When the Covid-19 pandemic ends with the introduction of an effective vaccine, business owners, large and small, will find a new business environment that will test their resilience and ingenuity. The coronavirus exposed the health and financial risks of a complex, interdependent global economy. As a result, our attitudes and behavior will necessarily adapt to the new future.
The Post-Coronavirus Future for Businesses
The business environment for investors, managers, employees, and customers after Covid-19 will be drastically different from the circumstances before the economic devastation of the pandemic. The months-long shelter-in-place restrictions caused a dramatic decline in company revenues around the world, wage losses of trillions of dollars, and an unemployment rate in the United States not seen since the 1930s Great Depression. Fortunately, the future is bright for those intrepid owners and managers who can recognize and capitalize on the new opportunities with digital workplace.
The demand for products and services will return, eventually reaching pre-COVID-19 levels. People will return to work with their previous employers or find new ones. Never-the-less, fundamental change will forever alter the ways we communicate, play, and work together:
- Consumers, aware of the danger of close contact, will increasingly turn to online and remote services. For example, the property inspectors who previously visited the house for inspection, are now using mobile apps with augmented reality for remote inspections.
- Employees unable to quickly forget their financial and personal insecurities during the pandemic will expect more income security, autonomy in executing their work, and “enlightened” management, which respects their individuality.
- Company structures will necessarily become leaner and more flexible by shedding unnecessary overhead and fixed costs. Business owners will decentralize and reconfigure control hierarchies, relying on AI-enhanced systems to quickly collect and analyze market, operating, and competitive data.
- Off-shore suppliers of critical products and services will lose market share to domestic suppliers, despite the former’s price advantages. At the same time, companies must be able to demonstrate their reliability and ability to integrate their planning and operating systems seamlessly in their customers’ operations.
An Elastic Digital Workplace (EDW)
As the rate of infections declines and the fight of business vs virus comes to an end, businesses will begin to open. The ability to learn, adapt, and innovate using technology will be the critical success and survival factor in the new economy.
Digital networks of remote workers working collaboratively to deliver services and products will replace fixed investments in physical space to cloister employees while eliminating employee unproductive, frustrating commutes. The staff of remote workers are no longer unusual in American business as companies ranging from Amazon and Anthem to American Express and Wells Fargo embrace the new reality.
Benefits of EDW
The new workplace configurations provide
- Scale flexibility. Digital competence with remote teams provides an opportunity that can quickly scale up or down to meet changing market conditions and customer requirements.
- Lower fixed costs. Using remote teams eliminates the need for costly physical space to house human assets, reduces the costs of onsite supervision, and lower employee turnover. One telecommuting report calculated that American businesses saved $44 billion in 2015 in cost with work from home.
- The expanded universe of skills. Requiring employees to travel to and from a physical office typically limits the source of potential employees to a physical area within a reasonable commute. Remote employees can locate anywhere in the world.
- Improved employee morale. Kevin Sheridan, a recognized expert on employee engagement, claims that remote workers are unusually self-motivated, disciplined, and confident. Also, they are tech-savvy and have superior communication skills. They appreciate their autonomy and respect the responsibility of their position.
The benefits of an EDW affect all aspects of a business, including customers, employees, managers, investors, and society at large. For example, the telecommuting report estimated that the impact of the current level of remote work is the equivalent of removing 600,000 vehicles from America’s roads.
Implementing an Elastic Digital Workplace
Before attempting to transition to an elastic digital workplace, consider your company’s:
- Culture and resistance to change. Replacing a command-and-control, centralized business structure with an EDW can be especially challenging due to people’s resistance to change. Managers may need to learn new communication and management skills. An effective transition requires executive leadership, investments in technology and training, and a detailed implementation plan and schedule.
- Existing digital infrastructure. To effectively compete in the post-COVID-19 era, your digital infrastructure must include mobile phones, tablets, personal computers, and software that promotes communication and collaboration (Microsoft Office 365, Google G-Suite, WebEx, GotoMeeting for example), as well as a secure cloud-based network with sufficient bandwidth to handle your projected traffic. Organizations that still run their business using spreadsheets should quickly adopt automation and work with a custom software development company to build software that meets their business process needs.
- Management style. Leading a staff of remote workers requires a delicate balance of worker empowerment and enforcement of essential company rules and regulations, what some have called a “trust, but verify” environment. Managers must be able to correctly interpret real-time, digital performance data for remote workers and successfully communicate company objectives.
Most companies, large or small, lack the expertise to design or implement an elastic digital workspace without professional help. Despite the cost, engaging a professional to help you become a leaner, less vulnerable business with a dedicated workforce of skilled, happy employees is a justifiable investment.
Health experts predict that the world is likely to experience additional infectious disease outbreaks in the future, possibly even the return of Covid-19 in the Fall and Winter. As commerce reopens, consider the changes that you need to make to protect your business and employees. Demand for products and services will return, but the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution methods and systems previously in place must be examined and reconfigured to survive in the new conditions. Moving to an elastic, digital workplace is a logical first step to take.