Running a business is one of the complicated things you can do. There are a hundred different aspects you need to consider. This includes security, employee morale, productivity, and marketing, to name just a few. The fact that it is difficult shouldn’t put you off. After all, if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s the difficult parts of life that can often prove the most rewarding, and so it is with business.
Once you find good working practices for your business, it can feel like a massive victory. However, the world doesn’t always work perfectly; situations change, and sometimes you may need to be flexible in order to move forward. You’ll want to hold onto old practices because they have been successful in the past, but this isn’t always the best idea, and you could be risking stagnation. With the business world projected to undergo significant changes in the next few years – whether due to recession, social distancing, an increase in at-home working, and digital innovation – here are a few ways you might want to be flexible and adapt your business practices moving forward.
If there is one thing the recent pandemic has taught us, it’s about which jobs need to have a physical presence, and which can be done at home with minimal disruption. Industries such as theatre and sport have utterly closed down, as they rely almost entirely on the presence of bodies in a room together, whether for performances or rehearsal. Other businesses that work in areas such as healthcare or the postal services have had to keep going as they operate vital services that can only function with the presence of people. However, a huge number of office-based jobs have essentially moved online, with people working from the comfort and safety of their own homes. This has proved a workable strategy for business with only a few employees right up to massive, multi-floor office environments. Whilst your urge might be to get everyone back together and working as normal as soon as you can, it might be worth pausing to consider the possibilities this forced change has unlocked.
There are many benefits of being a bit more flexible in the future with your employees’ working location. It may allow your hiring policies to be more inclusive, as you will be better able to accommodate the requirements of anyone with disabilities who may not always be able to make it into the office. In the long term, it could also cut down on your office expenses, as you may be able to rent a smaller space if certain employees always work from home. Some employees may also be more motivated with the flexibility to change their scenery if they’re starting to flag. If managed correctly and carefully, this could prove a brilliant adaptation for your business.
Though many employees are thoroughly enjoying working from home, others have reported finding the lack of external stimulation a strain on their mental health and ability to concentrate. This is especially true in the current circumstances, in which many people are experiencing consistent levels of anxiety related to wider world events. If your business runs on a normal 9-5 schedule, it can be very difficult for employees to maintain energy levels for this whole time. Normally, the working day is broken up by several events; making tea, eating lunch with colleagues, having a chat across the desk. These breaks, official and unofficial, are actually crucial for maintaining focus and energy – working from home, these are not available, and employees can suffer as a result. It may be worth considering different types of work schedules to help combat these downsides. Some employees may be saving a lot of time with no commute; they could therefore potentially work a split day, working 7am-9am, then 2pm-5pm, with a longer break in-between. This will help you get the most out of them whilst helping them cope with changing circumstances.
Overall, it’s important to keep communicating with your staff on what works for them, and be prepared to adapt if necessary to accommodate their various needs. By doing this, you will help increase productivity and employee morale; and a happy staff often equals a happy business.
Methods of Communication
Recently, Zoom has become a household name in a matter of weeks. Whilst we can all feel sorry for Skype (though how they lost almost the entire market after a ten-year headstart to build their brand is a business lesson for another day), this is proof of another fact. Video communication is here, and it is here to stay. Video conferencing has been used for years for large companies to communicate across the world, but it has largely remained a niche option used only when there are no other alternatives. It is now ubiquitous. Chances are, most of your employees will have become well-versed in how to use the platform, even if they tend towards technophobia in most other areas. Moving forward, are there ways you can keep using this tool even if everyone moves back into traditional office working?
The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. One of the other changes to the business world looming on the horizon is climate change and the idea that many of our practices will need to adapt, and quickly, in order to lower our impact on the planet. In this new world, business trips may become a thing of the past. The idea of flying across the world, or across the country, for a business meeting, will become unthinkable when we now know such meetings can easily be conducted through Zoom. Even large conferences could become online affairs. Allowing delegates to attend through their laptop screens without the expense, time, and carbon emissions of thousands of businesspeople descending upon a single location in France (for example).
Sales and Products
We have talked a lot about employee practices and internal changes you might make to how your business functions. However, in a changing world it is also very important to keep track of your business’s relevance, and how the products you create relate to the circumstances of the times. Now, your product might be timeless, or it may be a brilliant idea that sells in massive numbers for a few years before becoming obsolete. In these cases, you need to adapt your business and move with the times – just like Madonna – or risk being left behind. In recent times, we have seen many textiles and manufacturing companies move into producing PPE and face-masks for the duration of the pandemic. Whilst this is helpful, it is also smart business sense, abandoning currently-unprofitable products for those which are in high demand, and which have the added benefit of providing good PR for the company.
Moving forward, no one knows what could be around the corner. It’s important that as a business owner, you are keeping a finger on the pulse of the moment. You need to be ready and open to the idea of adapting your business to reality. In many areas, the idea of the single-purpose, inflexible business could soon become a dinosaur. In order to survive and thrive, flexibility is key.
Running a business is difficult at the best of times, and recent events have thrown many areas into turmoil. As with many aspects of life, the best way to deal with this is not to stand inflexibly against it, but to be open to new possibilities. After all, brittle trees will break in the wind whilst bendy saplings remain.