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COVID-19 has had a disastrous effect on the world’s economy so far, and experts believe that the worst is yet to come.
According to the International Labour Organization, the coronavirus is threatening more than 25 million jobs, and the lockdown measures in most countries are expected to affect 80 percent of the world’s workforce, altering the lives of more than 2.7 billion workers.
The effects of the coronavirus could be far more severe than those of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Because of this, businesses need to start adapting today and put in place a system that can help them weather the storm; after all, we are experiencing the first wave of the virus, and experts believe that we could expect a second wave by the fall.
In This Post:
- Top five lessons businesses can learn from the coronavirus pandemic
- It’s about doing the best job possible with the limited resources available
Here are some business lessons that have become apparent since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:
#1 Remote working will be the way of the future
Even before the corona pandemic, remote working was on the rise. However, once the coronavirus started forcing people to stay home, the concept of remote working became more relevant than ever.
Several companies are already heeding this lesson. IBM already has 95 percent of its workforce operating from their home.
Other companies are considering which technologies to use to facilitate this shift and to aid their employees with acclimating to this new lifestyle. For instance, at Novartis, employees take several online courses, including “How to use Microsoft Teams” and “Time Management: Working from Home.”
However, for businesses to successfully manage remote employees, it takes more than the right technology and online lessons. Here are a few key factors that can help:
- Leadership is critical: During these trying times, leaders have a significant role to play. They give their employees a sense of direction and make sure that everyone feels confident about the company and its prospects. Leaders also try to make up for the communication gap that erupts as a result of having every employee work from home.
- Clear and honest communication can make all the difference: Aside from bridging the communication chasm that comes with remote working, leaders have a responsibility to relay accurate, up-to-date information about the coronavirus as well as how it will affect the business.
More importantly, it is paramount to avoid misinformation, which means avoiding questionable sources and sticking to reputable ones such as the WHO or the CDC.
- Maintaining flexibility will make everybody’s life easier: Part of adjusting to this new lifestyle is balancing work-life and home-life, especially when most people have to tutor their kids in the morning.
One solution some companies have resorted to is scheduling meetings in the afternoon or evening to be more accommodating to everyone else.
Another aspect of flexibility pertains to the return of employees back to the office. When the time comes, employees should be the ones who choose when to return and how to best structure their transition back.
- The lack of human contact needs to be balanced out: One of the main benefits of showing up to work every day was the social interaction it provided. However, with everyone barricaded in their homes, this lack of human contact can have negative psychological repercussions.
Employees should be encouraged to reach out to one another and to interact as much as possible using online platforms. Not only will this balance them mentally, but it will also facilitate collaboration.
#2 Businesses need to think about continuity and plan for it
According to Nassim Taleb, a black swan is something that no one sees coming yet happens all the same; it is an unexpected occurrence that can have disastrous consequences.
Any business will experience more than one black swan throughout its lifetime, and if it isn’t prepared, the black swan will take the business and drown it.
Companies that prepare for the unexpected will be resilient and able to tough out the worst of times.
Companies should use the latest technologies, create redundancies and back-ups, nurture their employees, train them well, and create a crisis response program, all to prepare for an unknowable yet inevitable calamity hiding right around the corner.
#3 The digital world can wait no more
Over the past couple of decades, many businesses have been talking about undergoing a digital transformation, with some touting its unmatched benefits, while others have dismissed it as an unnecessary luxury.
Today, with the coronavirus crippling the world and forcing most of its workforce to work from home, going digital is no longer an option.
A big part of digital transformation is finding the right tools for the job. What software is best to store the company’s sensitive data? What software is ideal for communication?
And, whereas companies normally undergo a digital transformation over a few years, the coronavirus has forced businesses to expedite matters and to speed up what used to take a few years and finish it in a few weeks.
When a company decides to go through a digital transformation, it also has to undergo a cultural and behavioral transformation.
HR has to learn how to onboard new employees virtually, and employees need to learn the nuances of the new technology, such as how to appear representable during an online meeting, which includes understanding the basic principles of lighting and sound.
With all the mayhem taking place, things have devolved quickly in almost every country on the planet, and each country has had to deal with its own issues.
As a result, businesses should take a leaf from the military’s book and rely on “distributed authority with central coordination.”
The idea is that even though everyone should serve the business’s overarching vision, each local manager should be able to make decisions as they best see fit, depending on their unique circumstances.
Having all major decisions pass through some central authority is untenable at the moment, given how much things change from day to day.
#5 Remember that this is a stressful time for everybody
A business’s employees have a lot on their minds. For one thing, they are concerned for their loved ones and are easily rattled when they learn that someone they know might have the coronavirus.
On the other hand, employees also have to worry about their financial well-being in the near future as the entire world is about to enter a recession.
Businesses need to do everything in their power to comfort their employees:
- Managers must display empathy and listen to their employees’ concerns.
- Even a business’s customers should know that they are heard and supported during this difficult time. Businesses should work harder than ever on maintaining a personal touch with customers and reach out to them regularly to establish a healthy relationship that is beyond transactional.
- Businesses need to appreciate that their employees are thinking about several other issues aside from work. Studies show that stress can be detrimental to productivity. If some employees seem distracted or are taking longer than usual to finish a task, managers and executives should be granting them some leeway.
And, seeing as a little stress is considered an inevitable byproduct of these times, businesses need to find ways to maximize productivity all the same.
It’s about doing the best job possible with the limited resources available
The main problem presented by the coronavirus is that of limited resources and capabilities. Companies have to do the same job they did before but with less money circulating within the global economy and with a constrained ability to hold physical meetings.
Therefore, these businesses have to repurpose old tools and learn to use new ones. More importantly, they have to realize that effective management techniques are now more pertinent than ever before.
Unless we come together and be there for one another, this crisis’s effect will extend far more than just the economic field.