As businesses continue to navigate the uncharted landscape left in the wake of Covid-19, people across all industries are doing their best to predict how the coming days, weeks, months and years will affect them.
Mark Adams, Director, Mintivo
Mark Adams, Director at South West company Mintivo, gives The Business Exchange an insight into his thoughts on the new normal.
Where are we now?
We’re all feeling the impact of the lockdown. Of course, our priority now is on keeping everyone safe – our family, friends and staff. My heart goes out to anyone who is affected by the pandemic.
Whilst in the midst of this huge change it’s natural to focus on day-to-day survival, as business owners and senior managers we also have to think about a world beyond Coronavirus. What will that world look like, and what it will mean for business?
Before we look ahead, let’s think about what we’ve seen so far.
The work is still getting done but it’s not perfect
For the most part, work seems to be carrying on as normal. Sure, some jobs aren’t possible unless you’re on-site but for office-based tasks, staff are as productive as ever.
Suddenly, services like Zoom, House Party and Microsoft Teams/365 (pictured) have become embedded in our daily routines. For some, they have been a lifeline in maintaining personal contact with family, friends and colleagues.
You could say that technology has been our saviour. Can you imagine if this pandemic hit us 10 years ago? How much more isolated might we have felt? How much harder would it have been to work together from home?
Remember you’re on camera!
There’s a learning curve when it comes to remote meetings. We’ve had to set some rules: Turn on your camera, dress appropriately (casual is fine but no PJs please!), contribute but don’t talk over people and if you’re going to take the meeting in your garden, remember that laptop microphones will pick up more noise than you realise.
Humans are social animals.
If anything, the remote working has shown me how the little things we do as humans are so important; making eye contact before we speak, peoples’ mannerisms, those little moments when they’re off-guard, the spontaneous conversations and jokes. We miss them and as time goes on, it gets harder.
Friday night team drinks at our local. The Minchester
Maintaining morale and keeping the team ‘connected’ is vital at this time. Our virtual pub, The Minchester, is where all the team congregate on Friday evening for after work drinks. This is purely social and all staff, including those who have been furloughed, join in. Other activities such as my daily exercise class and creating screen backgrounds help to maintain those personal relationships and the team culture.
Stop the IT project. It’s time to consolidate
Naturally, we’ve seen IT projects postponed or cancelled. That’s understandable. If businesses are considering furloughing staff, capital expenditure has to be re-evaluated. Resources have to go to immediate operations and remote working.
IT projects will remain on-hold for the foreseeable future. The projects that do go ahead will be focussed on further resilience, automation and cost saving, removing reliance on location-based infrastructure as much as possible. ‘Scalability’, both up and down, will be a key objective.
Forget getting back to normal
At the risk of sounding negative, I see a stormy outlook for business over the next 12 months. Financially, we could be looking at a depression not seen since the 1930s, maybe even worse. How will businesses respond?
Some will come to the conclusion that they employ too many staff; that remote tools and automation can reduce overhead and provide resilience in times such as these. Mass redundancies are a very real concern and I’m worried for what that will mean to the UK’s workforce.
Several high street brands will fail
Those with weaker business models will struggle. We’ll see many businesses fail – not just small businesses but large, well-known high street brands too. Strong businesses will adapt, survive and may even thrive but weaker businesses will struggle.
But where there are losers, there will also be winners. Some will change their business models and pivot into new products and services. We’re already hearing how some pubs and restaurants have started offering takeaway and delivery services. Some will reach wider or newer audiences.
Remote working technology and app services will grow
The technology world will see new releases and upgrades to improve those remote experiences. Expect these technologies to feel ever-more human. I can see major updates to messaging tools like Snapchat and Tick Tock and expect major releases from the big names like Microsoft and Google.
Less travel in working lives
People will work from home more often. We’ll get closer to a 50:50 balance between home working and office. Of course, that doesn’t work for all business, particularly retail or manufacturing where you have to be hands-on. But office environments will become quieter, smaller places with more hotdesking when staff are on-premise.
Does that spell the end for the travelling salesperson? Why would you send a salesperson on a 400-mile round-trip for a meeting that they could hold over a Zoom or Microsoft Teams? If they worked from home, they could get through many more meetings, be less tired and have more time with their family. The roads will be quieter and the planet a little less polluted as a result. Of course, that will not work for every business, but I suspect many will be asking that question. And if one salesperson can do more sales calls remotely, will you need so many of them?
Relationships between retained and furloughed staff will be strained
There have been some tough decisions for businesses. Decisions that needed to be made quickly and with the government help, many staff have found themselves furloughed. Have we thought about the impact this has on the team as we bring everyone back together? There’s a risk of resentment between those that were furloughed, and those that weren’t. As managers, we should be vigilant for the future impact on the relationships between colleagues.
No one knows what the future holds. Adapt to cope with the unexpected
The fact is that nobody knows what the future holds for business after Covid-19. The landscape will certainly change. What you can do however is adapt your business to cope with situations like this. The technology is there for all of us to use, you just need to utilise it in the right way.