As I write this article we are in Level Two and from what I have observed many businesses are treading carefully into this uncharted territory. Some have put in place the most stringent health and safety measures known to man, seemingly making it almost impossible to speak with a real human, others are being quite sensible about the risk vs getting back to business, trading and life in general.
It’s certainly encouraging to be out and about and see that business and the economy are starting to return and that there is general enthusiasm for spending, buying local and getting the economy on track.
Businesses have been hit hard for sure, and whilst we are fielding enquiries from displaced employees, I suspect the real picture isn’t quite apparent yet. As the wage subsidy draws to an end, we will likely see more restructuring and the unemployment rate rising drastically.
We’ve had plenty of time to reflect over the past few weeks, and one of the things I am thankful for is where I live. It’s great to be living here in New Zealand. We are living amongst a nation of entrepreneurs and it’s inspiring to see some of the innovative ideas businesses have come up with to keep staff employed, keep the doors open and keep trading, the support our nation is showing is one another is outstanding.
For me, another positive has been the support of buying local NZ-made products. We have a depth of talented people who are so creative and a reminder of the scope and uniqueness of what is right here in our own country.
In terms of returning to work post Covid-19, the innovation has not stopped. It has become apparent after lockdown that many people and businesses aren’t in a rush to return to the pre-Covid days of being committed to the traditional 40-hour work week from the office. For some this was the norm in any case.
However, there is a huge movement coming through – they’ve trialled it, it’s worked, and this is the “new way” of working and we have the technology to support it.
There is one big lesson that Covid-19 has taught us all, and that’s adaptability. There are many businesses and employees out there who simply won’t, now they’ve proven that they can, return to their normal business working models. People are working from home more, businesses are taking more consideration to flexible hours and four-day working weeks.
There is an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing, which is more evident than ever before and perhaps a recognition that employees that have more control over how and when they work, are more productive team members. For some, allowing flexibility into their businesses was feared. But Covid forced that upon us and perhaps the reality of it hasn’t been so bad after all.
With that, however, there are also some disadvantages to consider and new challenges to be met. It is possible to find the right balance, but managing a flexible workforce can be tricky – especially within a large team. Businesses are going to have to navigate their way through a new set of challenges post-Covid.
For example, company/team culture – this will no doubt change in some way – how can you manage and influence it positively. The team culture and spirit is going to be harder to influence within a disbanded team – this could be countered perhaps by making a day of the week that everyone is in the office. You could then cover off some of the important face-to-face messages so that the whole team is on the same page.
It also allows and encourages continuity of social interactions between team members and essential face-to-face communication, bringing the team together in a way that can’t be done via Zoom. For many, working from home is ideal, but for others it can be very isolating.
There are also other considerations such as Health and Safety with employees’ home offices becoming their new work environment, and the implications of now having commercial considerations from a home environment. Employers will no doubt be looking at updating relevant policies and procedures around these aspects.
Without a doubt, we are all navigating our way through a new way of working, and the inevitable challenges it brings. For many this may just be the start of a positive change to the way we work.