The new era of work has arrived. Businesses stepping into the post COVID-19 future have a unique opportunity to define how, when, and where people will work – and shape the next normal.

Covid-19 may have thrown businesses globally off course, but it has also driven inspiring innovation and transformation. We have seen how quickly people can adapt to change, utilise resources and rise to the challenge.

It is difficult to predict how long the disruption will last. And so, it is impossible to determine what will happen next. But it is possible to start thinking productively about the future and make plans.

Understanding what people want and unlocking potential opportunity and value is key to accelerating out of this crisis. Businesses will need to be prepared for near constant disruption and take an agile approach to reinvention.

Following our conversations with our networks, here are some areas we feel are important as we begin to emerge from the crisis.

Digital transformations will accelerate

What’s clear through history is that plagues drive change. In war times, we have seen the pace of technology and innovation accelerated, and it seems now is no different. Digital transformation projects are returning as organisations realise that improvements in productivity and customer engagement are now even more important. Technology is a basic need, a crucial enabler and competitive differentiator for businesses.

Basic digital need

Most companies succeeding in a Covid-19 environment will have already implemented processes and technologies to allow for successful remote working. For some, the technologies may already be creaking under the strain. For others, it may be falling over completely. For remote models to work in the long-term, many businesses will require further tech investment and infrastructure around IT systems.

Digital efficiency

For the foreseeable future, companies are going to be focused on cost cutting, driven by both a severe shortage of cash and capital, as well as reductions in income. Enrique Fernandez-Pino, Group CIO at The Go-Ahead Group, suggests “that large ERP projects are likely to be put on the shelf, with small agile productivity improvement projects taking priority. Digital efficiency through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robot Process Automation (RPA) is likely to move in status from strategic to critical”.

Digital touchpoints 

Many businesses will look to adapt to a digital-only or remote way of doing business, increasing their digital touchpoints. As they adjust their operation to social distancing and utilise digital to bridge the gap opened by physical separation, they will also need to find ways of retaining the human element of customer experience and make digital more human.

Remote working will change how we work

How we continue to support remote working post-Covid – and to what extent – will undoubtedly be a hot topic over the coming months. Google and Facebook have already announced that they will keep their employees at home until at least July 2021.

Flexible working certainly comes with advantages. But while many businesses plan to increase the take-up of remote and flexible-working not everyone has embraced the concept. Before we start celebrating a more flexible workplace, it is important to look at the drawbacks. Like all business policies implemented, it will require careful consideration to get right.

For a virtual organisation to function, geographically dispersed teams need the capability and tools to communicate effectively. Leaders will also need to look at how they continue to drive innovation and diversity of thought, and measure productivity and business performance.

For leaders to retain motivated and high performing teams, they will also need to look at how they continue developing their people in a digital environment. Until recently, much of our learning and development was done through osmosis and observation in the office setting. This has now changed and is difficult to replicate virtually.

Final thoughts

For those hoping to emerge from the crisis and return to a pre-Covid environment, you are likely to be disappointed. Doing what we have always done is unlikely to get us to where we will need to be. We will need to examine what we are doing well – and what we need to do better. Now is not the time to rebuild what was there before. Leaders will need to unlock new opportunities, reinvent their businesses, and be prepared for further change.

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