The word normal doesn’t mean what it did just a few long weeks ago. People cannot enjoy a good meal at their favorite restaurant, cheer their favorite sports team on or even go to the gym for a workout. Activities that we could do on auto-pilot have become memories. COVID-19 has changed how we live our lives and it has changed our perspective on many things. I feel I can say with certainty that we will beat COVID-19, but I can also guarantee people’s lives will never fully go back to the way they used to be just a few weeks ago. All of us are impacted, directly or indirectly, in a wide spectrum: from illness and possibly death, to generous tipping and the sharing of the last roll of toilet paper. History has proven that humans overcome adversity by evolving and becoming stronger. In fact, I can see several changes that will make society and business stronger in the near future:
I feel strongly that corporate America as a whole will realize it is not a bad thing to let your employees have options of where and how they work. Prior to this pandemic, the majority of corporate America mandated that employees work in office cubicles. Millions of Americans commuted to and from their offices 5 days a week, many of them commuting hours per day from their suburban family dwellings to their downtown offices and back. What corporate America didn’t prepare for was “shelter in place” orders across cities and states where they have employees. We have witnessed some of our clients carrying their office desktop computers and monitors to the back seats of their cars to take home because their companies didn’t assign laptops or have VPN. Face to face meetings are now being done over teleconferences and collaboration technologies like Zoom, Webex, Slack and Microsoft Teams. With all these changes that seemed to have occurred overnight, businesses still run, work still gets completed, and lives still go on. The human population has learned how to work more efficiently with less - and that is a powerful skill to have. Once the dust settles, “work from home” will be far more accepted and appreciated.
We are realizing that those meetings that we thought had to be “in person”, often do not. In the last two weeks I have conducted virtual meetings to introduce myself and our firm to prospective clients, we have facilitated user acceptance testing, we even kicked of a major project just last week – all virtually. Of course there were adjustments, and lessons learned: logistics of the communication platform, finding a quiet spot, finding a good back drop in a well-lit corner, etc. But, these little challenges made us stronger. We exercised new muscles and we were patient and understanding with one another when the dog barked, or the child popped into the video. Frankly, I believe seeing inside the personal space of others has opened us up to one another more – we all put our pants (or lounge wear) on one leg at a time. Now, I don’t expect a 180 degree turn where we never get on airplanes, go into offices, or attend large conferences. It will be somewhere in the middle. I think here will be a reduction going forward, and that reduction will allow us to save on expenses and ironically relate better to one another while continue to grow our businesses.
If these changes play out as I have theorized, organizations who have resisted cloud software will quickly need to jump onboard. Cloud based tools offer the flexibility and agility to work from nearly anywhere and from any type of device. Often a home’s internet is perfectly adequate, as well as the individual devices we have at home, like PCs, tablets and our phones. If the new norm includes accountants, human resources and marketers working from home more frequently, why wouldn’t organizations want them to be able to log in simply through a URL or a single sign on to cloud-based back-office tools that look and feel like the consumer sites they visit all the time? Obviously we are hyper-focused on a pandemic right now, but beyond that - life happens too. Sometimes you need to run an errand, grab coffee or lunch on the go, or pick your kid up from school. Why not enable employees with the tools to execute an important business workflow approval while simultaneously living their lives – seems far more efficient and effective all the way around. There are additional benefits to moving to the cloud - ranging from reducing expenses, tax credits, and even real functional benefits in times like these where health and wellness applications are enabling organizations to track, contact and manage their workforce in ways that used to be unimaginable.
Humans, by nature, find change difficult, especially when change is an option. History has shown us that when we are forced to change due to harsh uncontrollable circumstances, like COVID-19, the change happens much more rapidly – it is organic, instinctual and based on our collective survival. We adapt, and we do it quickly. This type of disturbance compels us and demands we change. So, while our home and work lives may seem upside down and our economy sits on shaky ground, I honestly see the tipping point of a monumental positive outcome. Organizations will not have an option anymore – they have seen that they must adapt and adopt practices and technology that allow them to revisit their business models and improve their business processes to be more nimble and flexible. I believe in a few years when we look back at this time, we will see the catalyst that forced corporate America to embrace changes that drove efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, profitability, mobility and success.
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