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Adapting operating models during COVID-19

Sanjay Sachdev

COVID-19 has brought – and is still bringing – tremendous change to the way people live and work. The pandemic has caused massive disruption to the operations and communications of businesses across all sectors. How those organisations respond will be the main factor in determining their fate.

To stay afloat during these challenging times, businesses must be versatile. Leaders must ask the right questions and quickly develop strategies to operate effectively in the new normal caused by the pandemic.


Shifting to remote work

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, telecommuting was becoming increasingly common. In the United States, for example, the number of people working remotely grew by 159% between 2005 and 2017. The ongoing pandemic will dramatically accelerate this trend. While the circumstances are extremely unfortunate, remote work can be a big positive for businesses.

A 2019 study from the International Workplace Group surveyed 15,000 businesspeople in more than 100 countries. 85% of respondents said productivity actually increased as a result of flexible working. Such a policy can also earn companies a better selection of job candidates; 80% of respondents said that if they received two similar employment offers, they would pick the one that offered flexible working options. Integrating an efficient system of remote work also helps you retain talent, which in turn lowers other costs related to hiring and training. Business leaders would do well to remember this lesson after the pandemic passes.


Setting the ground rules and leveraging technology

For remote work to be effective, everyone in the organisation must be on the same page. Leaders must set clear parameters and expectations. These may include regular video check-ins, time-tracking, work logs, and specific targets that must be achieved. Communication is always of great importance – now more than ever.

Remote working tools such as Zoom, Slack, Google Chat and Microsoft Teams can be used to ensure seamless internal communication and the smooth flow of operations. Yet other significant changes may be called for as well – not just to find new ways of doing the same things, but to rethink the very structure of your operations.


Redesigning and rethinking

Many organisations will find that they must reshape their operating models to survive in these challenging times.

Cashflow is of paramount importance during a crisis, and expenses must be carefully catalogued and managed to ensure solvency. Even as companies work hard to stay afloat during the current crisis, their leaders should also be looking ahead to determine the next steps.

Core clients deserve special focus. If they receive the proper attention and support throughout the COVID-19 crisis, your shared business relationship will be even stronger when it passes. To this end, staff that previously worked on non-core activities such as sales and marketing, can be reassigned towards customer support and retention efforts.

While it may be difficult to take the long view at this time, careful consideration should be paid to how the business landscape will have changed once things return to normal. Which offline activities can be moved permanently online? Which non-core activities can be outsourced? What can be done to ensure stability in the wake of this crisis and in preparation for the next one?

Designing a new operating model is not an easy process, but it could be necessary if your organisation is to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 and emerge from the crisis in a position to thrive.