It’s not an exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has changed the entire world. The pandemic has not only altered the way that we interact with each other but it’s also given us new vocabulary and new clothing accessories. We’re all familiar with phrases like “social distancing,” “shelter in place,” and “antibodies.” And we’ve all learned to express our unique personalities through the masks we’ve worn off and on over the past year.
However, COVID-19 has also taken a toll on our collective and individual mental health. Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression rose as social isolation became the new normal.
But as bleak and depressing as the pandemic has been for our world, it has also introduced some positive changes to our lives and the ways in which we do business.
By necessity, many businesses have updated their workplace, their processes, and their practices to ensure that they stayed open. While many of these changes were uncomfortable, they also proved to be necessary. And the lessons that we’ve collectively learned during the pandemic can be used to continue to shape our business practices for the future.
Let’s take a look at the top lessons we’ve learned during the past year. In this post, we’ll also explore how the changes brought about by the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way we manage our businesses going forward.
1. Remote Work Isn’t Going Anywhere
Back when social distancing was in full effect, remote work was a necessity. Businesses had to learn quickly how to operate remotely. Now, working remotely is no longer mandatory, but it has become a viable option for many organizations. In addition to working in the office, many employees have the option to work remotely from home.
This is a welcomed permanent change for many, but not all. Some employees miss working full time in-person with others. This has caused some organizations to adopt a hybrid workplace that gives employees the option to alternate between working in person and remotely.
2. Apps Can Boost Productivity and Reduce Feelings of Isolation
Zoom. Slack. Trello. The apps that many people had never heard of before became lifelines during the pandemic. Technology also allowed businesses to continue to operate even with a distributed workforce. Business management tools ensured that projects stayed on time and budget, the work was evenly distributed, teams communicated with each other, and team members stayed as productive as possible.
In the future, there will be a continued reliance on business management tools to communicate with team members, manage tasks, and track time.
3. Health Matters
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that health is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Organizations now focus on the health of their employees, and have taken extra steps to create a safe working environment. This includes providing employees with basic health-related resources like hand sanitizers, masks, and gloves.
Many organizations have also limited employee travel in an effort to reduce unnecessary exposure. This has also led to the reduction of in-person attendance at industry events and conferences. Such events now offer a virtual option for both attendees and speakers.
4. Mental Health Matters
Employees are the heart of every business. If the employees aren’t operating at peak efficiency, the business likewise won’t do well. The isolating effects of the pandemic have created a mental crisis worldwide. Depression, anxiety, and even suicides are on the rise.
In response, organizations have now prioritized the mental health of their employees, and have introduced wellness programs that address the whole person, including mental and physical health.In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have now prioritized the mental health of their employees. Click To Tweet
5. Re-Thinking the Standard “Call In” Policy
Some employees may need to take extended breaks to self-quarantine. Others will need to care for an ill loved one. And whether an employee is calling in because they have the sniffles or simply because they need a mental health break, they should be given the opportunity to do so without fearing from the job.
As mentioned above, mental health matters.
Most businesses have been forced to re-think and update their “call-in” policies to reflect the reality of life in the middle of a pandemic, and to ensure that their employees feel supported.
6. Be Flexible
In addition to a revised absentee and leave policy, many organizations now offer a flexible work arrangement. Working remotely isn’t as bad as was originally feared. A lot of jobs can be done remotely from home without a dip in productivity. In fact, many employees can be trusted to work from home without direct supervision, and with a rise in their overall productivity.
However, it’s important for employers to be clear about what they expect from their employees in terms of attendance and job performance.
7. Pivoting is Powerful
When the world shifts, the business may need to shift also. Many businesses discovered that they could no longer offer the same products or services as they did before. However, it’s essential to change the direction of the business to better align with market needs. That requires a willingness to pivot.
Many organizations have pivoted in the past year to stay in business and better serve their customers.
For example, restaurants, in particular, have needed to adapt to the devastating changes brought about by the pandemic and worldwide stay-at-home orders. Some dine-in restaurants embraced outdoor dining. Others offer meal kits to go.
8. Working Less Can Be Beneficial
Do we really need to work an arbitrary 40 hour work week, especially if we’re no longer in the office full time? Many organizations have abandoned the 40-hour mandate in favor of a more relaxed arrangement. Some offices work four days a week instead of five. Others give employees the autonomy to work by deadline instead of by the hour.
Businesses have found that working less doesn’t mean producing less. In fact, research shows that working fewer hours has a definite boost in productivity.
9. Company Culture Matters
Holding together a company culture can be a difficult task when everyone is working remotely. To succeed, the organization must let its core values become its guiding light. For example, if the organization values transparency, this should be evident in the way that it deals with not only customers but employees.
Businesses have discovered that to maintain a culture remotely, employers must value their employees, spend time together (even if it’s virtual), and celebrate wins no matter how small.
10. Connection is Important
Even if a team works remotely, the team still needs to be connected with each other. Employers now use communication tools like Slack to help them stay connected as a team. In addition to chat tools, employers have also introduced video chats as an option for those who crave in-person engagement.
11. Clear and Constant Communication is a Top Priority
Every stakeholder needs to be informed about what’s happening in the organization and how the organization plans to move forward, whether in crisis mode or not. Stakeholders include employees, customers, suppliers, and business associates. It’s up to the leaders in an organization to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This allows the business to continue to operate as smoothly as possible during uncertain times.
12. Going Digital is No Longer Optional
Having an online presence is a must these days. If a customer cannot casually walk into an office, they should be able to find that business online. And that businesses should be able to find their audience online, too.
Organizations have stepped up their online presence and improved their websites and search engine optimization practices. They’re also investing in online marketing like never before. Online marketing efforts include blogging and search engine ads.
13. Re-evaluate Your Supply Chain
Due to the pandemic, the majority of businesses have faced a slowdown or a complete interruption in their supply. This disruption will affect everyone, from employees to customers. Organizations learned that it’s a good idea to continuously monitor the supply chain and look for alternatives in the worst-case scenario. If and when disaster strikes, a business should be prepared.
14. Make the Workplace Environment Safer
For those who are working from a shared space, following safety precautions became essential. Organizations must ensure that they follow CDC guidelines when it comes to workplace safety. Many organizations now assign permanent desks to their employees. They may also arrange desks so they’re not touching each other or limit the number of employees who are present in the office at any given time.
COVID-19 has taught us a lot of lessons that we will never forget. But, it’s not all negative. There have been many positive changes as businesses have been forced to re-think how they support their employees. These changes are likely to stick as we ease into our new normal.
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