The Covid-19 pandemic was so much more than a health crisis. It was also a catalyst to reimagine the ways in which we live, work and think going forward. Around the world, businesses find themselves in different positions: Some never stopped, many had to reinvent themselves, while other treaded water while things returned to “normal”. Regardless of the success or positioning of each business, no one was immune to the impact of Covid-19 workplace procedures and the interpersonal impact of working together during a pandemic. So what can we learn about the workplace during Covid-19 and how will this affect the workplace of the future?
1. Sick staff must stay home
There was a time when the pressure to show up and work (regardless of our health) took priority over everything else. But Covid-19 changed all that. In fact it actually proved to us just how dangerous it is to put work over health. Not only for yourself but for your co-workers too. Now companies are having to rethink their sick-leave policies allowing employees to make responsible decisions without having to worry about their daily wage or what management will think about them. This kind of fresh thinking will keep contagions out of the workplace and promote an environment when staff and management look after each other in a meaningful way.
2. Open plan layouts are problematic
The way staff are spaced out needs to be thought about again. Social distancing in our private homes and lives is likely to spill over into the workplace going forward. In the past, open floor plans were favoured as a way to promote communication in the workplace. But remote working forced staff to learn to communicate at long distances, rendering the open floor plan moot. Further to this, not only do shared spaces promote the spread of germs but it also reduces privacy and may not be necessary with the new skills acquired out of the Covid-19 necessity.
3. Remote work, works well
In the past employees begged to work from home but employers were reluctant. They feared that communication would break down, that productivity would slow and that they wouldn’t be able to manage their staff remotely. The pandemic changed that and out of necessity management realised that not only is remote work plausible, but that employees want to make it work so productivity doesn’t wane. This is a game changer. If anything it’s not the people that require management, but the systems that need to be put in place in order to support an optimal remote workplace. Once that’s in place, staff can work from home, businesses can cut operational costs and everybody wins.
4. Cleanliness matters
In every office there is that one person who complains about the tea bag left by the sink and the crumbs in the fridge. Pre-2020 they were a real drag, but now it actually turns out that they were right! Now more than ever common areas need to be sanitary to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other infections. And businesses need to be on top of cleaning routines in order to keep their staff healthy and safe during their time in the office.
5. Prepare for worst case scenarios
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that storms brew quickly and you need to be prepared for rainy days in business. As your business rebuilds, consider carefully how you can start setting aside funds to safeguard your business from future surprises. It may also be a good idea to suggest the same for your staff and see if there are formal structures that you can set up in the business with tax benefits and savings plans to help everyone stay on top of things. Your business also needs to have a Plan B if further shut downs occur. So work on different ways to pivot your business (in different scenarios) so you have options and ideas for if and when the rain arrives.
6. Communication counts
Many companies realised when the pandemic struck, that their communication standards were lacking. Now as things return to status quo it’s important to continue encouraging good communication practices. This may not necessarily be email, it could be Whatapp groups, for example. Test these processes so you are ready if needed again at a moment’s notice. This extends to how your staff will communicate with their customers, too.
7. Invest in your technology
Technology extends from infrastructure to staff training. In 2020 everyone had to learn on the fly. In 2021 and going forward we will need to be streamlining these technical additions and the associated operations required of them. In every small business sector there are clever ways to use technology to connect to staff and customers alike. Those businesses who already had them in some form at the beginning of the pandemic were the ones who hit the ground running. Preparing for the future now means taking what worked well and building on that. Ensuring at all points that your business can manage the processes and meet the demand.
The bottom line
The pandemic changed work place relations in unforeseen ways. And while we hope never to face such an ordeal again, the lingering effects and spikes in infections will be keeping business owners on their toes indefinitely. The up side is that this new world has given birth to fresh thinking, it has tested scenarios and developed international communication standards. So the challenge as a business owner is now to really built on this experience and strengthen your workplace with the lesson learned.