During the first months of the pandemic, the first priority for many businesses was cutting costs in order to survive. For many, a fairly blunt approach – battening down the hatches and trimming costs that weren’t adding value – worked. But it’s not a long term strategy. We can’t kick this particular can down the road for much longer.
Almost a year on, we’re through Brexit and into our third lockdown and it’s time to reassess. The one thing we know for certain is that when this pandemic ends, we won’t ever return to the pre-pandemic ‘normal’. So much has changed – consumer preferences, accepted working practices, our understanding of what makes a resilient supply chain to name just a few. And that requires a new perspective on operations and costs.
Let’s take, for example, workforce productivity. The first lockdown prompted as a blitz spirit – we were all in this together and morale, generally, stayed high. Much of the pre-pandemic nervousness about the impact of remote working on productivity was dispelled and in general, the sudden, enforced experiment in mass home working was deemed largely a success. But the cracks are beginning to show. The most tested sections of the workforce, notably home-schooling working parents, are starting to bow under pressure. Remote working doesn’t suit everyone so it can’t be a blanket policy.
Businesses have been in crisis mode for so long that many haven’t had time to take stock and think about their place in a very different business landscape. During the first lockdown, businesses were forced to be reactive, but this time around, proactive wins the day. So here are a few thoughts:
It’s likely that many businesses will emerge from the pandemic smaller and leaner, but stronger – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has been an extraordinarily tough year for many, but there is good reason to be cautiously optimistic. The pandemic has changed us, and adapting to the new world takes work – but the rewards will be there.