“We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” ~Barack Obama
A new year is always a good opportunity for reflection. And we can probably all agree that 2020 was a challenging year for businesses and the general public alike. We all had to adjust our realities of working and living within restrictions and unknowns. This situation thrust businesses into a new reality and the ones that adapted their businesses did so in creative and innovative ways.
As an entrepreneur and business growth coach, I have seen businesses fail and thrive first hand, which is why I’d like to share my thoughts on the top 3 pandemic challenges and how to turn them into opportunities.
#1 WFH became the buzzword of 2020
Working from home became a widespread phenomenon for the workforce around the globe pretty much overnight. There were some growing pains in terms of communication capabilities and people finding the space and supplies to set-up their perfect home office.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many business owners were worried about a lack of productivity and a loss in oversight. From an HR perspective, they were concerned about the successful onboarding and integration of new employees. Most businesses just didn’t think a fully remote workforce was possible. People working at home had trouble separating their home and work life. It takes additional efforts to create a buffer between the “office” and home. Creating a positive morning and evening routine or turning off email notifications at certain times can definitely help.
But working from home also offers great opportunities. No more losing countless hours in traffic or on public transport. More flexibility in structuring your day to work out, run errands or spend time with your kids. From a business perspective, a big opportunity is the market expansion of potential employees. Now businesses are not bound to a geographical location in their hiring process. Another plus is the decreased cost of overhead for the office building and utility costs.
#2 The move ONLINE
Working online and sitting in front of a screen all day is nothing new. But the extent of our screen time and the amount of business that is conducted online has definitely increased. Business and team meetings are now virtual, often through video calls. Thanks to COVID-19 everyone now knows Zoom intimately. Video calls provide a point of connection for the team and eliminate misunderstandings that can arise in email communication. But unlike in-person meetings, we have to be more present in video calls because distractions are simply too easy. That is a big shift for many. Some businesses also use video calls to track their team’s progress and productivity.
Due to government restrictions to brick and mortar stores and in-person businesses, creating an online presence was necessary to survive. Businesses had to create new websites, set-up e-commerce, and streamline their inventory processes. Though forced, this shift has brought huge opportunities for businesses. Companies with a good online presence have the opportunity to reach new audiences that couldn’t access their products in the past. The pandemic also forced many businesses to re-evaluate their strategy and vision moving forward.
From a social perspective, people are more eager to consume online content and connect with peers and mentors. Podcasts and Newsletters are a great way to reach your audience these days.
#3 Battling COVID Fatigue
The longer the pandemic is lasting, the more people are struggling with their mental health. Many business leaders are struggling to keep their spirits up while trying to motivate their teams at the same time. COVID-19 totally changed our routines, which increased anxiety for many of our team members. Losing human interaction, something we took for granted, is the biggest cause of this negative shift. The isolation is unbearable for some.
Mental Health is a topic that is more openly discussed in workplaces, but there is still work to be done. The pandemic has people struggling more than ever and it uncovered gaps in how businesses address mental health. There is a lack of processes and resources within businesses to help team members openly communicate their concerns.
Keeping teams motivated and providing a safe space to help with mental health should be a priority for businesses. And there is an opportunity to find creative ways to keep your team motivated and happy. Businesses that have an employee experience committee can start by creating a buddy system to support employees with a safe, judgment-free space to communicate. With the current situation, it is crucial to check-in on people regularly.
Another helpful tool to combat anxiety and stress is exercise and meditation. Providing a space for employees to exercise or re-center is very helpful. Right now, this can be done with a Fitbit step challenge or Zoom workouts for the team.
Businesses can also provide a networking space for their team with lunch and learns or a “5 à 7”.
So what is the return to normal going to look like? Will it be back to how it was before March 2020 or will we live in a new normal? Many people are hoping for a mix of working from home and working in the office. The best of both worlds. So entrepreneurs and business leaders will have to decide on a happy medium of maximum happiness and productivity for their employees while doing the best for their businesses. It will be fascinating to see!