While businesses rushed to survive in unseen proportions, large and well-known brands were losing customers’ trust by the minute, they also had to send their teams to work from home en masse and with no proper infrastructure yet introduced.
However, as any other extremely intense situation, this one also had its good sides. Along with the many limitations and complications COVID brought to our work, it has accelerated two processes, which, honestly, were long overdue at many companies.
The most obvious one is the digital transformation. It has been on the agenda of many businesses for years, following the common trend to use digital tools in everyday work, in offerings to customers, in business operations. It was properly planned to happen, it was in the pipeline for the next 5 years, it was a thing to show around as a sign of innovativeness. But it was never а die heart commitment on such a large scale for almost anyone. Until COVID kicked in! In order to survive on pretty much any level, businesses needed to react quicker than an… air-spreading virus! And, on top of that, they had to make it happen in two parallel lines to keep themselves afloat – outside, to customers, and inside, to employees.
Probably, among the toughest challenges most companies faced while dealing with the B2C aspect was how to quickly set up and make their products and services attractive for the online eye in the sudden everyone’s-on-the-web eruption, and with no option for an alternative presentation (like, a physical shop, for example).
The rat race has been furious, and degraded many traditional market leaders, from which the public was expecting to lead the parade, and which, prior to COVID, had elaborated plans and millions of investments in digital transformation.
But it also gave a kick to businesses which, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, would have probably remain market followers for life; it has, in a way, given them primary position granting their innovativeness.
As much as COVID was extremely harmful for almost every company globally, it has undoubtedly shown the importance of constant change in doing business, to never lose sight of the ball. Because, now it is COVID that challenges our life, but tomorrow another financial or health crisis may kick in again. And so far it seems that only if, as a business, you never stop elaborating on how you operate and deliver value to customers, and continually challenge the status quo, you have a chance to face what’s coming next.
Another great challenge many companies faced almost immediately after COVID took over the globe, was how to make sure their now work-from-home employees will quickly get on board with the large number of new processes introduced, but will also remain effectively committed to the job. As much as being stuck at home to work with your partner, and, possibly kids and pets, was very frustrating at the beginning, people quickly realized how much more time they have now, laid up from getting ready to go to the office or commuting, to use for workout, walks, personal hobbies.
COVID, it seems, accelerated another element that many companies were neglecting for years – the work-life balance of their employees.
Much like with digital transformation, processes and plans existed, but more often than not were a good intention rather than a strict policy. Coming to the office prior to February 2020 meant, generally speaking, to really work. Even if it was obvious you can do your job just as well from home. The pandemic changed this manner of thinking rapidly, and for good. To quote a popular meme - COVID really showed what meetings could have been an email. From a business perspective, it has shortened processes, and reduced delays significantly. From the perspective of employees, the time they now have spared, and spent on themselves or with their families, to one degree or another, has made them happier as a research by Workforce Happiness Index shows.
It seems that the fear many businesses had, that once their employees are home, they will commit to anything else but working productively, is baseless.
And it makes every sense to be such – a lazy employee will be lazy anywhere. And a bad manager will be just as unable to inspire, offline or online. “The future model is hybrid, no question,” Eric Adler, chief executive of PGIM Real Estate, the world’s second largest property investment manager said recently in an interview for Financial News. “There will be less need for desks.”, he adds.
Work from home is here to stay. Companies become more and more aware that with the pressure COVID has put over the world, the least their employees need is to be forced for something again. And, in the end, when office work is an option, work is much less seen as an obligation, it changes the entire mind set. This and other positive effects over employee’s behaviour and quality of life - reduced stress, increased productivity and creativeness, are far from ignored by businesses. Instead, they are gradually moving to hybrid options, bringing digital transformation and work from home into one new trend, to very soon become the new normal.