The Silver Linings Pandemic Playbook: Finding Opportunities in the New Normal

We can all admit that 2020 hasn’t been a good year, to say the least, and the world is still trying to pick up the pieces. At Ultimate Fintech, we strive to see the positive and the opportunity in any given situation, so let’s take a look at the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic together as we enter the age of “new normal”.

Global & Personal Benefits

Quite early on into the global lockdown, NASA satellites showed a 20-30% decrease in air pollution across various major cities. Skies got bluer, there were fewer accidents and less traffic, and a huge part of the global population adapted to remote work from home. While working from home poses its own set of challenges, there are two major silver linings here. First, we were gifted with more time with our loved ones, whether it was seeing them at home or engaging in way more video calls than usual. Locking us down made us want to connect more than ever. Second, working from home increased work productivity by eliminating precious time lost in commutes and office distractions. All this topped off with a “graduating” post-lockdown population of new master chefs, gardeners, writers and sports enthusiasts, all with a new-found level of respect for hygiene!

Work-Life Evolution

Following what people are calling the world’s largest work from home experiment, the pandemic has inspired many companies to rethink the Monday to Friday, 9-6 office hour life as we know it, perhaps permanently. Numerous global corporations such as Facebook, Twitter and Google could have plans to make it a thing of the past - whether it’s fully or partially remote - hybrid work structures could be the new normal.  

Working from home is of course not a universally optimal solution for everyone. It is difficult to replace the energy of an in-person creative brainstorming session, and the decision-making process can take longer than usual. Adapting to a hybrid work structure by balancing work from home and work from the office, could bring a lot of beneficial flexibility to employers and employees. By adding work from home possibilities, organisations open themselves up to a much broader pool of talent that previously was inaccessible due to location constraints, and could potentially mean decreasing office space and costs.

The truth is that we are all different,  every organisation and each employee is unique, therefore there is no general rule applicable to all. The beauty of the hybrid setup is that each company can set its own terms that fit their culture, goals and employees. Now is the time to think creatively and adapt to the new normal, focusing on processes to boost productivity for those working from home, strategising work practices that serve both remote and office work structures, as well as creating a safe physical workplace environment long after the pandemic.

People-centric, Agile, Innovative & Digital

Another extremely significant silver lining is the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed organisations to become more people-centric, innovative and digital. Of course for many, this was the norm pre-pandemic too, however even they had to go that extra mile this year.

People First!

“I understand that business leaders have a wealth of pressing concerns, yet I would like to put workers, and other ordinary people, at the core of your discussions today.  The health of every business depends on both workers', and consumers', well-being.” COVID-19 and its impact on businesses and workers statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

First and foremost, people and their well-being is the core priority. 2020 reshaped Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, placing basic safety needs (health, personal security, family, employment) above all else. Organisations had to think about how to address these basic needs first, and then look at personal development and how they can help their employees build new skills for the future.

Employees looked to their employers to act wisely and responsibly during the outbreak, keeping human needs at the heart of the decision making process. During the lockdown, it was so great to see how companies proactively focused on setting up their employees to work from home - sending care baskets with thoughtful essentials, providing home-office items like extra screens and keyboards, and organising group virtual drinks or yoga sessions. This resulted in happy employees that trust their employers, sharing away their stories on social media, feeling supported and motivated.

Keeping as many workers employed and supported as possible during a global pandemic builds workforce resilience that will last way beyond 2020. Companies that think creatively in crisis management, that focus on people and rethink their roles and responsibilities, will build a foundation on agility and insight to pave their way forward.

Adjusting people’s roles and equipping them with new skills, helps to build a flexible workforce and opens doors to new business opportunities. At Ultimate Fintech for example, conferences and events were our core in a non-pandemic world. 2020 brought us to the virtual space with a bang and our already super talented team pivoted to provide our audience and clients with online experiences and opportunities; everything from virtual expos and webinars, to a wide range of marketing services to help companies keep their online presence and business growth strong.

Simply put - care for your employees, act fast, wipe out the noise, set up simple and straightforward plans and empower the right people with the right skills and tasks. The result? A strong, engaged and inspired team ready to push organisations through this pandemic and come out on top.

Connecting with Clients

In line with the ‘people first’ ethos, a company’s clients should also be given the same consideration and care. Just like extra care should be given to internal employees, that same approach is just as applicable to external people - your clients, your suppliers and your customers. While it, of course, differs industry to industry and the nature of the business, one thing remains the same - we are all human and we are all in dire need to feel connected during this period.

Now more than ever, consumers need brands to be trustworthy, reliable and open, not only in regards to their customers but also as socially responsible organisations. Strong, clear channels of communication help consumers feel connected to brands and build direct relationships with them. Informing and reassuring clients through regular communication is key to keeping them in the loop about how you are reacting to unfolding events, on both an internal level as well as on client and society levels.

Moreover, now is the absolute time to proactively nurture your business relationships and get to know your clients and be proactive in finding out what is going on with them. With the “new normal”, things will not go back to exactly the same as before, therefore understanding these changes and adapting accordingly is essential. Reach out to your clients and talk to them, make them feel part of your thought process, whether it’s through setting video calls, e-mail, or surveys - your clients will guide you into shaping your “new normal” strategies. Their needs, challenges and behaviours will be different now and post-pandemic, and it is key to find out exactly what those needs are. The information you obtain from them will be both insightful and necessary in discovering opportunities to create innovative products and services that your clients need.

Digital and Agile Business

The lockdown forced so many businesses to adapt to the #stayhome environment, moving physical client interaction to the remote virtual space and turning business operations upside down. During this turmoil, the silver lining has been the entrepreneurial ability to pivot business operations as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing new and innovative opportunities.

2020 is the year of resilience and agility, forcing businesses to rapidly adapt and reinvent themselves in ways they haven’t imagined before. With a strong foundation of empowered teams and direct insights from clients, intelligent businesses are using these resources to drive themselves forward. Reset and reimagine business operations. Imagine a clean slate, think differently and outside of the box; What opportunities can be derived from the challenges your business and clients are facing? What kind of new products and services could tackle these challenges? Are there new potential markets or channels of distribution? Most importantly, keep revisiting the drawing board and apply constant course correction because most likely, things will not go “back to normal” as we enter the “new normal”.

The pandemic put a halt to physical business operations and drove them to become virtual and digital very quickly. Even the more traditional offline businesses had to find ways to venture online. Driven by data, and empowered both by technology and a strong team, organisations can position themselves for growth during and post-pandemic. Implementing digital transformation at an accelerated pace, upgrading the core of the business and investing in tech and innovation, organisations can build smarter and more resilient operations. Thank you, almighty technology and world wide web!

One thing is for sure, things will be different in the  “new normal” and despite all the difficulties 2020 threw at us, there are silver linings to be found here. No matter what, keep looking for them. Keep smiling, stay healthy, love and support your people, harness your technology, embrace agility and keep paving the way forward!

Author - Jennie Lobanova, Head of Events Content at Ultimate Fintech

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