The worst times brings out the best in people; this has proven true of organisations as well.

All over the world, companies are being challenged by the COVID-19 crisis to find new ways to serve their customers and communities.

The speed of the pandemic surprised everyone. So, too, did the fast reflexes of some companies. Companies are mobilising to address the immediate threat in ways they may have struggled to when taking on more abstract challenges, such as digital technology, automation, and artificial intelligence. Bold experiments and new ways of working are now everyone’s business. Will the new mindsets become behaviors that stick? We don’t know. Did it take a pandemic for organisations to focus on change that matters?

One of the benefits to our world is that COVID-19 is pressure testing and accelerating change in many areas of society.

Some of the major changes to look forward post the pandemic include:

1. A More Virtual Workforce with Full Digital Transformation

Companies have quickly figured out how to serve their customers and clients remotely, and there’s no going back. From telemedicine in hospitals to remote learning for public schools and streaming fitness classes, every industry has accelerated its own digital transformation.

As a result, the demand for highly skilled remote workers will continue to increase. With a surge of candidates in the market, organisations should be preparing to recruit and integrate these key individuals into the organisation quickly and seamlessly, so they can capitalise on the cost savings and broader access to talent.

2. Flexibility in Work 

When the pandemic subsides, WFH will remain popular with professionals, and that will force companies, even those that were not the biggest proponents of having a virtual workforce to become more flexible. Now that more people have had a taste of it and proven their productivity, it will be hard for companies to take it away from their talent.

Flexibility will be the new mantra, where people will be given more freedom to choose WFH.
 
3. Client and Customer Meetings

Perhaps the trickiest aspect of the virtual workplace will be how companies engage with their clients and prospects. The traditional face-to-face meeting is always welcome, and sometimes seen as more courteous than a video chat or phone call. However, the efficiency of those calls versus the time spent commuting to see clients has become more appreciated by both parties.

In fact, some companies are providing their employees with monthly videoconference training sessions to use for clients, prospects and others.
 
4. IT to take charge

How efficient or inefficient a company is with their technology won’t just depend on the infrastructure, but the IT staff as well. The IT staff are the ones who build, create and maintain the tools that allow a company’s employees to be productive with their technology.
They’re also the ones who keep up with security policies and stay up to date on the latest anti-hacking technology.

In a more virtual workplace, IT becomes that much more vital to a company’s success.
IT will also likely be tasked with creating or finding tools that gather metrics to make sure remote workers are delivering the product they are paid to produce.
 
5. Home Offices

WFH was a challenge for many professionals not because of isolation, but because they didn’t have the ideal space or a dedicated home office. They didn’t have a Zoom-ready spot for video meetings. A lack of proper technology for remote work hindered their success and productivity.

One of the biggest challenges people experienced while WFH was also the internet performance. 

Internet in homes will improve, drastically and quickly. Home offices and even home video studios will become a priority. As new homes are built or existing ones are re-modelled, WFH considerations will be the top priority for many.

6. E-learning on the front

We all know that learning is now front and center, and many organisations realise that up-skilling and right-skilling are essential for innovation and strategic advantage. Many corporate learning programs involved in-person workshops and seminars. But post COVID-19, e-learning will become a bigger part of ongoing learning. In-person learning programs won’t go away, but they’ll be reserved for certain functions and certain populations within the company. Face-to-face learning will likely be just a small element of a learning curriculum. Ramping up their e-learning platforms, companies moved quickly to ensure that their people were still building important skills and developing professionally.

7. Business attire set back

We got comfortable with getting comfortable. The trend toward casual attire will accelerate quickly. Already, some consulting firms and other organisations have “dress for your day” policies where if you’re not meeting with clients, you can leave the suit at home. Besides, people working in tech have been wearing shorts and flip flops to work for decades.
 


Best practices for leaders to adopt:

1. Increased Focus on the Output

Being the first one in the office and the last one to leave is no longer a measure of commitment and performance. In a post-COVID-19 world, employees will be measured on what gets done and the value of their work rather than on the individual tasks and the time it takes to get the work done.

Leaders must provide crisp, outcome-driven expectations so that their people can deliver on goals successfully.

2. Respect for Work-Life Balance

More than ever before, companies are recognising that working “nine to five” is unsuited to the demands of a modern workforce.

Organisations must remove stigma and support employees’ needs to make time for self-care–including exercise, meals, and family time. Policies and procedures need to reflect these shifts, and leaders must model a true work-life blend so that it becomes part of the company culture.

3. Stronger Communications

Now that companies have gone fully virtual, individuals are communicating more efficiently and more frequently across a networked environment.

Leaders can make communication easier for their people. They can remove roadblocks, create a governance structure that pushes decision-making out and down, and provide employees with the tools and training they need to empower them for ongoing communication and local decision-making.

4. Increased Trust, Transparency and Empathy

We are witnessing a revolution in leadership. In a recent leadership study of 500 executives and entrepreneurs, respondents cited behaviors such as humility and listening skills as essential qualities of great change leaders. Now, leaders and employees must understand and support each other like never before. People are sharing more about their personal situations with colleagues, and as a result, they are creating an expectation of humanity, active listening, support, and connection.

Leaders that demonstrate these qualities and publicly recognise excellence in their people will earn greater trust and loyalty from their employees.

5. Planning for Public Health Emergencies

With the exception of some epidemiologists and public health officials, almost no one saw a pandemic of this magnitude coming.

Going forward, businesses large and small will need to have a plan in place in the event of a public health emergency.

Such a plan might include:

  • maintaining a stock of protective equipment on site, such as gloves, facemasks, and hand sanitizer
  • displaying signs reminding employees of the importance of hand washing
  • periodically running remote working drills, or
  • designing a leave policy that encourages workers to stay home when they’re unwell.

  
If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that COVID-19 is driving change in our behaviors, and the workplace is no exception. The COVID-19 crisis has jolted leaders and organisations into action, accelerating trends that were already in play and triggering new ones. Amid the terrible human toll of the pandemic, some organisations are finding that, by working differently, they can rise to the occasion and help their employees, customers, and even their communities. While no one can predict when or how the pandemic will end, the lessons these companies are learning as they organise for the future will give them clear advantages as the next normal takes shape. But it’s likely that the new normal will include a shift in employee and employer preferences and the expectation of a more virtual workplace.