Business resilience and coronavirus: 6 ways to emerge stronger from the pandemic
May 14, 2020
The new reality the world now faces is starting to become apparent. While some organisations have struggled through this dark and difficult period just to survive, many businesses are starting to adjust. What they’re all asking is: how can they learn from the crisis and emerge stronger with solid business resilience?
In this article, and based on the Hoxby Model of Work (which we’ve spent the last five years fine-tuning through reflecting on our own way of working as an entirely remote global organisation), we share our experience of the crisis and our observations from working with clients during this unprecedented time. We’ve identified two steps that the best organisations take, and discuss six ways in which all organisations can emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic. Read on.
Step 1: Get a realistic picture of capacity across the organisation
This was a reality check for many organisations.
Approximately one in three people in the global workforce are parents. With schools being closed, around 10 million parents in the UK are now teachers and carers, as well as workers. That means that co-parenting members of the workforce have had their capacity reduced by 50%. For single parents, it’s even worse.
Additionally, each organisation has their own combination of pressures. A law firm, for example, might find they’re swamped with requests for employment law advice, whilst their mergers and acquisitions business has completely dried up.
The result is that there have been **pinch points showing up all over organisations, **and for many businesses, the struggle has been to keep the essential services running effectively in areas where work is still required to be delivered.
Three important questions we found the best organisations were asking themselves to achieve business resilience:
- Where are your capacity pinch points?
- Do you know what these pinch points mean in terms of risk of delivery?
- How are you going to resolve these to ensure smooth delivery without overly pressuring key members of the workforce?
At Hoxby, we thought we may be facing this ourselves, particularly given the number of working parents in the community, but actually found the opposite:
Step 2: Explore new options for getting critical things done
Just like in the national effort where companies as diverse as Decathlon and Dyson adapted their products and manufacturing operations to produce ventilators for healthcare services, many businesses also needed to consider the critical output required to keep things running.
By tasking by output, and considering freelance workforces such as Hoxby to do this, organisations are able to increase their work capacity where they need it and avoid overburdening a stressed and stretched workforce.
Six ways to display business resilience after the coronavirus
Given the above, we believe there are six key ways that organisations can emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Nurture an engaged, loyal workforce for the long-term
At times of crisis, organisations often show their true colours. From defying government orders to shut stores, to paying huge salaries to executives whilst furloughing minimum wage staff – we’ve already seen consumer, workforce and societal backlashes against companies which don’t act with the appropriate ethics.
Be in no doubt that there are people watching you and your organisation, and that black lists from consumer and workforce perspectives are being developed. Some of these may take time to fully materialise, but behaviour now will not be forgotten. On the other hand, now is a fantastic opportunity to show your workforce you act with transparency, stand by your values and put them first in times of crisis.
Perhaps the next wave of public discontent will focus on managers who fail to take the capacity and mental health of their workforce seriously. Rather than expecting work to continue as usual for most, except that it’s ok to not be ok, that there might be greater priorities right now in people's lives. Even something as simple as a manager asking about someone’s personal situation, rather than immediately focussing on their daily deliverables, can help show a more human side to work.
Even better, by quickly understanding your capacity and pinch points across the organisation, and acting decisively to mitigate risks in key areas, you will improve productivity and boost morale in the workforce by demonstrating that you care about them as individuals, not just the work that they do. In the short term you’ll see a huge boost in engagement, and in the long run your brand reputation and attractiveness as a place to work for top talent will reap rewards.
2. Focus on structural agility
Agility allows an organisation to fill short-term gaps, and also to pivot or re-allocate teams to take advantage of opportunities. This could be critical for survival in the current situation, as well as emerging from the pandemic with a competitive advantage.
At Hoxby, we are a team of 1,000 highly skilled associates who work flexibly on project teams for clients. Because of the way we bring diverse teams together to answer a client's need, we can flex and adapt our organisation to new opportunities much faster than traditional businesses. Any skill gaps can be quickly plugged by referring talented associates from within the community, and advances in technology can be met by adapting our work and processes to efficiently align with them.
Using our freelance workforce means clients can access our diverse range of skills globally, or use us for surge capacity until the crisis has passed, turning project teams on and off or changing to a new focus area as needed. Many of our clients have taken advantage of this during the crisis, which has been met with positivity on both sides since we’re here to create competitive advantage for our clients, and have never felt better placed to do so than now.
3. Invest in outputs
During this pandemic, many people who may previously have been sceptics of remote working and ‘workstyle’ (choosing for yourself where and when you work) have seen first-hand how effective it can be to task people with outputs rather than specifying where and when they need to work.
Tasking by output, rather than hours, means clients are clear on both the delivery and what the return on their investment will be. This clarity upfront means there’s always a focus on value in all the services provided, as well as more of an incentive to get things perfect first time – because we know ourselves that every investment needs to be justified, especially in times of crisis, and that investing in outputs increases productivity.
4. Have immediate impact
For many businesses, setting up something new or pivoting the business takes time. At Hoxby, we’ve been operating entirely remotely since inception. We’ve never had any offices and everyone has always worked in their own, fully flexible ‘workstyle’. This means while most organisations were adjusting to lockdown restrictions with teams working from home, to us this was simply our normal way of operating. We were able to focus on running the organisation and supporting our community and clients – in our business-as-usual style, throughout the crisis.
This is unlikely to be the last pandemic we see in our lifetimes. Being set up to focus on outward-looking service and making the right strategic decisions in a crisis like this, rather than internal-looking systems and culture, will boost businesses when the good times return, as well as ensure they are prepared for future shocks.
5. Create meaningful, lasting change
As well as stepping in to fill any critical gaps, as remote working practitioners we can also coach and support teams formally and informally with this way of working. For example, we’ve run client workshops on everything from tasking by output to developing a more autonomous working culture in virtual teams. It means our clients often use both our practical and theoretical knowledge to act as change agents for their teams.
As we previously mentioned in our 5 rules for remote working, the organisations that use the crisis as a time to challenge some of their long-held assumptions about work and productivity, adopting new ways of working for the future, will be the long term winners in their industry.
6. Ensure positive engagement across your virtual community
In a crisis, people are actively looking for ways to engage in a positive way, to throw their energy into helping humankind. We’ve seen this from the amazing response of nearly three quarters of a million people signing up to be volunteers for the National Health Service in the UK, to thousands of local community groups forming to help look after and protect societies’ vulnerable.
This is an opportunity for colleagues to help each other across departments. At Hoxby, we’ve seen an amazing voluntary uptake in setting up our remoteworkmates.com community, created to help those beyond the Hoxby community. We’ve also received huge support for our Wellbeing Week initiative and the #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign, which was created to help organisations around the world through this crisis, by sharing as much of our remote working knowledge as possible.
Through all of these examples, we’ve seen communities coming together to do inspiring work and rarely – if ever – in the same place. It would be a waste to let these communities go. Continuing to nurture the virtual communities you’ve created, inadvertently or purposely, in your business through this time, will set organisations up for better collaboration, more inclusive working and more positive engagement as we begin to piece together a new ‘normal’.
If you’d like help with implementing new ways of working to gain business resilience after the pandemic, or need assistance in implementing our futureproofing model, we’re here to help. Contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.