The New Normal – Navigating the Realities of Business Today

The New Normal – Navigating the Realities of Business Today

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought life and business as we know it to a standstill. It has has disturbed the political, social, economic, religious and financial structures of the whole world.[1]

Amidst all this, the situation today is where even well-established businesses, with up-to-date technology systems, IT infrastructure, access to latest software updates, etc., are left standing at crossroads, trying to figure out what to do next and how.  In the US, the direct result has been nearly 39 million people losing their jobs in nine weeks, which is unprecedented.[2]

There is a new normal that has permeated our lives.

The dynamics of life and business have been transformed with aspects of remote working, social distancing, healthcare crisis, online commerce, and travel ban. Digitalization is enabling business continuity while technologies such as cloud-enabled IT infrastructure, automation, cyber security protocols[3]have become the new focus for companies of all sizes.

From an employee perspective, a recent remote work study shows that an American’s average workday has increased exponentially by almost 3 hours a day – a whopping 40% increase.[4]

From a consumer perspective, with retail stores being closed, the importance of an online sales channel is more important than ever, both for consumers to have online choices, and for business continuity for retail businesses.

In such evolving times, it is crucial for businesses to assess their readiness to adapt to the new normal. There are major issues that the corporate heads need to address, as well as actions that they can take to not only face severe business blows today, but also restructure their business and plan for recovery. One has to face the elephant in the room by tackling some of the vital questions—

  • Is your company well positioned for this new normal?
  • Where you able to upgrade your systems with the latest technologies before?
  • Do you have an online sales channel?
  • If not, what should be your next step?
  • Who should you be turning to for advice?

Interestingly, technology alone at times may not help a business sustain during such unprecedented crisis. A few prominent exapmles to illustrate this are the online travel giant, Expedia[5], which is struggling to survive the pandemic with travel at  a minimum with massive business losses, while app-based cab service providers[6] such as Uber and Lyft are witnessing their businesses crashing. Now is the time for companies to set up short-and long-term strategies, to ensure business continuity during and post pandemic era.

Look for the silver lining

Every cloud has one, and so we must look for the developing opportunities carefully. In the short-term[7], businesses across verticals have an opportunity to shore up their employer branding by establish employee wellbeing programs and policies that address the concerns relating to job stability and continuity, safe work environment etc.; provide a well-defined IT infrastructure for remote working, implement tactical steps to preserve business value, including liquidity analysis, operational scenario planning, and an assessment of the various government stimulus programs.

In the long term, factors such as social distancing; percentage of employees on remote work or rotational shifts; continuous upgrades of software and other collaborative tools, and flexibility in supply chains would define the new business ecosystem and businesses will need to define their long-term strategies and business plans keeping these in mind.  Given the experience with remote working over the last couple of months, a lot of companies are even considering Work From Home (WFH) as a longer term strategy for some if not all their employees. It is likely the increase in acceptance of remote working will also lead to a decrease in travel as video conferencing is becoming the acceptable form of face to face interaction.

There would be need to be compliant with greater regulations, especially in areas of employment rights, accessibility of data and the cash and liquidity buffers held by large businesses. Additionally, one can expect a rapid acceleration towards “e-government”, healthcare digitalization and role of state in its universal provision.[8]

Constant reviewing and updating the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) must feature as a central strategy for the organizations, thus ensuring strong contingency plans to build resilience and better response to any such unforeseen future crisis.

In all this, technology has fast become the bedrock to keeping us all connected, both at a personal and professional level.