The global coronavirus pandemic forced American companies large and small to rethink their approaches to doing business. Unfortunately, the precautions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 led businesses everywhere to close their doors, many of them even permanently. But the crisis also offered some valuable learning experiences for the businesses that survived the unique challenges it presented.
Consider these seven important lessons hammered home by the pandemic that businesses can harness to boost their durability and flexibility moving forward:
- Expect the unexpected — As the pandemic made clear, unforeseen events can have huge impacts on a business’s functionality and efficiency. It is critical for every business, to the greatest extent possible, to anticipate the curveballs that the world can throw at it and put an emergency plan in place. If the plan is well thought out, scalable and flexible, it could help keep the business on track and employees in the know when the unexpected arises.
- Foster flexibility and agility — Businesses must be ready to embrace change when it is necessary and adapt quickly when an evolving business environment requires it. As the pandemic showed, businesses that had already prioritized their digital transformations before the pandemic began had a clear leg up on businesses that had not. One clear takeaway: Business owners should strive to stay ahead of the technological curve as much as possible, as doing so can pay big dividends when unpredictable developments happen.
- Value loyal employees and customers — For many business owners, the pandemic highlighted just how resilient and talented their employees are. In fact, innumerable businesses can credit their workers’ dedication and improvisation for their ability to emerge from the pandemic intact. Similarly, for struggling small businesses from coast to coast, the most loyal customers stepped up to show their support in the businesses’ time of need. Despite significant hurdles to doing so, these customers went out of their way to offer their patronage and support, largely because they wanted to keep these businesses in business. Moving forward, business owners should make sure their most loyal employees and customers know how valued they are.
- Respect employees’ work-life balance — For many owners and managers, the pandemic and the work-from-home trend it spawned also shed light on how busy their employees’ personal lives can be. Just as managers made efforts to accommodate their workers’ home-life needs in the unique circumstances of the pandemic, continuing to do so after the pandemic has passed is a powerful way to show appreciation for loyal employees moving forward.
- Diversify product/service delivery — For businesses in an array of industries, the pandemic forced improvisation in the way they delivered their goods and services. Grocery stores emphasized curbside pickup. Restaurants relied on carry-out. Performers who typically play to large crowds took their talents online via livestreams. The list goes on and on. And as the pandemic wanes, there is no reason for businesses to abandon these new offerings. Achieving diversity in product and service delivery is a recipe for forward-looking business growth.
- Productivity is personal — Many workers who telecommuted during the pandemic discovered newfound levels of productivity working from home, often because of a lack of common office-based distractions. For others, the lack of the structure office work can deliver served to inhibit productivity. Either way, business owners should recognize that each worker’s preferred work style is a personal preference, and that allowing each employee the flexibility to work in their own way can foster increased productivity across the board.
- Support social interaction — Many remote workers found new ways to socialize during the pandemic, getting inventive to create new gathering traditions such as Zoom happy hours and FaceTime birthday celebrations. And while these new ways to assemble digitally helped colleagues keep in touch, their limitations also revealed the importance of face-to-face time around the water cooler or in the office kitchen. Moving forward, business owners should be mindful to facilitate occasional social gatherings that allow coworkers to bond and help facilitate a team mentality.
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