Is your business ready to succeed in the 'new normal'?

Companies need to start empowering employees if they want to thrive in these unprecedented circumstances

A video meeting via Microsoft Teams. Courtesy Microsoft
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A phrase we have been hearing a lot in recent times, particularly since the outbreak of Covid-19, is “business readiness”. Simply put, it refers to the management of change within an organisation. This could be the introduction of new systems, technology and processes that alter the way the organisation functions.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed drastic and unprecedented changes in light of the pandemic, and the business models that had been built over the past century have been facing a growing number of obstacles and challenges. The old order is changing and clearly, in a bid to survive and even thrive, companies need to re-imagine their thinking and strategy.

Many companies have been forced to shift to a “work from home” model, which has meant a drastic change for employees and management who were accustomed to a routine that involved several hours in a shared office, in-person meetings, training sessions, team-building exercises and brainstorming sessions.

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on August 14, 2019, employees walk past an illuminated Twitter logo as they leave the company's headquarters in San Francisco. Twitter said May 12, 2020 it is unlikely to open its offices before September, and that many of its employees will be permitted to work from home permanently even after the end of the coronavirus lockdowns. The San Francisco-based company said it was among the first to move to telework in March as a result of the health crisis and that it will continue that policy indefinitely as part of a move towards a "distributed workforce."
 / AFP / Glenn CHAPMAN
Twitter was one of the first companies to adopt a work-from-home model in early March. AFP

According to research conducted by Harvard Business School, an organisation with a remote work policy can boost productivity among employees, reduce staff turnover and drive down operational costs. Other benefits include less time and resources spent by employees commuting to work, less time wasted in unnecessary meetings, fewer sick days and a widened pool of candidates to fulfil human resource requirements.

However, in order to successfully implement this model, a business must be equipped with optimal technologies to support their employees’ needs in order to ensure a smooth transition with little or no disruption in outputs.

The new model is heavily reliant on platforms, including video-calling services that enable employees to hold virtual meetings with their internal teams as well as the business’ stakeholders. Instant communication tools such as Slack, Quip and Telegram have proven useful in providing workers a fast and easily accessible way to make exchanges with their teams.

Also, depending on the nature of the work, a digital assistant such as Amazon Echo, could be of great value to those working from home. Of course, for all of these technologies to optimally enhance business, organisations must ensure that all of their workers have access to excellent quality Wi-Fi at all times.

In the future, we will continue to see more technologies enter the market. Businesses must therefore choose wisely and invest in platforms that are most beneficial in their line of work.

Director Dave Franco and cast member Alison Brie react as they take part in a Q&A session via Zoom from a vehicle after an advanced screening for the movie "The Rental" at the Vineland Drive-In movie theater in City of Industry, California, U.S. June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Director Dave Franco and cast member Alison Brie react as they take part in a Q&A session via Zoom from a vehicle after an advanced screening for the movie 'The Rental' in California last month. Reuters

Set for dramatic transformation from a mere support service to one that plays a greater role in driving the business and its efficiency, the information technology industry today can leverage emerging opportunities to innovate and create platforms tailored to a variety of industries and organisational functions.

Also, the internal IT function will have renewed importance. It will need to take on crucial responsibilities that include keeping in touch with the market, evaluating the products that are most suitable for the business’ various functions and training employees to get the most value out of any platform that they are given access to.

Governments around the world must also offer incentives to companies that are inclined to adopt a remote working policy in the long run. The public and private sector should collaborate closely to ensure that all of the technological requirements needed for the economy to run efficiently are easily accessible.

In order to successfully implement the 'work from home' model, a business must be equipped with optimal technologies to support their employees' needs

These past few months have taught us that now more than ever, business readiness is crucial. We never know the sort of changes and challenges we are likely to encounter at the next turn. It is therefore in our best interest to invest in our organisations and empower employees to soldier through unprecedented circumstances.

As offices begin to reopen following the Covid-19 outbreak in March – when the world first went into lockdown – and employees slowly return in phases, one thing remains clear: team structures are likely to become a hybrid of co-located and remote workers, bringing to life blended workplaces that many predicted years ago would become the norm.

As several employees are likely to feel disoriented and out of synch with the new reality, organisations can make the transition as painless as possible. One way to do so is for them to set up a remote working platform, where employees can find their colleagues and teams – and meet up in a virtual coffee shop of sorts to discuss and brainstorm, and recreate the office spaces of the past.

Mohammed Alardhi is executive chairman of Investcorp, chairman of Bank Sohar and was longest-serving native head of the Royal Air Force of Oman