The year 2020 was tough, to say the least. COVID-19 changed the way organisations functioned. Businesses were thrown off-track and forced to pull their shutters down on brick-and-mortars to adhere to social distancing norms.
Needless to say, the impact of this on business processes was huge too. Stakeholders were left confused about how to manage cybersecurity issues, maintain collaboration, handle their workload, and deliver good customer service while taking care of their remote employees.
Finding a workaround for these challenges and preparing hardware and software to set up a remote environment for the entire organisation consumed most of last year.
Now that we have stepped into 2021, it is time for business owners to look back at 2020 and understand what they’ve learned to enhance their work processes accordingly.
Here are a few lessons that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us and how they can be applied this year.
1. Accept remote work as the new norm
Traditional office culture required the employees to come to the office every day. Stakeholders believed that meeting in person was the only effective medium for establishing a successful company. Several companies include this punctuality to gauge employee performance and rate them.
However, with COVID-19 taking over in 2020, many companies were forced to shift to remote working culture. But, work from home allows employees flexibility and keeps their comfort and safety in mind. Your employees can do things in their own time as long as it doesn’t affect the quality of their work.
Stakeholders should understand that organisational ecosystems have undergone a massive shift and working from home has become the new normal to stay for long.
2. Consider employee safety
Employee safety was always important. Manufacturing industries and companies that involved heavy machinery insisted on using the right safety gear and spent a sizable amount of their funds to maintain the same.
However, now, employee safety is more than just a guideline. It is essential to running a business. Considering the rapid spread of COVID-19, it has become pivotal to reconsider employee safety norms not just during this pandemic but even after it.
A few steps that can be considered:
- Check the temperature of the employees once they report to work
- Provide hands-free sanitising equipment at the doorstep
- Try and ensure social distancing in common areas like the restrooms and pantries
- Allocate fixed timings for your employees to take a break in a phased manner
- Do not hesitate to provide sick leaves
- Organise periodic health check-ups for your employees whenever possible
- Provide the necessary safety gear like masks and gloves if your business demands close physical contact
Ensuring these precautions will help in maintaining your employees’ health.
3. Going digital is critical
Exploring digitalisation was once an option for companies. A lifesaver for organisations that did not have any other means to reach out to their target audience. Companies that couldn’t afford to have a dedicated marketing team used to work on social media platforms and maintain their websites to attract organic traffic.
COVID-19 has changed this notion. Digitalisation is here to stay as a major medium of customer communication. It is important to maintain a positive brand image across social media platforms. In fact, marketing specialists insist on sharing collaterals over multiple platforms.
Send emails, post blogs, and market content from your website to customers. Participate in discussions over social media, initiate interactions and answer queries trending in your industry. Reach out to influencers and most importantly, do not hesitate to connect with your customers and obtain feedback on your products and services. This will turbo boost your online brand image for years to come.
4. Prioritise collaboration
Collaboration is how you survive in the industry, regardless of the size of your business. With remote work on the rise, employees operate from different locations and it has become necessary to weave them together with state-of-the-art collaborative tools.
For example, consider your team working remotely. If a team member faces trouble with something or needs an explanation, how will they contact the other team members instantly?
Though calling is the conventional way, having the right collaborative tool can make things easier.
Instant messaging apps come in handy in such scenarios. Your team members will be able to text and clarify things in a jiffy. These tools also facilitate video and audio conferencing. This will enable your team to meet up virtually once in a while. Though it may not be possible to meet in person, virtual meetings give the feel of an in-person meetup.
These messaging apps can be further used to build team collaboration by organising online team activities like games and informal discussions. They also help in initiating informal chats for relaxation, thereby creating a connection within the team.
5. Be prepared for a crisis
One lesson that COVID-19 taught us is to be prepared to face any crisis.
The first response is data readiness. This pandemic has taught us to incorporate new-gen disaster recovery solutions. It is important to have a data backup that aids uninterrupted access to information anytime and anywhere.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was overnight. Offices were asked to close down and employees were refused entry. A repeat of this situation will be chaotic for businesses that may not have considered centralised access to business-critical information.
Furthermore, staying equipped with the necessary tools is also important. Businesses were left helpless when their employees had to work from home. They had to provide hardware (like laptops), necessary software, and a secure Internet connection.
Instead of grappling to find these at the last moment, it is recommended that you be prepared with additional tools that can be used in case of a crisis.
6. Break siloed environments
The free flow of information within different departments of an organisation is extremely important. In conventional ecosystems, data was limited to stakeholders, and information was guarded by supervisors. Limited people had access to it.
Though authentication of data is still important, we also need to share data across the organisation. A siloed system will not serve any purpose in the current work environment. We need to break the virtual barriers and help employees make informed decisions.
Put all the critical information on a centralised repository and allow authenticated people to use this information. This will reduce dependencies on individual employees and facilitate a friction-free environment.
7. Adhere to security regulations
Businesses deal with different types of data. This pandemic did not provide the time for companies to renew their security compliance before switching to remote work. The need to initiate remote work started overnight.
The important lesson from this is that companies should strictly adhere to security protocols. We shouldn’t wait for a crisis before looking into compliance regulations.
Take complete charge of your IT infrastructure. Renew the compliance and security protocols from time-to-time. Also, make sure that security patches, system upgrades, and maintenance happen in a scheduled manner. This will keep your system crisis-ready at all times.
2020 took a toll on numerous businesses across the globe. We can only hope that 2021 will be better and at the same time, be equipped to handle any unprecedented situation.
The points mentioned above throw light on the lessons learned from the pandemic, how they change the industry and how we can be better prepared for any crisis.
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