As a new year dawns many of us are hoping that the pandemic will finally run its course, hopefully without more strain on our overworked healthcare heroes. When, we wonder, can we finally return to normal? Savvy business people, however, realize that we can only return to a new normal. Things won't return to the way they were in 2019. As the Tao Te Ching says,
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
While I want to be positive, I also don't think this will be the last global crisis. Extreme weather events, from tornadoes to floods to wildfires, have been plaguing businesses nationally and globally. We could see another pandemic and more lock downs in coming years. More immediately, people have changed in two years of upheaval. Many employees have become accustomed to working from home. Here are three steps you can take to ensure your business is resilient in post-pandemic times.
Know how to find and retain talent
While some people run one-person businesses, many of us work with partners, employees, or contractors. Having sufficient personnel is key to meeting productivity goals and maintaining customer satisfaction. So many Americans moved, retired, or shifted careers during the pandemic that the media has coined a term for it: The Great Resignation. Some business owners are blaming workers for laziness, but solutions-focused leaders will instead focus on how to find, develop, and retain talented staff. SHRM, a national HR professional organization, details the reasons people are leaving their jobs, including better pay, benefits, work/life balance, and advancement opportunities. With skilled workers in demand, it only makes sense that they will favor employers who offer competitive salaries and benefits. SHRM also recommends supporting employee's development and career advancement to keep them engaged.
Support remote work and work-life integration
Many white-collar workers got used to working remotely and spending more time with their families during the pandemic. Some even sold their homes and relocated. Forbes notes that employees are seeking jobs that allow them to pursue personal interests and wellness. Fast Company reports that one-third of workers would take a pay cut rather than return to traditional office attire. A responsive employer might respond by revising the company dress code to accommodate athleisure, or offer employees the option of working from home or using co-working spaces. This flexibility could satisfy employees while reducing the cost of maintaining a large physical office. Even in hybrid and remote environments employers can offer family-friendly policies and wellness-promoting benefits.
Remember, these teleworkers are also your customers! Resilient people see opportunities in change. Be on the lookout for emerging service gaps and markets. Fast Company notes that the fashion industry is responding rapidly to people's desire for comfy clothes that look sharp.
Be prepared for emergencies
Of course, not everyone found their zen working from home. Many people suffered from the isolation and businesses suffered from customers' changed behavior. As social activities slowly start returning to normal, resilient business owners will be flexible. By continuing to offer Zoom appointments, curbside pickup, enhanced sanitation, delivery services, and/or outdoor dining, resilient businesses will capture a greater consumer share (including telecommuters like me) and be prepared to pivot if, heaven forbid, we ever have to do this again. Hopefully we all have some N95 and toilet paper reserves now, but pandemics aren't the only disaster small business owners must be prepared for. Earlier this year we shared a blog post on helpful emergency preparedness resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
I know, I know: who wants to think more about pandemics and other disasters? But I consider myself a realist, not a pessimist! I want my small business (and yours) to be going strong decades from now, and that means facing potential challenges head on. I'd love to hear your plans for being flexible and prepared in the face of constant change.