COVID-19 made us more productive and connected us in new ways. Where do we go from here?

connectivity in business

Source: Unsplash/Mimi Thian.

While incremental change has always been a critical factor for business growth and development, the global COVID-19 pandemic has spearheaded an evolution of culture and connectedness. Business leaders have had to regroup and realign for survival.

Many businesses will survive, with some even flourishing post-pandemic, despite the hefty challenges we’ve all faced. Similar recovery was evident following the 1919 period of the Spanish flu, and despite different variables then and now, experts believe the same rapid reformation is possible today.

The pandemic has advanced upon us a work/life revolution, inducing us to maintain business efficiency whilst balancing personal responsibilities. The flexibility and connectivity we’ve embraced during 2021 is the new linchpin for success and survival. As we move into and beyond 2022, we are now more adaptable and resilient than ever before.

Connectivity

Working from home and restricted local movement made us all acutely aware of how connections were pivotal to our mental health and motivation. We re-examined the values and alignment of our business and personal relationships.

We inadvertently gained insight into our colleagues’ personal worlds, via our Zoom and Google Meets held from our lounge rooms and dining tables. As we learnt more about each other’s personal lives by way of the technology we engaged with to keep functioning professionally, we began to relate to each other on a deeper level.

The authenticity, and lack of judgement present in the conversations in those meetings, levelled the playing field among executives and staff. Common interest topics peppered business conversations — we learnt things about each other that you don’t typically discover in a traditional office scenario. Ironically, we all became more ‘human’ and ‘connected’ even with the increase of communication via digital.

Many of us had ‘aha’ moments when we saw the family photos on the sideboard of the CEO, noticed the IT guy is a Stephen King buff, or spotted the drums in the corner of the head of accounting’s living room. Vinyl collections and tech equipment revealed we had a number of budding DJs among us. Weekly music sessions were organised encouraging team members to connect outside of hours to engage socially, boost moods and create connections.

As we connected from a distance, a common thread became apparent: we are all affected by the pandemic, we aren’t so different, and we really are all on the same team.

Communication and the realignment of the importance of how and why we connect and relate to each other will — and should — remain a key aspect of our personal and professional lives long after the pandemic leaves us.

Flexibility and innovation

As a business transformation expert, I was fascinated to witness such dynamic responses to the pandemic, driven by team agility and human resilience. Leaders and teams collaborated to maintain productivity, retain jobs, stay relevant and remain connected.

Business operations are no longer ‘one size fits all’. Pre-pandemic models have been disassembled, exposed to be too stringent to meet the challenges that came about from COVID-19. Companies now offer staff flexibility and trust that have never been undertaken on such a mass scale.

Finding new revenue streams has been an innovation for many, and many have had to adapt their business frameworks and processes to move forward.

There’s a rising trend of companies rapidly adapting to change. An example of a business I’ve witnessed do just that, is a commercial providore. By pivoting to a blended model and re-targeting their services and customer base they kept the business afloat whilst still retaining their commercial clients. They have expanded their revenue streams by tapping into the trend of enthusiastic home cooks. It was a vital, yet simple strategy.

If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that flexibility is the key to innovation, and promotes resilience. Agility in both our business models and operating systems is synonymous with success. We’ve become acutely aware that nothing is ever set in stone.

The question is, why did it take a global pandemic for us to adopt these evolving business models?

Sustainability?

If the latest wave of Omicron has reminded us that the future remains ambiguous and uncertain regarding the social and economic impact of the pandemic, then we should continue to do the things that have successfully got us through the last few years. Stay curious, stay adept, identify possibilities that change offers. We shouldn’t be focused on an end in sight. We should stay focused on our mindset throughout.

By adopting the mindset that ongoing change is a constant and therefore, so are the opportunities to apply these lessons and principles.

Moving ahead and nurturing collaborative environments, empowering our teams with ongoing self-belief, promoting open communication and inclusivity will enhance how we do business for years to come.

A wise relative once told me to focus more on making memories, and less on where you’re headed. It resonates perfectly for me right now given our context.

Remember what we’ve gone through together in the last few years. Let’s evolve, rise and flex, pivot and innovate. We’ve already done it, we just need to keep doing it, and we’ll be ready for anything the next few years or beyond throws at us.

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Siobhan Turney
Siobhan Turney
3 months ago

A very interesting article – thank you. I agree that business operating models have to adapt and continue to innovate. The only point I would add is that there is a cultural imperative too. Now that we are learning to ‘live with Covid’, people are struggling to stay connected, no matter how innovative their business may be. Employees are choosing to withhold their ideas until they believe their employers care about their wellbeing. If employers want to retain their people and benefit from their innovative ideas, they need to prioritise psychological safety, mutual trust and meaningful work. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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