COVID-19. What comes next for business?
April 14, 2021
To some it may seem like a lifetime ago, but it was just over one year ago, March 2020, that the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic. It has been a dark and dismal year for many sectors, not least hospitality and leisure, but with the productive rollout of the vaccine across the UK and EU there is reason for considerable optimism as we enter the second year of the pandemic. There is no doubt personal and working lives have changed demonstrably, but some change may be for the better. This article outlines some issues businesses need to consider whilst we move towards the new dawn.
Owing to forced retail closures, consumer behaviour has swung increasingly toward virtual online retail options. That model is not only here to stay, but forecast to grow aggressively. A similar trend towards the virtual workspace for employees has also been embraced by most business sectors. This model seems to be here to stay. A recent report by the global management consulting firm, McKinsey (April 2021), found that as global economies reopen and we enter a new dawn in the working environment many companies plan to combine remote work with time in the office to get the best mix of productivity, teamwork and co-operation. This new form of blended working will ensure that those employees that feel anxious of returning to the office environment, or those that need the comfort of team interaction and socialising, will have the right balance to be productive and happy.
To ensure businesses successfully roll out their blended working pattern there is one core tenet that must be adhered to; communication. Organisations will need to have clear plans, policies, rationale and expectations for staff should they decide to change the work pattern. Employers have a duty of care to their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing and after thirteen tumultuous months of insecurity, anxiety and burnout it is incumbent upon the employer to ensure that these issues are considered in their decision making.
A Recent survey by Ipsos MORI in collaboration with Nationwide Building Society (March 2021) reveals that nine in ten (90%) of those currently working from home want to keep doing so in some capacity i.e. at least one day per week. Despite 61% of those surveyed thinking working from home leads to a better work-life balance, respondents do not expect their employers to allow them to work at home as much as they would like to in future due to a perceived reduction in productivity.
On the flip side, businesses calling employees back to the office environment (at least some of the time) is surely not a bad thing, especially for those employees in the early stages of forging a career. These executives may benefit most from in-person exchanges, mentorship and training as they start their journey up the career ladder.
However, after a year of COVID-related anxiety, stresses and strains, has come a lot of career contemplation. People have started re-evaluating every part of their lives, including where their jobs are based. The question is: can executives forge the same career whilst living away from cramped inner cities? Recent events would give a resounding ‘yes’. Companies that ignore this do so at their peril because, in another recent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI (March 2021), employees stated that if their job does not give them purpose and work life balance, they will leave for one that will.