“I just want things to go back to normal.” How many times have you heard, or uttered, those words during the past two years?
When COVID-19 first arrived, the nation was shut down for what many thought would be just a couple of weeks to “flatten the curve.” The move was to protect health care providers from being overwhelmed with patients.
“Just a couple of weeks,” has turned into two years of various phases, pivots, and mandates. With the incredible outbreak of the Omicron variant, chances are you know more people who have been infected than those who have not.
What is my key takeaway from all this? There is no going back to pre-COVID “normal.” In fact there are four things that businesses should embrace as normal moving forward.
Remote working protocol is normal
Businesses learned that sending their employees home to work could actually be a productive move. Now, it is time to embrace this as an essential part of many business models. If the work can be done remotely, it probably should be done remotely. We have all gotten used to zoom meetings, virtual training, and instant messenger correspondence as, “almost as good as in-person.”
As good as it is, however, businesses need to build into their employee compensation costs things like internet access, just like cell phones and mileage. If it is part of the job, then it should be part of the compensation.
Workforce challenges will only get worse
When the lockdowns occurred, and the Federal Government swooped in with unemployment benefits, workers went home, and stayed there. This caused shortages in many sectors, especially service industries.
When the money stopped flowing, the workers didn’t return. Seems many took the at-home opportunity to start side hustles, or find other ways of making ends meet. One colleague said, “People can make enough money doing tik-toks and driving for Uber to get by without going to a ‘real job.’”
Businesses are going to have to automate to the point where they can operate with less workforce, while paying the ones they must have much better than prior to COVID.
Mental health must be a priority
COVID fatigue is a real thing, and no one is immune from it. In the business community, recognizing and addressing mental health challenges must be part of everyday leadership. The past two years have either created or exacerbated these challenges. From the CEO’s office to the janitor’s closet, everyone is dealing with some sort of mental health issue.
For businesses to thrive as we move forward, consistent attention must be given to the mental health and wellbeing of all.
Opportunities still abound
While 2020 and 2021 seemed to be full of doom and gloom, many businesses thrived and expanded. The ability to pivot is now a required trait for people in business. Just because something worked for the past 20-plus years doesn’t mean it will work today. More than likely, it won’t work today.
Business leaders must educate themselves in an ongoing manner. With books, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos, and other resources readily available, there is absolutely no excuse not to stay on top of what works and what doesn’t.
Now that it is 2022, it is time to finally put “back to normal” in the rearview mirror. There is no going back. There is only going forward. Today is your current normal. Tomorrow may be a different normal. It is up to you to be ready for whatever normal you face.
David A. Specht Jr. | President, Specht Newspapers Inc. First appeared in BIZ. Magazine.