A patchwork tapestry: the varying states of recovery across offices

We are currently in the midst of a lull. The mix of summer and Covid-19 pandemic allowing businesses and employees to rest, reset, and take stock to prepare for the next phase of economic and societal recovery.

That means it is time for companies to review how they’re using this time. Where in the McKinsey framework (I’ve covered this previously here) do they fit? Are they moving forward or are they stuck between phases?

For companies that have international reach, the sheer variety of different lockdown measures and economic states across countries means that not all offices will be at the same stage of the recovery journey. And now that local lockdowns are also a consideration, particularly in the UK, even smaller companies with multiple domestic presences may still be seeing an unbalanced impact in returning to work – or not. I like to think of this process as a patchwork of sorts – varying requirements, challenges and opportunities combining within a single ecosystem as we all try to acclimate to our new normal.

The question now becomes how do you deal with different countries and offices all at varying stages of recovery with separate internal and business implications? Are the one-off quick fixes and process changes that you made earlier in the year ready to deal with another lockdown if we face a second wave? Are they still fit for purpose?

If the answer is yes, the next thing you should be preparing for is coming out the other side of the pandemic; asking yourself if all of your teams and departments would be in a better place if the world went back to normal tomorrow. If the answer is no, you really should be looking at what you can do to best prepare for success in the new normal.

There is still time to prepare. And some companies already appear to be making the best use of that time. PwC recently announced permanent changes to their office use, retail organisations restructuring while they have time to think, and accelerated change rather than cancelled change. Progressive steps that ensure the business is making the best use of its downtime.

Businesses that follow in PwC’s footsteps can not only gain some purpose from the forced downtime of the summer and COVID, but also set themselves up to bounce back even stronger once the pandemic is over, by providing themselves with a platform to leapfrog competitors that do not make effective use of this period.

So what steps can businesses take to prepare now? One initial suggestion would be to use this downtime to ensure they have resilient, flexible systems in place that allow them to better existing processes and unlock efficiencies.

When businesses take the plunge and move to more innovative technology solutions, they should ensure that they are not making one very common mistake: missing the opportunity to adapt and change processes across the business, at the same time.

To achieve this, businesses must ensure that the solutions chosen are flexible and can adapt to the needs of the company. It is all well and good having more capable solutions in place but if you are not using them to their fullest, the investment has not been maximised.

The ideal solution is a robust, new, flexible cloud-based system that can help to connect the dots between departments, cut down on administrative overhead and help with the flow of information, ensuring that the business comes back even stronger than before.

This patchwork of different lockdown measures and economic states continues to cause headaches for businesses, but this really is the opportunity to centralise operations in the cloud for a stronger, integrated tapestry that is more effective, efficient, and resilient than before.

It might take us a while until every office and every country – and world – has fully returned to a normalised state, but the businesses that seek out the opportunity to improve as a whole in this lull period, can then rest assured that things might just be on the up when normality returns.

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