. History will record that ideas that were still in the ‘nice to have, but not yet’ category, for the first two decades of the 21st century, were suddenly catapulted into wide acceptance, not just for mega corporations but for every size of business.

Flexible working

The ideal of working from home at least some of the time – an aspiration for many people with family responsibilities or just a long commute – may have seemed unattainable just a year ago. Bums on seats in a central location during specified hours was the accepted norm, with physical presence the visible evidence of apparent dedication to the job.

How surprised, then, were business owners and people managers throughout the land, to discover that not only did productivity not go down when employees worked remotely during the lockdown and beyond, in some cases it actually increased.

So, while the traditional office is not dead yet, flexible working locations and hours seem likely to persist.

Retiring the business attire

Working from home, meetings via Zoom and team communications via Slack or Trello, have removed the need to dress formally during working hours – at least not from head to toe, only from the waist up perhaps. There’s no doubt they have accelerated the trend towards more casual and comfortable working attire.

Some industries, such as finance, may continue with elevated sartorial standards, but for others, especially in smaller companies and for employees with non-customer-facing roles, the suit has gone forever.

Embracing e-learning

Smart organisations didn’t allow training and upskilling to grind to a halt when the team wasn’t able to learn in a face-to-face environment. Instead, e-learning expanded to fill the gap.

E-learning can be less expensive (no venue hire, catering, travelling), just as interactive (thanks to the likes of Zoom and BlueJeans) and much easier and faster to implement. It looks like it’s here to stay, even when traditional classrooms and seminars become available again.

Building resilience into the operating model

At the start of the new year in 2020, most business owners were probably expecting their sector to continue much as normal, while hoping for increased turnover and less disruption from the effects of drought and bushfires.

But if the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s this: ‘more of the same’ is no longer a recipe for business survival. In 2021 and beyond, organisations need to be resilient as a matter of course.

A resilient business will:

  • Aim to protect its supply chain and be ready with alternatives if necessary
  • Avoid being too reliant on outsourcing
  • Become more digitally agile to ensure remote working is always possible
  • Support employee wellbeing, especially mental health
  • Continually adapt business strategy to meet changing conditions and needs

Even a pandemic may have a silver lining

There’s no denying the devastating personal and economic costs of COVID-19. Let’s hope it can be consigned to history as soon as possible. But some of its lessons are positive, and it looks like they’re going to become a permanent feature of your business life.

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