Businesses have so much more to think about in the age of COVID-19. The impact of the crisis has left companies facing a whole load of challenges, in some cases forcing them to venture into new terrain. In other cases, the Coronavirus has highlighted existing challenges and placed even more pressure on businesses to respond to them appropriately. Below is a look at five major challenges companies face as we move out of lockdown:
- Securing networks
Naturally, the prolonged temporary shutdown has left a lot of businesses fighting for survival. As part of this struggle to keep going, there has been a rapid shift to the online sphere. Businesses have had to ramp up their ecommerce operations and/or expand their capabilities fast.
This has forced them (and organisations, too) to develop complex structures hastily and has left them open to cybersecurity risks. The speedy rush to automation, too, has not just exposed businesses to security risks, but also to ethical risks and financial ones as they find themselves having to make cuts and reduce their workforce just to stay in operation.
- Creating a suitable, supportive structure for remote working
The COVID-19 situation has generated a clear case and necessity for employees to work remotely if and when possible. Now that the UK is opening back up, the question is whether companies will want all their employees back in their offices.
Those companies onboard with the concept must now adapt their culture and communication structure to accommodate the new reality and style of operation. They must supply enough tools and resources, plus access to them, to support remote working successfully.
As part of the change, businesses may have to support employees in other ways, too. Their home, for example, may not have the equipment they need to work successfully. Employees may have to buy some furniture and organise delivery or need some help adapting their home so they can serve their employer more easily from it.
- Organising the workplace so that people who prefer to work at their employer’s location can work and interact safely with each other
Despite the benefits of working from home both for employees and employers, not everyone is crazy about the concept. Coming to work is important for people’s mental health. That five-minute chat at the water cooler, the face-to-face meetings, the office banter, not to mention the fact that some have struggled to get work done at home because of distractions, lack of space or lack of equipment at home…these aspects of the workplace matter to them.
They’ve missed the connection and the space that working in the office affords them. As we emerge from lockdown fully, businesses must think about how they can accommodate these people so that they can work safely and, at the same time, work well.
- Reassuring consumers
COVID-19 hasn’t just generated changes in how companies operate; consumer behaviour has changed. Fear and anxiety have made people think differently about how they spend their money. They’ve either changed the way they spend it or, feeling nervous about the future, are holding onto as much as possible.
Businesses have to reassure customers that they’re operating safely. For instance, a restaurant that provides more space between the tables may make a customer feel safer than one which has them closer together. If a food business can deliver food, rather than make customers visit the store, they may also gain an edge on their competitors.
- Responding to societal drivers
Consumers, employees and investors are all scrutinising businesses for practices that don’t align with their values, especially when it comes to environmental and social aspects relating to performance. Businesses are under more pressure to reflect the values of these different stakeholders.
The economic and social impacts of the pandemic have made this clear, as have social justice movements. Employee diversity, job security, fair pay, outsourcing, gig-work, contracts and climate action are all under the spotlight more. If not handled well, the fallout can damage a company’s revenue, reputation and, in the long term, value.
Businesses are operating in unprecedented times. They face a whole new set of challenges. Remote work, in-house operation, changes in consumer behaviour and technological risks, plus pressure from peers to operate ethically, are all questions a business must address or, in the case of those issues that existed before, approach even more directly now. Only time will tell if they rise to them sufficiently.
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