Business After the Coronavirus: Tunde Ojo Explains What Adjusting to the New ‘Normal’ Looks Like
The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming the future of business as we know it. While the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase worldwide, business leaders are faced with a myriad of problems, including dwindling sales, hindered supply chains, delayed shipments, and the need to follow strict health and safety guidelines to protect workers. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one-quarter of businesses in the U.K. have temporarily closed due to the lock down, while those still in operation experience reduced turnover. At the same time, a study by the insolvency firm, Begbies Traynor, discovered that more than half a million companies are experiencing “significant distress” resulting from the pandemic. As life returns to ‘normal,’ organizations must analyze their response, and determine how they can do better going forward. Tunde Ojo is an esteemed legal professional, and he discusses four major ways in which the outbreak will impact businesses following the virus.
The Rise of Digital Commerce
Tunde Ojo states that it is becoming easier to picture a modern business environment where human contact is drastically diminished. Social-distancing regulations, temporary lock downs, travel restrictions, and new hygiene guidelines, have pushed the world towards a more contact-free economy. For example, the pandemic has fast-tracked the rise of digital commerce, forcing individuals to alter their shopping habits as a result of non-essential business closures. The ONS reports that online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 22.3% in March 2020, as consumers opted to shop online following news of the outbreak. However, some businesses have chosen to ignore e-commerce trends and stick to their traditional models, like Primark, which is solely focused on brick-and-mortar sales. Unfortunately, companies that are unable to adapt to changing needs might end up closing their doors forever, like the .4 percent of U.K. firms that have already permanently shutdown.
While the global pandemic has accelerated the move towards e-commerce, underlying trends confirm that online shopping is here to stay. Though gen Z and gen Y happily welcome online shopping with open arms, the over-forty demographic has always been hesitant. However, the unavoidable reality of social distancing has meant middle-aged consumers have been forced to abandon their fear of online shopping. Now that customers’ reluctance has been squandered, Ojo believes the e-commerce sector will continue to grow steadily, moving forward.
Working from home will be the new norm
The Prime Minister of Britain stated recently, “thanks to the wizardry of modern technology,” he has been able to communicate with his team while self-isolating at home after contracting the coronavirus. Governments around the world have ordered organizations to work remotely in a combined effort to slow the spread. Historically, employees that wished to work-from-home were given a bad rep, as employees were assumed to be ‘slacking off.’ On the contrary, this theory has been successfully disproven as several businesses have experienced increased productivity since employees shifted to remote work. Tunde Ojo says that managers need to start evaluating whether or not a working-from-home is a smart long-term solution for their company. While introverted employees may prefer this new structure, individuals that thrive on the social elements of the workplace might have grappled to find motivation at home.
Remote offices eliminate a manager’s ability to micromanage their employees. According to Ojo, supervisors that keep constant tabs on their staff have been unable to do so during the pandemic. Consequently, workers that have become accustomed to newfound autonomy may not appreciate going back to the office where micromanagement will prevail once again. Thus, leaders need to continue to show trust in employees that have excelled in a remote work environment to retain their talent.
Businesses need to focus on developing resilience
According to Oxford dictionary, resiliency is characterized as the ‘capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.’ Ojo asserts that the ability bounce back from a shock better than your competition is the key to long-term survival. It is becoming increasingly obvious that companies will need to re-think their business models to be more agile and enduring. Ojo says that the first step towards building a resilient company is a resilient leader. This type of leader can transform an organization, including it’s beliefs, attitudes, and structure, to launch it forward amongst the chaos. Defining where your company wants to be and then working backwards is an effective approach to help leaders assemble aggressive and innovative plans. Businesses struggling to overcome the damage of COVID-19 may need to consider re-evaluating their costs, assessing supply chains, implementing succession planning, expanding work at home capabilities, modifying products or services, and more. Overall, Ojo believes building a stronger, more resilient organization is going to be critical, especially with talks of a second-wave.
Stricter health & safety measures are here to stay
Most businesses that have remained open amidst the outbreak have executed several precautions to ensure the safety of clients and staff. For instance, taking customers’ temperatures before they enter the store, offering hand-sanitizer and face masks, contactless payment methods, drive-through ordering, and click and collect services are all measures that are becoming widespread. Furthermore, organizations are also employing stricter safety protocols in their back offices, production facilities, and throughout their supply chains. While many employees are eager to get back to work, Ojo says that safety is their biggest concern. Consequently, management should enforce increased testing, re-design workspaces to allow six-feet of space between employees and make working-from-home feasible. Ojo says that increased safety measures will continue, as we are several months away from a vaccine.
The world has changed rapidly over the last six months, with organizations in every industry feeling the impact of the global pandemic. Tunde Ojo believes that the virus has taught us what we cannot do, and so we must strive to be better. Thus, as we brace for the future, business leaders work hard to invigorate demand, empathize with consumers, and rework their overall business model. While we all wait for the world to go back to normal, the reality is, ‘normal’ may no longer exist.