Many of the ways the COVID-19 crisis has transformed the face of business are extremely obvious. This includes accelerating the shift to dispersed workforces, and the sudden need to invest in devices and software that integrate teams into a digital workplace.
You and your staff are also even less likely to meet up in person – with each other or business contacts.
What other shifts and changes could businesses pass through during the return to the ‘new normal’? Here are our 5 predictions…
Remote working will continue
For many employees, ditching the daily commute and working from home was a sudden and rather bewildering turn of events. Whether that has proved to be a positive or negative experience, can have long term repercussions for your organisation. More on that later.
However, if your company is now more reliant on remote working and has invested in digital infrastructure, you may find that your team welcomes and embraces this. In fact, the demand to work remotely post-pandemic, at least some of the time, will likely continue.
Providing your staff with digital workplaces and the choice to work from home will increasingly be seen as part of being a caring, protective, and modern employer.
Mental health takes top priority
The way your organisation has handled the pandemic – and now manages the transition to a ‘new normal’ – will have long term personnel ramifications. Have you shown you are in tune with your staff’s needs?
At the height of the crisis, you could well have seen signs of a shared determination to protect your company from this period of uncertainty. Pulling together as a team to battle through can be a potent force during periods of change.
However, as lockdown continues this could wear off quickly, especially if staff feel under-appreciated, under-informed or disengaged from decision-makers. This is particularly true for employees thrust into working from home with dizzying speed, who are still coming to terms with the isolation and technical complexities that brings.
Keep an eye on your staff’s stress and anxiety levels during this period of uncertainty
Anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high, and even when lockdown measures ease off these will disintegrate slowly. Fear of infection sits alongside grave concerns about the global economic forecast and feeling unsettled by such rapid change in daily life.
Companies must check in with their staff methodically throughout the coming weeks, looking out for both obvious and subtle signs that staff are becoming disaffected or unhappy.
Team dynamics need to be virtual and physical
The transformation in the way we work – and far greater acceptance of dispersed teams connected by technology – means organisations must now pay close attention to company intranet software. Especially the way they utilise it, not just for communications and collaboration, but also to unify company-wide and project-specific teams.
Your intranet must replicate many of the organic processes that take place in the physical workplace, including adding personal touches that mirror your team dynamics. This can be as simple as creating corporate social networks, and other virtual hubs for a free exchange of ideas, questions, and concerns.
Use corporate social networks to bring your dispersed teams together, virtually
Also, intranet software must be configured to enable business leaders to ‘listen’ acutely even when physical meetings and co-working is rare. You can’t read tone of voice or body language as well with video conferencing and briefings, so you need to facilitate a freer exchange of feedback in other ways.
Deliberately and carefully creating two-way communication channels, and issuing immediate responses, shows that you care and that you listen. The more you show you listen, the more likely your team are to be honest and open, flagging up issues early and trusting you with ideas for improvements and business opportunities.
Your intranet software should also facilitate plenty of opportunities to recognise and reward staff input too, as a way of uniting and supporting your remote teams through COVID-19’s unsettling ripple-effects.
Face-to-face time will adapt
It is unlikely that a post-pandemic trend will be to completely bin all forms of physical contact in business though. Messaging via intranet software and teleconferencing can’t utterly replace occasionally meeting face to face, for negotiations, transactions or team working.
Perhaps many head offices will reduce in size, and become mini-conference and training centres, for well-planned occasional gatherings. Social distancing procedures will be in place for the foreseeable future, staggered office hours to maximise quiet travel times may also be long term features.
Your tech will need to stack up
As the business world has moved inextricably further towards true digital workplaces how important will your tech response be? Not just in terms of creating productive, well informed and properly supported teams, but also clients who will want more reassurance that your systems to support dispersed workforces are 100% reliable.
If your transition to operating digitally was rushed, was enough done to keep your work projects progressing smartly and to a high standard? Are your staff well-organised and united behind your new operational procedures?
Also, future recruits may judge you on your tech. It could well become one of the measures of whether an employee is sufficiently equipped to make home-working practical and productive.