The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt been one of the most unnerving and disruptive events that have impacted the functioning of both business and society that we have seen in decades. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of the crisis is the fact that even now in May, two months after mass shutdowns have begun, we have yet to see a definitive timeline for when we will all return to a state of normalcy. This current state of ambiguity undoubtedly leaves businesses, individuals, and the economy at large in a perpetual state of free fall, struggling financially with seemingly no light to be found at the end of the tunnel.
However, the truth of the matter remains that in time, this too shall pass. Companies now more than ever must begin to take steps to prepare themselves proactively for the eventual return to “business as usual”. But where does one start? How does a company start planning for the transition back to office when the time comes for it to happen and what steps can businesses take now in order to get off on the right foot? This article will discuss a number of things to consider when it comes to preparing for the transition out of COVID-19.
Rethinking traditional notions of the office environment
Now more than ever it’s important for businesses large and small to start rethinking the concept of what is considered “normal” when it comes to the functioning of business operations. It’s no secret that the remote work economy has been steadily growing. In fact, according to recent research, remote work has grown a whopping 44% in the last five years alone.
One upside to the current state of affairs is the fact that many businesses are discovering new and innovative ways adapt and collaborate virtually. Fortunately, there are many tools and platforms available on the market such as Bitrix24 which can help facilitate and support virtual collaboration by assisting with project management, file sharing, communications, CRM and more.
Many companies are even going so far as to considering completely revamping the way their businesses will operate in the future. For example, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently just made headlines due to his announcement that Twitter employees will officially be allowed to work from home not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but “in perpetuity”. Companies such as Google and Facebook have additionally taken similar steps in the midst of the pandemic and during the aftermath. These decisions reflect their ability to adapt and adjust in the midst of crisis and undoubtedly will help set them ahead and better prepare them for the future.
Addressing challenges and creating a plan
There is no better time to get proactive and to begin planning for re-engagement than now. Companies must use this time to strategize and nail down all of the nitty gritty details necessary in order to ensure that when the time comes, operations are able to resume and ramp back up accordingly as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Is remote work something that your company should consider in the long-term? If this is the case, have you taken into consideration the infrastructure which will need to be established in order to support this? Additional security measure may furthermore need to be implemented in order to ensure the transition to a remote work environment does not compromise business operations.
Or, what about when it comes to transitioning individuals back into the office? Have you decided how you plan to gradually phase these employees back into the workplace? Which functions are prioritized and as a result, should come back first? Will schedules need to be changed? What about equipment and software? What are your needs going to be based on your decisions for the future? Will they change? There are many questions and concerns which will need to be discussed and addressed as soon as possible in order to ensure that all of the details are hammered out before business begins to return to normal.
When it comes to reassurance, most companies have their customers as their number one priority. However, don’t make the mistake of putting your valuable employees on the backburner. They are the lifeblood of your company. When it comes time to begin transitioning out of COVID, do your part to reinforce the sentiment that choosing your company was the right decision.
Reassure your employees that their health, safety, and well-being are at the forefront of your mind. Keep them in the loop every step of the way and maintain open communications throughout the pandemic so as to ease any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Tell them your plans for the future and incorporate them into the decision-making process in any way that you can so as to emphasize how important it is that your company gets through this together as a family. Be empathetic and understanding. Now more than ever your employees are looking towards you to serve as an example and prove your worth during the hard times. Don’t let them down.
Preparing for reintegration
When the time comes for reintegration into the workplace, you’re going to want to make sure the process moves as smoothly and efficiently as possible while also keeping in mind the fact that this is a sensitive time where discretion and concern for the well-being of your employees is of the utmost importance. More than likely most companies will choose to gradually return to normal business operations.
This provides you with the ability to effectively implement any precautionary measures and policies. Companies should consider slowly phasing in employees for reentry into the workplace based on their roles. Many employees are able to work from home, but the truth of the matter is that there are also individuals who will be unable to do so due to numerous factors such as the nature of their role or for other reasons such as security. Start engaging the various departments within your company and begin identifying and prioritizing staff that is considered most essential.
Keeping social distancing guidelines in mind is also going to be of paramount importance. Consider the layout of the office environment and take measures in order to optimize it for social distancing. This may entail moving around seating or desks or taking additional measures such as by setting up partitions. Many companies may choose to introduce shift work as a way to encourage adherence to protocols while simultaneously allowing the business to ramp back up to normal operations.
Implementing policies to ensure safety and wellness
Many companies may find themselves cringing at the prospect of having to screen for admittance into the workplace. However, the truth of the matter is that as an employer, you have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for your employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Adhering to social distancing measures is a great place to start, but it is by no means an effective response in and of itself. Many businesses which are still in operation are implementing mandatory health screenings and assessments for all employees. This includes new hires as well as implementing protocols on a daily basis before individuals even enter the office (i.e. checking temperatures). Keep in mind that it is perfectly legal for you to ask your employees if they are or have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and to require individuals to wear masks while on the premises.
You’ll also want to take measures to increase cleaning protocols. Tech sharing in general should be limited in order to avoid transmission and thoroughly disinfected between use from one individual to another. Professional cleaning services should be implemented for the workplace as well and all areas should be cleaned on a regular basis throughout the day. Provide disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers throughout the office space and include signage throughout emphasizing the importance of social responsibility good hygiene practices.
When it comes to transitioning out of COVID, we would be remiss not to include a section or two about the importance of focusing on your customer base. The truth of the matter is that your customers need you now more than ever. Furthermore, similar to your employees, they’re also looking to you in order to provide them with an example of what a company should be and how it should act during times as such. Open communication and transparency is always of paramount importance; however, it is even more crucial during this point in time.
Now more than ever you’re going to need to establish yourself as a pillar of strength and stability. Stay in regular communications with your customer base and keep them in the loop regarding any important updates or policy changes. Your job now is to provide them with the reassurance that you are just as dedicated to providing them with the same quality of products, care and customer service that they have grown accustomed to. Your corporate reputation is everything. Don’t give your customers a reason to question it.
Adjusting marketing strategies
Adjusting your marketing strategies is another essential step that businesses will need to consider when it comes to effectively transitioning out of COVID. Many companies are finding themselves in a perpetual state of panic, not knowing when the pandemic will end, how they will fare and what the future will hold. However, this is not a mindset that is conducive to ensuring that your customer base is well cared for. As of right now – many companies are adjusting their traditional marketing approaches. They realize that a focus on sales and acquisition is no longer the best strategy given the context of the current situation. Now more than ever, focusing on cultivating long-term retention and instilling trust within your current customer base is going to be crucial.
Take a customer-first approach and implement conscious marketing practices. Now is the time to show your customers that you truly care for them – that you’re empathetic to their needs and struggles. Your messaging should focus on safety and reassurance first and business second. Furthermore, don’t shy away from acknowledging the current state of affairs. The current climate is scary and uncertain for many and doing so will only prevent your messaging from truly making an impact by connecting with your customers on a deeper level.
What solutions can you provide your customers with during this time of need? What steps are you taking to ensure them that you are doing all in your power to continue to provide them with the level of care and attention that they deserve? Identify the needs, concerns and pain points of your customer base and do your best to find ways to help alleviate their struggles. Furthermore, remain open and transparent when it comes to your communications practices. Keep them in the loop whenever you can and make sure that all of your accounts and social media profiles remain up to date with the latest information. Your customer base needs to know that they can count on you during times of hardship.
While times like these are difficult for everyone, smart, socially conscious companies can leverage moments as such to stand out and truly shine among the competition. Now is the time to show your customers exactly why choosing your company is the best decision. Now is the time to show them your value, your worth and prove to them that they mean more to you than a couple of dollar signs. Focus on converting your customers into lifelong brand advocates and champions of your cause by being there for them when they need it the most.
While it may currently seem like there is no end in sight, the truth of the matter is that eventually, this pandemic will come to an end and society slowly begin to piece itself together again and return to business as usual. The time frame may still remain ambiguous, but that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t take steps to refocus their efforts towards proactively preparing for the transition ahead. The number one consideration at this point in time should be reassurance; reassurance to your customers and to your employees that you remain dedicated to them and empathetic towards their diverse needs and sets of concerns during this rough period in time. It’s up to you to get it together, regroup, refocus, adapt and trek forward towards the future as a shining example in the midst of the chaos.
Are you interested in learning more about how to adapt your business operations so you continue to thrive both during and after COVID? VisioneerIT can help your company make the transition by assisting with issues such as website security, virtual collaboration and more. To learn more, visit our website at www.visioneerit.com.