The pandemic has forced people to adapt to the new reality and to change everything at once: their routine, attitude to relationships, daily routine, and, of course, work.
The sharp transition to remote working, restrictions on moving around and communication, as well as other new practices, which are the result of the stay-at-home order, had an impact on not just personal life, but also businesses. Some companies lacked the possibility or flexibility to adapt quickly to the new circumstances, while others, on the contrary, started actively looking for new solutions and changing their business strategies. Now, after several months of quarantine, we can safely say which decisions had the biggest impact on business in the times of pandemic, as well as what the events of spring 2020 revealed to managers, how these discoveries will affect the way they run business and the return to normal operation.
Work from home
For a long time, companies, even those who had the ability and technical resources to allow their workers to work remotely, preferred not to do this, having some bias or groundless fear that the employees would be less productive. Humankind needed a global pandemic to realize that working under strict supervision at the office is not essential for the normal and even the more efficient functioning of a business. The virus did not leave any option other than to have employees work remotely, which meant health concerns and the new rules overcame long-held objections to employees working from home.
So, what is the result? In practice, working from home has proved that almost all fears about remote work, especially about reduced efficiency and communication difficulties, are exaggerated. The business keeps running and the location of the employees, whether they are in the office or at home, has less impact on work than the employees' enthusiasm (more on this below). Quite the opposite - more and more studies prove that working from home increases productivity thanks to the psychological environment and more freedom in managing your own time. Besides, there are obvious savings - employees don't have to spend time and money on travel, on eating out, and companies can save money on rent and services charges in the long term.
Probably, after the epidemic is over, we can expect an increase in the total number of remote workers compared to before. Some companies have already announced that they plan to keep some employees working remotely and others on a more flexible schedule.
Team management online
No doubt, the issue of communication within and between departments was one of the most serious concerns for team leaders, which needed to be addressed quickly. That's why communication via instant messengers and work email has been used in office work for quite some time. However, the importance of informal communication - at lunch, in a hallway, on the way to the office - traditionally plays an important part in building relationships within the team, increasing the overall morale, as well as stimulating people to search for new ideas. That is why, if you used to be able to address your coworker, just by turning in a chair or knocking on the door of the office, then when everyone is staying at home, coordinating the editing process or handling some current work issue is more challenging.
Nevertheless, the present level of technological progress allowed companies to resolve these issues as promptly as possible. Internet call services in recent months have become essential for all employees who must work as a team. And the result is the height of the era of Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and other services that allow you to hold online meetings and discussions on current issues. The services turned out to be useful in another area as well - hiring. Sure, you wouldn't call Skype interviews a novelty, but especially now it has become obvious to HR departments that this approach saves time both for the recruiter and his potential coworker.
Thus, we can say that the pandemic has taught people not just to work online, but also to establish successful communication and socialize, even while being inside the four walls of their homes. Most likely, that over time, companies will be less and less tied to the current location of their employees and will learn to successfully regulate work processes, even when a person is outside the access zone.
Labor Market Cleansing
When the economic situation is stable and companies don't experience difficulties in generating profit, few of them think about the necessity of their work optimization. However, in times of crisis, companies are forced to review the productivity of their employees and current processes. In this sense, the pandemic actually helped companies to reveal all the strengths and weaknesses of their organization, as well as identify areas for growth, improvement, or elimination. Work during the epidemic has shown who of the workers are real key players the company needs, and who are paid disproportionately to their results. In pursuit of an appropriate distribution of savings and income, which, as a rule, decreased, many businesses got rid of inefficient employees.
This process, of course, has a flip side: many specialists lost their jobs during the crisis. However, if you look at the problem from a wider perspective, companies received the opportunity to hire competent personnel on favorable terms due to the increased percentage of potential employees. After all, many professionals lost their jobs not because of insufficient skills, but because they happened to be a wrong match for the company at this moment, so for another company, this person can be a valuable addition.
In the near future, we can witness a reorganization of the personnel market, as well as rebuilding work teams within companies. In addition, businesses have realized the necessity of analysis and optimization of internal processes, and that eventually will have a serious positive impact.
Few enter the new world
Nevertheless, in spite of the opportunities that have opened up and all the positive changes in the work processes brought by the pandemic, there are apparent disadvantages. People stopped spending money thoughtlessly outside their homes and cut drastically their expenses on things, such as clothes, gyms, movies, eating out, and leisure in general. Many companies, especially from the small and medium business category, faced a sharp and serious decline in demand, which goes hand-in-hand with income while liabilities such as rent payments, salaries, and so on. As a result, many companies that were not able to successfully transition online were closed down forever.
In conditions when, for certain reasons, there is no demand, supply drops as well. As a result, the business stops investing in its development and focuses exclusively on surviving in difficult times. The most obvious solution is to reduce wages or lay off employees (the unemployment rate during the pandemic has risen significantly in almost all countries). Thus, a number of companies that until recently had prospects for growth ceased to exist because there was no funding, while others lost valuable employees since these companies were unable to pay them wages.
Probably the most important lesson of the pandemic for businesses will be the realization of how important it is to develop the ability to anticipate radical changes and create a financial (and not just financial) airbag. For this reason, the main thing that companies can and must do to succeed further is to immediately increase their flexibility, as well as the ability to learn fast and change their course rapidly. All methods for the reliable implementation of large projects, which are proven by time, must be supplemented now by methods that can cover any unforeseen circumstances and disruptions in work processes.
It is also important to recognize and accept that when making decisions in a crisis, a business will almost certainly have to face a strong social reaction. However, the crisis teaches us that there are things more important than quarterly profit figures, and the companies that won't learn this lesson will see losing not just money, but people as well.