The pandemic caught businesses by surprise, exposing acute weaknesses. Some positives will come from the crisis, however

Today marks the beginning of new measures rolled out by the Government of Singapore, which should curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

For four weeks, all non-essential businesses must close their offices, with staff having to work from home, where possible.

For many companies, this has been the modus operandi for several weeks now. Some companies are thriving, whereas other are severely challenged.

Below are five business learnings from the COVID-19 lockdown:

1. Working from home is a positive experience for all

Company executives are generally sceptical of letting employees work from home. Many claim it’s unproductive, and leads to unnecessary distractions. While there are likely past experiences that influence these concerns, the real reason, however, is down to a widespread lack of trust instilled in company staff.

Fortunately, staff do get on with what they ought to be doing when working at home; they are productive, and they are serious about their jobs. Due to the lockdown, naysayers will learn that the missing ingredient inside their respective businesses is not employee buy-in per se, but rather executive trust in staff.

2. Businesses must thrive in an online-only world

Naturally, there are industries that will be challenged in an online only world. The travel industry is struggling, as too is the events sector. Thankfully for these industries, today’s crisis should be temporal. Many businesses are gallantly adapting to the status quo. Restaurants have become meal delivery services; live performers have become online streaming stars; and bricks and mortar banks have become online financial advisers.

For businesses that are in the infancy of their digital journey, the current crisis has quickened the digital transformation experience. Hence, it’s not all bad for them.

3. Virtual meetings are equally as effective as those held in-person

Zoom. Microsoft Teams. Skype. Plus many, many more. Prior to the crisis, these video conferencing platforms were typically used by companies to speak to overseas colleagues and clients. Today, however, they are being used to converse with peers who might only be sat a few blocks away.

Such solutions cannot replicate in-person meetings, naysayers typically bemoan. However, virtual meetings cut out unnecessary discussions that should either be held in a team environment, or simply shouldn’t be held in the workplace at all. Several of the above technologies allow users to record conversations, so they can be referred to at a later date.

4. Executives don’t need to travel as much as they claim

With international travel severely restricted, and with the likes of Zoom and so forth readily available, there really is no need to travel for business.

I find it hypocritical that many CEOs proclaim to be stewards of the environment, yet they take more than 100 flights a year, many of which are intercontinental and involve private jets. Admittedly, many companies offset their carbon footprint. However, today’s crisis highlights how much business travel is unnecessary — as well as how much money is wasted on these trips.

5. Many roles have had their time

Today’s scrupulous trading environment is exposing unproductive roles. However spare a thought for professionals whose handicrafts have come to an end. In a digital-first world, for example, many printing professionals fit into this bracket.

Challenging times and work restrictions are nonetheless an opportunity to step-up, re-skill and move on — those who meet today’s new needs will thrive; those who don’t will struggle. Let’s all adapt.

Photo by CDC from Pexels