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Returning to business as unusual

As countries worldwide are slowly starting to ease the coronavirus restrictions, businesses are finding their ways to adapt to the future. But even as things start to improve, it is unlikely that things will return to business as usual. Leaders now need to find the balance in navigating this difficult transition, impacted by both - the state of mind and financial health of the business, its employees, and customers.

A successful restart will require quick and bold decision making, on many independent issues simultaneously. Decision making will need to be driven by speed, flexibility and simplicity as businesses and people adjust to the new environment.

Health and safety first

With so many unknowns, it is challenging to predict how the health and safety measures will impact the operations and supply chains and how can employees be reassured about their safety. Many employees will be keen to return to work, but there will also be many who are worried about doing so safely. Businesses will not only need to create a safe workplace, but also reassure employees and keep them motivated in the post-Covid world.

Some measures will me more limiting than others, and it’s essential that leaders communicate actively about why these are being implemented. It’s important that leaders not only focus on what needs to happen and how, but also why. During an ongoing crisis, communication is more important and more difficult compared to normal circumstances. Leaders under pressure might be tempted to communicate with urgency, instead of having a communication strategy that creates clarity and addresses employee’s questions.

Whilst priority focus will be on adopting the new measures, this should also be the start of an ongoing internal communication strategy to ensure that everyone is aware of the impact of the ongoing efforts, such as meeting meaningful milestones. The implementation of the new standards and the leaders’ ability to communicate it effectively will determine employee commitment and confidence.

Opportunity for innovation

Even during challenging times, it is worth asking what this time is best for. Whilst the negative impact on businesses has been significant, there has also been a lot of value created as a result of the crisis. Companies have managed to increase their work from home rate from 5 to 90 percent within days. Remote working over the last few weeks and months in some sectors have demonstrated that most, if not all of the work can be done from home. This will probably become the new norm, as it will help to minimise travel and cost, as well as help with redesigning the future workplace in accordance with social distancing measures that we are likely to see.

Most companies eliminated travel but preserved their capacity to deliver via alternative online channels and many were quick to change their business models, streamlining processes and adapting their production lines, proving how agile businesses and people can be.

Focusing on the good, sustaining the value created and reinvesting in recovery will have a positive impact that can outlive the pandemic. As we start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, this is the time for leaders to evaluate which of the changes brought on by the crisis have generated value – both operationally and for their employees. It is important to acknowledge and build on those achievements to turn this crisis into an opportunity for growth and start creating the new business as usual.

At Acumen we have over 21 years of experience in designing and delivering leadership development programmes that give leaders at all levels the practical tools to help solve real life challenges. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at

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