How To Future Proof Your Business For New Restrictions (And A Second Outbreak)

Sunday, 26 July 2020 15:48

How To Future Proof Your Business For New Restrictions And A Second Outbreak

It’s safe to say that no business was fully prepared for the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19. The worldwide pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, communicate and co-exist with one another, and looks to have had a lasting impression on these facets of our lives.

As a business owner, you owe it to yourself and your staff to always be prepared for the challenges lurking around the corner. As many teams return to their office from the safety of remote working, businesses need to both abide by government restrictions and address their own company-specific issues.

So, how does a business prepare itself for the new normal’s restrictions in the workplace and future-proof for lingering threats?

Remote capabilities at the ready

For the foreseeable future businesses must be on high alert of a potential return to remote working.

While the pandemic was a slow creeping menace that took a few months to catch on, the majority of businesses found themselves caught off guard by it and the concept of moving operations out of the office.

Throughout the early weeks of the pandemic, many businesses found themselves scrambling to find the right equipment, digital tools and re-tooled business structure to make remote working a viable option. Should they be forced into that situation again they need to be significantly more prepared.

Avoiding this issue means having a concrete plan in case of a second wave. The success stories of a second wave will be businesses that can master a quick transition into remote working. Success will be built on the speed of which this can be accomplished, how many people are let into the office initially and the tools at a business’s disposal. After months of working remotely most companies have countless subscriptions to management tools and a preferred video chat option, so make sure to keep using them as part of your day to day to keep teams familiar with them.

Making your entire team’s workload and equipment portable is essential too. Laptops should be used over desktop models and a rotation system for the first few months can help you follow social distancing measures. A return to remote working may only last a few weeks, but losing even one day to set up can cost a business in these financially awkward times.

One thing businesses should look to do in the long-term future is to train each new member of staff in their remote working procedure. Making this a part of your welcome pack and initiation process can help familiarise new starters with what is expected of them while teaching them about the team and making them more effective out of the office.

Systems and routines make workplaces stronger and more efficient. Remote working should not become a distant memory, it needs to be worked into your processes for the long term.

Kitting out the office

Returning to the office is going to feel and look very alien to both business owners and staff alike. Government regulations will enforce strict social distancing guidelines and the conventions of office life will become a distant memory for the time being.

To make your office work in this new reality you don’t just need to carry over lessons from remote working, you need to have the right equipment to make it a success.

Think about what a modern office is going to look like under these new conditions. Can you and your team work to their expected level with the equipment you currently have? Treat the days prepping for a return to the office much like you did the first few working from home, where you were forced to consider the comfort and productivity of workers in a new environment.

Digital businesses should be able to adapt to this new reality, and be willing to make concessions to suit discoveries made by staff throughout remote working.

If they have found themselves to be more productive on an Apple device at home don’t be afraid to trade in that old PC you’ve been forcing them to use (for those worried about price, it’s not hard to find a MacBook Pro used for a good deal). Even something as simple as an ergonomic keyboard and mouse can have a huge impact on productivity, especially if your team has gotten used to such luxuries. Take these lessons and apply them to how you onboard new starters — that MacBook Pro used in their last role might be the difference between them learning the job in a month instead of two or three.

It will take some time, but a completely different office environment is something we will all have to get used to working in. Don’t be afraid to give the office a new look in more ways than one.

Take a digital focus

Many business owners and entrepreneurs who have been able to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, not just unscathed but actually better off were able to do so because they gave their business a digital focus prior to the outbreak.

Not just a digital focus in the sense of having the latest tech to help their operations run smoothly, but integrating tested, reliable tools into their daily operations and noticing that tech-minded industries were themselves future-proofed for such a situation, making a point of aligning themselves with them.

Digital communication tools have been the most valuable players of remote working. Project management tools such as Monday.com have allowed managers to keep track of their team’s progress without ever needed to contact them directly. Internal messaging systems such as Slack have digitized office communication and improved morale by retaining some sense of an office feeling. Video chat software has all but eliminated the need for in-person meetings. All of these lessons can be applied to how your business operates when you’re back to normal.

Agencies and companies that regularly work with a revolving door of clients should look to rethink the kind of businesses they invest their time and financial security into. A client may appear like an exciting, long-term project, but how did they fare throughout the lockdown period? Tailoring your output to more digital clients and endeavors helps you escape the dangers of a second outbreak and position yourself alongside sectors ready for the financial hit and another 6 months of remote working.

Do your research

You could copy and paste this advice into any walk of life and it would be just as applicable but at this very moment it's vital that business owners are doing their research to secure the business’s long term future.

Of course, you should know the current regulations required of your business like the back of your hand, but it’s just as important to have an understanding of how the world has changed.

Social marketers need to acknowledge the change in consumer habits post-pandemic. Retailers need to know how supply chains are going to continue to be delayed or potentially put on hold. There are lessons to be learned from competitors and other industries, even if they don’t directly apply to you. Tools such as Answer The Public will help give you a better indication of the present landscape when it comes to planning content and deciding your direction. Future-proofing your business is about understanding its place in the financial landscape.

As mentioned throughout this article, businesses also need to learn from the experiences of their staff throughout lockdown and remote working. Not just in terms of equipment and how to improve productivity, but how the business can avoid HR and mental health issues throughout this difficult period. Don’t be afraid to canvas your team for answers to these questions to better build your business around the needs of its most valuable asset.

As the pandemic has shown, it’s difficult to completely future-proof your business for everything from a personal disaster to a global one. It’s expensive, requires collaboration from your team and must be constantly updated. Following these steps will set you down a path to help you deal with the impending workplace restrictions and the possibility of worse.

 

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