RE-DESIGNING YOUR BUSINESS AFTER CODID LOCKDOWN
NOW IS THE TIME TO RESEARCH AND MAKE PLANS
As we move into week five in lockdown with full remote working practices operating in most businesses, daily work structures and meeting rhythms are now well established although fatique may be setting in. Technology has been trialed and adopted, teams are connected and the new working-life norm has replaced the initial overwhelm. The traditional workforce has fractured into millions of individuals connected by technology in millions of locations all over the world.
There is no doubt businesses are already revolutionized by the change: some will come back a little shaken but with new ideas for running their businesses going from perhaps current loss making to break-even and eventually back to profit. Sadly, some businesses will not survive and this will be a time of sadness for many entrepreneurs who will require collective empathy and support from society.
Whether we gradually return to work from May 5, there’s an enormous amount of business insights that can be captured now from employees and customers.These next few weeks are an excellent time to reflect, research and set plans in place for getting our businesses and people back up and running.
According to Mike Byrne, Senior Delivery Manager with global IT consultancy firm Expleo, “the companies who will survive and thrive following Covid-19 will be the most flexible ones”. www.expleogroup.com
Reframing to Survive the Uncertainty
There are still huge unknowns around the date of return: will it be a phased ‘back-to-work’ approach? What industries can return first? How will public transport accommodate thousands of workers if social distancing measures are still in place? How many of my customers will survive? The more businesses become specialists in re-framing their strategy and execution, the easier the return to business will be. Agility will be key.
Setting up a Core Team
Setting up a core team to research the ‘Current Pulse of the Organisation and Our Customers’ is a first step in re-designing the return after Covid-19 Lockdown. Many businesses have already done this with leaders from HR, Finance, Operations, (IT, Marketing, Sales, Customer Services, Production, Warehousing and Purchasing) putting together draft plans and working cohesively to execute communication campaigns and timelines for rolling out the plans.
Part of the work of the core team is to design a questionnaire to collect and collate feedback from employees. The HR Dept – L&D and Employee Engagement personnel – are ideally placed to interface with individual employees and managers to run surveys or conduct 1-on-1 interviews that will yield valuable insights into how employees have experienced all-out remote working and what ideas or changes they feel should be considered in redesigning the company’s workforce Post Lockdown. There is a recently launched Remote Worker psychometric test which can scientifically analyze a person’s suitability to work remotely.
There’s time now too for the core team to design a questionnaire around what are the critical challenges for your business, for your customers and how you can deliver your product or service Post Lockdown. You may initially only continue to meet customers on VC. You may have distributors, retailers, agents in your supply chain that all need to be consulted about changes. Getting the feedback from stakeholders will help you reshape your offer and help you decide what communication channels to use to explain changes to your customer services and what new protocols you are bringing in and the timelines you’re setting for rolling these out.
Office Environment Hygiene
Employees will also be nervous about their health and want to return to a safe office environment. Modifying the office workplace will be part of the core team’s remit as they discover what will reassure employees that the office is a safe environment. There may be new protocols around hygiene with hand sanitizers at the entrance, more soap and paper towel dispensers, temperature taking on entry, sterilization of hallways, furniture and equipment, training in hygiene protocols. Some of these measures will become law and will impact company costs.
Office Environment and How People Travel to Work
If social distancing becomes essential, how will thousands of office workers travel on public transport? Will there be three work shifts and three transport timelines to accommodate the new work shifts? Will more people use their cars because of social distancing and how will this affect an employee’s quality of life in getting to work in traffic, in finding and paying for parking at work?
Remote Work to Support Employees with Childcare Challenges
You may need to offer some of your employees the opportunity to work from home even when most of their colleagues have returned. Some of your people may not have childcare cover because of Covid 19 and may still need to work remotely on a part-time or full-time basis. Or some might need to look after a parent. This will be discovered in your employer survey.
Wellness Support for Office Based and Remote Workers
Supporting employee’s mental health after returning to work will become critical. People will be adapting to the monumental changes to life and work, to continued uncertainty, perhaps to the loss of a loved one, or to financial worry. Companies can continue to care for their people by providing wellness programmes focusing on the reality of living through Covid 19 and the return to work.
Technology and Software
There will be new protocols for software and increased rigour around cyber security. Cyber security has fallen short because of the speed of the lockdown. There may also be new VC technology that needs to be purchased and installed if less physical meetings with colleagues customers and suppliers are happening. Virtual training programmes will need to be purchased to ensure employees are still receiving Continuous Personal Development. Existing software may need to be modified to reflect the changes in workplace practices and to support employees adequately. Consultation on the new requirements and how the software needs to change must be foremost in the Return to Work plan.
Finance teams are already evaluating the overheads, cash flow shortfalls by department and what potential savings can be made in redesigning the workplace. This may involve salary cuts or reducing the size of the workforce to reduce payroll. Delaying capital equipment purchasing or looking at ways to delay non-essential expenditure until the business becomes profitable. Reducing office size and examining terms of commercial leases and other business loans and term times are considerations particularly if some employees want to continue to work from home. Some customers may need longer credit terms to get back on their feet. New funding and borrowing arrangements may need to be set up. Companies are availing of government grants and supports and may continue to do so. The implications for business costs are huge if there is a decision to move the workforce to partial remote working. Many companies may decide to dramatically reduce their office space or invest in co-working spaces outside of the major cities thus reducing rental costs and affecting commercial leases.
Operations teams will be assessing delivery of whatever the business trades in whether that’s people services or products. Getting feedback on what changes need to happen in terms of delivering to customers will become vital. Customers will be lost too, there will be major changes in terms of logistics. Software and processes need to support any redesign to operations.
In summary, now is the perfect time to research how to redesign your business post Lockdown. There might be many drafts to your plan because so many uncertainties remain however, the more you know about your business now – it’s opportunities, weaknesses, strengths and threats – the better you and your people will be to survive and thrive Post Lockdown and Post Covid.
Maura Jakksen Byrne is MD of Your Business Smart Coach, a Business and Leadership Development Consultancy. She is a qualified Senior Executive Coach, a qualified Behavioural Analyst, a published writer and an entrepreneur who has run several businesses over the last 30 years. She offers Remote Working Suitability Psychometric Testing and Consultancy in Returning To Work Post-Covid 19. She is a member of the EMCC.
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