As we wait to hear from the government what steps it is set to take to ease the lockdown and get the economy back on track, it’s already clear that simply returning to life pre-coronavirus won’t be an option.
While travel restrictions will end sooner or later, the social distancing guidelines are set to stay in place for months. This week, we’ve started to see suggestions as to what our workplaces will look like once they reopen, with measures such as more spaced out workstations, physical barriers and staggered working hours to reduce the pressure on public transport among the solutions offered.
It’s clear that it won’t be a case of ‘flipping a switch’ and returning to work, and by the time we are in a position where going back to how things used to be may be possible, many of us might not even want to.
The changing work environment
For instance, cloud-based collaboration and unified communications software have quickly gone from being nice-to-have productivity tools to an essential that’s as important to businesses as electricity and a broadband connection.
As well as this, modern, cloud-based phone systems that can make it easy to redirect calls to individuals who are working remotely have become a must-have for any business that wants to ensure customers and partners can maintain lines of contact without disruption.
Businesses that have tried to economise on such tools by using less-reliable, insecure consumer-grade options in the belief that they would only be needed temporarily will be in for a nasty surprise, as these will be with us for years to come.
A permanent shift in attitudes
Some of the changes we’ve seen over the past few weeks will have caused businesses, employees and customers alike to reassess how they operate not just now, but in the future. With many being able to experience first-hand some of the advantages of the latest digital technology and the productivity benefits they can provide, there will be no going back to the way things used to be.
Another way in which business may look different in the coming months and years could be an increased reliance on digital channels, both for direct selling and customer service.
For instance, many people have been unable to speak to representatives in person, while phone lines are also often clogged up, leading to long queues. Customers may well have therefore turned to other avenues such as live chats or even automated chatbots for more straightforward queries, and people who have a good experience with these will likely keep using them even when other alternatives become available again.
This could require businesses to rethink their online platforms and their contact centres, refocusing resources and investing in new technology in order to provide customers with the services they want.
At the same time, adjusting your operations to support employees who have become used to greater flexibility as the result of remote working will also be a must. Companies that are able to react quickly to these new expectations will, therefore, be much better-placed to enjoy success in the post-coronavirus world – so you need to start planning now to avoid being left behind.