The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tectonic shifts in the configuration of businesses within the larger economy. Inevitably, the changing nature of work is also affecting the manner in which we perceive work, and achieve business outcomes. While the pandemic has resulted in a growing comfort with digital technologies in work, education, and the larger socio-cultural dynamic, few industries have had it easy. As businesses gear up for the inevitable bounce-back, what will recovery look like in the new normal?
Envisioning recovery in the post-pandemic economy
While rapid digitization has helped businesses resume their operations during the pandemic, most sectors have realized the strategic advantage of going digital beyond the pandemic recovery game plan. However as tourism and hospitality have essentially been decimated or put on hold, and sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and automotive have learned important lessons on supply chain reliability. Digital technologies have emerged as the equivalent of oil in the post-pandemic digital economy. This trend is likely to persist and amplify as a result of business forces, such as sky-rocketing customer preferences and cost benefits, agility, and flexibility associated with digital transformation.
Evolving the business-technology continuum
The business community’s growing comfort with digital technologies has come at the cost of significant personal and organizational efforts. But the post-pandemic recovery plans have also infused technology in the fabric of business activity. Remote workers have increased 40% in some countries, cloud strategies are maturing, and novel technologies such as AI and ML are gaining acceptance, even in emerging economies and small- to mid-sized businesses.
However, in this evolving business-technology continuum, some prominent observations have come forth:
- Supply chains are diversifying and turning into supply webs. Many are turning to local suppliers. But remote collaboration has not proved easy in manufacturing lines with low digital maturity.
- The efficacy of instruction has declined in the remote education model.
- The number of interactions over a typical workday has reduced from over 800 to a mere 8 to 10 in the remote work model. Bringing efficiency in in-person collaboration with remote operations has not been easy across all business processes.
- The role of leaders has changed as well. It has proved challenging to create a shared vision among teams while staying conscious of the effects of social isolation and heightened human-technology interactions.
From work-life balance to work-life integration
Most businesses consider that the future of work has taken a new turn, where the question of work-life balance has turned into work-life integration. This has resulted in an altered network and road traffic patterns, and the personal aspects of employees’ lives are seeping into the professional sphere. As a result, the need for flexibility while maintaining accountability has proven challenging for team leaders and managers. At the same time, employees are grappling with the need for upskilling and reskilling to stay relevant in their roles – which will inevitably evolve in the new rules of digital business.
In the post-pandemic world, most businesses were forced to adapt or perish. This required those in senior management to tap into new methods of attaining operational efficiency and cost-takeout while aggressively innovating to leverage new sources of competitive advantage. However, as the COVID-19 vaccine permeates through the population, economic recovery will enter the bounce-back phase. The early-mover advantage will redefine the leadership equation across industries and geographies.
The business leaders must focus on striking the right balance between remote work and re-envisioned workspaces (physical and digital) to augment and fill the gaps of new ways of working Establishment of a common purpose and promoting a culture of accountability, flexibility, and frequent, meaningful communication with networks of technologically empowered teams will play a major role. This will lead to an aggressive bounce-back in the post-pandemic recovery phase.