The Business Exchange Swindon & Wiltshire Edition 49: June/July 2020 - Page 24

BUSINESS AFTER COVID As businesses continue to navigate the uncharted wake of Covid-19, people across all industries are predict how the coming days, weeks, months and Mark Adams, Director at Chippenham-based Mintivo, gives The Business E an insight into his thoughts on the new normal. Where are we now? We’re all feeling the impact of the lockdown. Of course, our priority now is on keeping everyone safe – our family, friends and staff. My heart goes out to anyone who is affected by the pandemic. Whilst in the midst of this huge change it’s natural to focus on day-to-day survival, as business owners and senior managers we also have to think about a world beyond Coronavirus. What will that world look like, and what it will mean for business? Before we look ahead, let’s think about what we’ve seen so far. The work is still getting done but it’s not perfect For the most part, work seems to be carrying on as normal. Sure, some jobs aren’t possible unless you’re on-site but for office-based tasks, staff are as productive as ever. Suddenly, services like Zoom, House Party and Microsoft Teams/365 (pictured) have become embedded in our daily routines. For some, they have been a lifeline in maintaining personal contact with family, friends and colleagues. You could say that technology has been our saviour. Can you imagine if this pandemic hit us 10 years ago? How much more isolated might we have felt? How much harder would it have been to work together from home? Remember you’re on camera There’s a learning curve when it comes to remote meetings. We’ve had to set some rules: Turn on your camera, dress appropriately (casual is fine but no PJs please!), contribute but don’t talk over people and if you’re going to take the meeting in your garden, remember that laptop microphones will pick up more noise than you realise. Humans are social animals If anything, the remote working has shown me how the little things we do as humans are so important; making eye contact before we speak, peoples’ mannerisms, those little moments when they’re off-guard, the spontaneous conversations and jokes. We miss them and as time goes on, it gets harder. Friday night team drinks at our local. The Minchester Maintaining morale and keeping the team ‘connected’ is vital at this time. Our virtual pub, The Minchester, is where all the team congregate on Friday evening for after work drinks. This is purely social and all staff, including those who have been furloughed, join in. Other activities such as my daily exercise class and creating screen backgrounds help to maintain those personal relationships and the team culture. Stop the IT project. It’s time to consolidate Naturally, we’ve seen IT projects postponed or cancelled. That’s understandable. If businesses are considering furloughing staff, capital expenditure has to be re-evaluated. Resources have to go to immediate operations and remote working. IT projects will remain on-hold for the foreseeable future. The projects that do go ahead will be focussed on further resilience, automation and cost saving, removing reliance on location-based infrastructure as much as possible. ‘Scalability’, both up and down, will be a key objective. Forget getting back to normal At the risk of sounding negative, I see a stormy outlook for business over the next 12 months. Financially, we could be looking at a depression not seen since the 1930s, maybe even worse. How will businesses respond? Some will come to the conclusion that they employ too many staff; that remote tools and automation can reduce overhead and provide resilience in times such as these. Mass redundancies are a very real concern and I’m worried for what that will mean to the UK’s workforce. Several high street brands will fail Those with weaker business models will struggle. We’ll see many businesses fail – not just small businesses but large, well-known high street brands too. Strong businesses will adapt, survive and may even thrive but weaker businesses will struggle. But where there are losers, there will also be winners. Some will change their business models and pivot into new products and services. We’re already hearing how some pubs and restaurants have started offering takeaway and delivery services. Some will reach wider or newer audiences. Remote working technology and app services will grow The technology world will see new releases and upgrades to improve those remote experiences. Expect these technologies to feel ever-more human. I can see major updates to messaging tools like Snapchat