How can you turn COVID-19 pandemic into a business opportunity?

We’ve all been impacted one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has forever changed our experiences – as employers, employees, customers, suppliers, and as people. As a result, our working behaviour and routines have changed. Once the immediate threat of the virus has passed, what will have changed in the way we think and behave? How can companies turn these changes into an COVID-19 business opportunity?

Operational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Many businesses have significantly invested in ensuring their employees can work from home efficiently. This investment shouldn’t go to waste as they consider future efficiencies. 

Historically there’s been a perception of working from home where employers did not ‘trust’ employees to carry out a full day’s work. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Employees tend to be more productive when working from home with fewer distractions. This is typically the case when working from home isn’t combined with home-schooling that a lot of working parents are currently undertaking.

How are employees more productive? Simple things such as:

  • Not having to commute into the office, employees would start earlier and finish later than their contracted working hours. 
  • When making a coffee, they may end up putting the washing on. A household chore they don’t have to face at the end of the day.
  • Fewer ‘off the cuff’ meetings because you can’t be pulled to one side. Meetings would be more structured and time-sensitive. 
  • Quiet time to think or do those tasks that with interruption cannot be done efficiently.

Optimise remote working

So, with employees now used to remote working, how can businesses optimise this? 

We all miss the impact of face-to-face meetings. They play a crucial role in building relationships between internal teams, suppliers and customers, and should never be replaced. But why not consider having set days where different people work from the office space to ensure continuity in engagement?

By striking the right balance between remote working and sufficient space for people to meet and build relationships, organisations will be able to reduce head office costs. By reducing the need for staff to be office based all the time, they can reduce fixed overhead costs by limiting leased office space. And that’s not all. The related variable element of overhead costs can also be reduced, such as water, electricity and heating. Coupling these savings with reduced commuting, it all has a positive environmental impact as well.

People focus

The most significant immediate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is on people. Organisations are focused on caring for their workforces while rapidly managing the shift to new patterns of work.

At this critical time, leaders must see through these changes in ways that gain and maintain the trust of their people. That trust depends on leaders demonstrating their care for individuals as well as the wider workforce and community. It means sharing a clear plan and transparently showing how decisions are made. And it requires leadership teams who can proactively respond rather than react, anticipating their people’s changing needs.

Managers are people too. And in all this, they need to be coached on how to manage their people not simply by looking across the desk or floorplate. This also requires setting achievements and ways of performance managing – not on input measures, such as hours worked, but on output measures and successes, such as percent defects.

Making your business more resilient 

By capitalising and responding to learnings for the business and making some of the operational changes you have made permanent you will also make your company more resilient to future disruptive events. After all, a reason why people can’t make it the office can be many, not just Covid-19, ranging from weather events to prolonged protests (especially if you’re in Central London) to major traffic events.

Organisations must respond rapidly to maintain continuity and to de-risk their operations to serve their businesses now, and in the future.

If you would like to know how to capitalise on the changes you have made in response to Covid-19 pandemic to deliver prolonged benefits and increased resilience, just ask us.

About the Author
A Change and Programme Management professional with international experience in business transformation, from strategy definition to implementation and covering all dimensions of change: sourcing, contracts, policy, process, IT, infrastructure, behavioural, organisational. John is a Fellow of the Institute of Consulting, a Change Management Practitioner, and MBA qualified who has delivered change and integration of customer facing, commercial, operational and back office capabilities in various organisations.

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