Author: David Wojcik
CEO & President Mississauga Board of Trade
On March 17, 2020, our world stopped. That was the day, the Premier of Ontario issued his first emergency order which put shutters on thousands of small businesses across the province. But it was only for 14 days. We could handle that. Then, on April 14th, the other shoe dropped, extending the emergency order to May 12th. Even with municipal, provincial and federal financial assistance pouring in, it hasn’t been enough to save everyone. On April 2nd, we asked our members how COVID-19 had changed the way they do business. 23.6% of respondents said they had ceased all operations.
When we asked how long the post COVID business recovery would take, 6.3% said, they will never recover and 67.9% indicated it will take them 6 months to 1 year.
So what will the post COVID business environment look like?
The workplace may dramatically change. Leaders are assessing the need for their current physical footprint. Asking the question; if we can work remotely during a crisis, why not permanently? This will require, in some cases a paradigm shift in the way we work and the way we measure productivity. Most leaders will need to shift from “needing” to see Sally and Billy at their desk to monitoring outputs rather than traditional 9 to 5 inputs. Leaders must focus on the completion of tasks and projects within deadlines and not on the amount of time it takes. Office space may shrink or be utilized in a different way. More hotelling and less permanent residence. The term “flex” office will be more in line with the Post COVID workplace.
The Staff Meeting
The number of conference calls and virtual video meetings have skyrocketed. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Go To Meeting and their webinar cousins, have all had their technological limits stretched under enormous utilization. Prior to COVID, only the most progressive companies used these tools as part of their regular business practice. Now they are as common as the cell phone. The luddite user, has been thrust, into combing their hair and putting on a decent shirt or blouse to take a meeting. They can’t hide behind the conference bridge, phone call any longer. The technology has been made so easy to use, it makes it very difficult for a participant to say, I can’t turn on my camera……unless they don’t have a computer with a camera and that’s a whole different conversation.
Leaders must assess their own technological infrastructure. Updating laptops, cell phones and tablets. Uploading files from local servers to the cloud. Investing in apps and web based services. Assessing the tools the team needs, to work remotely within a “flex” office environment. Establishing protocols, for use with these new corporate assets.
Returning to work post COVID-19 may require some emotional help. Especially if the plan includes the aforementioned changes. Those who have struggled to work from home and are looking forward to returning to “normal”, may have difficulty adopting to the Post COVID workplace. Leaders will need to engage human resource and mental health professionals to help them understand what their teams are experiencing and how to help the team adjust.
Any business leader who believes the Post COVID “next normal” will be the same as the old, is setting themselves and their organizations up for a rude reality check. If we ever return to the “good old days”, it will be years from now. So, what can we do to prepare? Engage in conversation with your colleagues, listen to your team and tap your professional advisors for the intel from their network.
Today we set the course for how we will be remembered by the next generation of leaders. How will they view 2020 and speak of the Post COVID revolution. Let’s set a course for success and create a legacy for them to reflect on with pride. The Post COVID journey begins with you, with us……..today.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of CONNECT Magazine.