How is your company preparing for life post-COVID?

COVID-19 turned life as we know it on its head. Businesses have had to shut down, non-essential employees were mandated to work from home, and millions have been laid off in a matter of months. It’s been exhausting and unbelievably challenging to say the least. 

There are many questions swirling around public conversation, with one of the main ones being, “When will this end, and what will life look like when it does?”

To unearth the answer to this question, we surveyed 56 respondents in various industries to hear what they’ve done to adapt to the current landscape so far, and what they plan to do as the reality of a post-COVID world seems increasingly tangible. As a whole, the answers share valuable insight into how companies have tackled work-at-home challenges during the pandemic and reveal an optimistic view of the road ahead. Read on for the main takeaways.

The Current Landscape

It’s clear that COVID-19 has impacted businesses across the board, and all industries are feeling its effects to some extent. When asked to rank how much COVID has impacted their business on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being “Not impacted at all. We’re doing well!” and 5 being “COVID completely upended our business,” 74% of respondents chose a 4 or 5. This comes as no surprise, since even the companies who were well-positioned for the current landscape (e.g., food delivery services, fitness equipment, video conferencing services, etc.) have had to face challenges, such as issues with information security and supply chain. 

With this wide and deep upheaval, companies were relatively prepared to work from home, but not many respondents thought that their companies were completely ready for the stay-at-home orders. On a scale from 1-5 for how prepared companies were to work from, only 16% of respondents chose 5 for “Super prepared. It’s been a breeze!” That being said, only 11% shared that their companies were not at all ready, so most companies fell somewhere in the middle on the preparedness scale. 

Even if companies were not already prepared to work from home, the majority pivoted quickly. When asked how they would rate the speed at which their company adjusted to successfully working from home, 60% of respondents answered with a 4 or 5, with 5 being “lightning speed.” Only 16% of respondents selected a 1 or 2. These results are encouraging, and demonstrate the ability of businesses to adapt under pressure.  

One of the main reasons for the successful quick shift may be executive leaders’ transparency. 59% of respondents rated their executive leadership’s transparency a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5, meaning that their executives have been very communicative and forthcoming about their plans in the short- and long-term. By being open about their strategies, executive leaders created a clear path forward, which enabled their businesses and employees to pivot quickly. 

Employee sentiment also appears to be mostly positive when asked if they have access to the proper resources, as 65% of respondents stated that they had what they needed in order to effectively do their jobs. That being said, 35% of those surveyed do not think that they have the necessary resources, so businesses still need to communicate with their teams to ensure their employees are empowered to work from home. 

Overall, while there remains much uncertainty around how COVID-19 will impact businesses next, companies have mostly done what they can in the short-term to keep employees on track by remaining transparent and relatively agile. 

The Future Landscape

It can be hard to plan for what you don’t know, but it appears that businesses have undertaken a variety of tactics. The ways that companies have prepared for life post-COVID, according to respondents, are rank ordered from most to least popular below:

  1. Developed a plan for bringing employees back into the office once the state declares it’s safe
  2. Invested in the right vendors for assistance, either the same amount or more than before
  3. Cut costs to reduce overhead expenses
  4. Restructured offerings and services to address the shift in demand brought on by COVID-19

It’s interesting that more respondents’ companies are investing in vendors rather than cutting costs, considering the fact that layoffs have been a reality for many businesses. It’s also notable that more than twice the number of respondents said that their office is developing a reopening plan than there are respondents who said their company is restructuring their offerings. This means that the main focus is to figure out how to get employees working in-person again rather than working from home indefinitely while figuring out a new way forward. 

In terms of when employees will be brought back into the office, it’s a close split between those who will return in the near-term and those who will wait a bit longer before coming back, as 45% will be back in 1-3 months and 40% will be back in 4-6 months. 13% of respondents reported that they still haven’t been told when they will be back in the office and 2% are permanently working from home. 

For employees who will be returning to the office post-COVID, there is not a unanimous sentiment in terms of their comfort level working in person again. 60% shared that they’re comfortable, while 40% shared that they’d be uncomfortable. This split may have large implications on companies’ reopening plans, meaning that they should consider having it be optional for employees to return since there are still many who feel wary about being in the office. 

This unease may also be accompanied by the similar split in employees’ confidence in their office’s ability to enable proper social distancing and hygiene. 62% stated that they believe their company would be able to enable these measures, while 38% didn’t agree - a near perfect track to what was found in employees’ comfort to return. This means that as executive leaders are providing their employees with transparent communications, they should also be clear about the precautions they will be taking in the office to instill greater employee comfort and ease.

A positive outcome of the results is that many companies are working on their growth strategies post-COVID, with 84% of respondents stating that they see their employers developing these new, important plans. Additionally, 76% believe that their company would be prepared if a similar event happened in the future. Although times have certainly been tough, it’s encouraging to know that companies are looking toward the future and are preparing as best they can for the unpredictable. 

How to Proceed

Many respondents had some words of advice on how companies should move forward, some of which focused on physical and operational considerations, while others focused on communication and strategic elements. A few quotes from respondents include:

“Frequent and clear communications are necessary - even if the message is, ‘We’re still figuring this out, but here’s how we are thinking about it.’”

“There need to be flexible offerings for employees returning to work, since all are in different situations.”

“Provide space in the office so that employees can keep socially distant.”

“Establish internal rules regarding rules of distance and use of masks, preserve employees with pre-existing comorbidity rates and put us in the home office, in addition to maintaining all executive and operational structure so that business operations are not all affected by falls in productivity and customers.”

“Innovate, seek new ways to overcome it all, and adopt precautionary measures.”

“Create a work from home policy. Digital tools and online resources have made connecting and working remote easier than ever. To allocate large resources for swanky office amenities is not necessary.”

“Look for partnerships to increase your production.”

With these recommendations and the survey responses in mind, it’s clear that companies need to look for ways to make their employees feel comfortable and confident, not only in their physical office space, but also in their communications and operations. There are five takeaways from this report that companies should consider:

  1. Be transparent and communicative with employees. Internal communication should be clear and consistent since, as we’ve come to realize, developments in COVID-19 happen at a breakneck pace. Let your employees know your plans for the company and be open to their input as well - you never know what perspective they may have that could potentially shape new ideas and strategy. 
     
  2. Look for ways that you can pivot and innovate. Whether it’s by rethinking how your office will run, contemplating your long-term strategy, or leaning on third-party vendors to leverage their tools and expertise, now is not the time to be complacent. As previously mentioned, many employees see their companies focusing on their growth post-COVID, so as you’re doing so, keep an open dialogue and an open mind with your employees and your partners. 
     
  3. Reimagine your workspace. Had you previously shunned the idea of working from home, but realized some of its benefits in the past few months? You don’t have to go back to the way things were once business is “normal” again. Take this time to reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t, and update your preconceived notions of an office. As one of the respondents mentioned, there are so many digital tools at your disposal to help you coordinate with remote workers.
     
  4. Keep health and safety precautions as the most important consideration. Your company is nothing without your team, and it’s imperative that you keep them as safe as possible. Have conversations about their comfort level in returning, while offering resources and information as it becomes available to make them more confident in your plans. Monitor what your state’s guidelines are, invest in keeping the office clean, and please, wear a mask. 
     
  5. Be flexible with your plans and your people. The effectiveness of your carefully laid out plans may change, and that’s ok. But what’s not ok is sticking with a previous strategy without adapting it to address current circumstances. Plans and strategies should be designed with room to be updated, especially considering all of the uncertainty our companies face on a daily basis. Additionally, you need to be flexible with your employees to foster a healthy workplace culture. We are all wearing many hats right now, and having everyone come back into the office may not be feasible with all that’s on our plates. Listen to your team, have compassion, and work with them to find a solution that works best for everyone.

If you need help delivering on these takeaways, we’re here for you. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

 

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