In a period of just three months, COVID-19 has infected over a million people worldwide and continues to envelop the globe today. With several nations now entering lockdown phases, the world appears to be approaching a standstill.
Whilst industry and business will always suffer as a result of this, there is still substantial scope for many organizations to adapt and begin operating in a different way. In turn, despite the challenges coronavirus poses, these companies can still benefit in other ways and derive positive learning points from the experience.
With this in mind, we identified 5 reasons for business leaders to remain positive during this time:
Digital will still thrive
As expected, opportunities are being lost in domains such as events and more traditional forms of marketing. Those working in TV are also being affected, with ITV estimating that they will see a 10% decrease in revenue due to coronavirus.
However, a freeze in in the momentum of industries depending largely upon physical input leaves space for purely digital mediums. Most notably, there is likely to be a major upturn in social media and digital marketing opportunities, and many organizations will strategically gravitate towards this.
One study showed that only 7% of organizations had stopped spending on advertising, and forecasts social media spending to rise by 22.2%.
Moreover, the same study shows that 14% of the clients of one digital marketing consultancy said they were moving to online media despite having previously favoured offline media.
This spells good news not only for digital marketing organizations, but for those whose product or service can be strategically directed towards digital mediums for the time being.
Work/life balance = employee happiness
It is widely believed that happy, healthy employees ultimately generate greater profits. Though productivity levels are a big part of this, companies can also cut costs by avoiding things such as compensation claims and employees taking extra time off.
Much of this comes down to work/life balance – a familiar term for modern professionals, and yet something that is not a primary concern for many business leaders, with studies showing that around one fifth of the UK’s working population are unhappy at work.
However, while greatly damaging in many regards, the coronavirus pandemic could provide a solution to the work/life balance for many workers. In theory, the widespread implementation of flexible and remote working should spell a much healthier work/life balance, especially if organisations learn from this experience to implement flexible working options more widely.
Aside from the working hours themselves, this is likely to be heavily influenced by the lack of commuting. According to data published in 2018, London commuters spend an average of 81 minutes commuting each day.
Another study found that those who commuted for over an hour were 33% more likely to suffer from depression. So, not only will this new routine mean time saved which can be dedicated to personal and family life, but it is likely to also save money, reduce fatigue and improve overall health.
A new workplace for 2020
As a result of the pandemic, employers will have the opportunity to ‘trial’ new measures that could and perhaps should be in place year-round.
Many feel that in certain cases, this could set a new precedent for the working landscape; employers’ attitudes will change and so too will employees’ expectations.
One of the most prominent examples of this is flexible working. Figures show that, at present, 70% of UK workers do not ordinarily have the option to work flexibly. And yet, employers have been left with no choice but to implement this during the pandemic.
Similarly, many employers are introducing new employee experience solutions to keep their workforce engaged and connected to their company’s purpose, such as improving communication and encouraging more time for social interaction among colleagues.
As a result of these new attitudes and tools, office life could look very different post-coronavirus, with the outlook of both employees and employers having potentially changed for the better.
Stronger internal communication
Strong internal communication is a key to the successful operation of all businesses. Research suggests that it enhances overall company performance by 36% and profits by 30%,
Thanks to the progression of technology, this is an area that is being rapidly digitized, with various systems and software now playing a crucial role in keeping a workforce connected with one another and to the company’s brand and purpose.
Moreover, with many organizations now operating remotely, there has never been a better time for employers to take the leap and improve this aspect of the business.
Tools such as Slack, Poppulo and Microsoft Teams are all popular options, and many such tools are now being temporarily offered for free by developers in light of the pandemic. This could present a great opportunity for smaller businesses with lower budgets.
Not only is this a prime opportunity for companies to invest in this technology, but also to test it among the workforce and experiment with it.
Should an employer choose to do this now, they may find themselves and their teams returning to office life with much more efficient and sophisticated systems already in place, allowing them to operate more effectively than before.
From a certain perspective, disruption can act as an opportunity. As one door closes, another opens – it might be a cliché, but it will apply to many leaders during this troubling time.
With physical mediums postponed due to the virus, businesses are having to adapt, and in some cases, will discover new, permanent fixtures as a result. For instance, with the events industry currently falling by the wayside, many organizations are turning to virtual events.
Aside from just being a business venture which could stick in the long run, this is a prime opportunity to introduce teams to new technologies, and further engage them by presenting new, exciting projects.
This could also be a big step in terms of talent management. The pandemic outbreak has sparked mass redundancies, with the United States Labour Department reporting that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits just last week.
Events staff are a group hit particularly hard by the situation, however, a fresh initiative to create and deliver virtual events could contribute to repurposing many of these workers.
Subscribe to HRD Connect for daily updates on the future of work, including thought leadership, video interviews, the HRD Live Podcast and more.