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How to navigate the ‘new normal’

The pandemic has forced many organisations to rethink their business strategies. Here, eight technology leaders reflect on the lessons they have learnt in the last nine months and suggest what other businesses should do to prosper in the future

Joshua Zerkel, Certified Professional Organiser and Head of Global Engagement Marketing,
Asana

I’ve recently read a quote that really resonated with me, saying that work is so omnipresent it can feel like you’re not working from home, but living at work. With the lines between home and work becoming increasingly blurred, it’s critical to be able to separate the two. As businesses seek to establish a work environment that supports employees, whether they’re in the office or working from home, take time to review how you keep your team connected and aligned.

Create a supportive company culture that encourages both you and your team to switch off in the evenings and at weekends and establish a safe environment where employees who have to balance work with care for children or dependents can share their concerns around how this is impacting them – and work with them to create solutions together. With a supportive company culture, employees are empowered to thrive.

Businesses looking to define the new working normal of distributed teams will need to provide clear goals for individuals, teams and the company as a whole. By providing clarity across the organisation, everyone can see how their work ladders up to company-wide goals, giving them purpose and direction. Now is the time for business leaders to establish the best methods for supporting employee engagement and business success. Make those changes or risk being left behind in the new world of work.

Liron Smadja, Fiverr
Liron Smadja, Fiverr

Liron Smadja, Director of Global Expansion Marketing,
Fiverr

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to shift their offering from offline to online, and specialist skills such as SEO, website design, expert copywriting and animation are in high demand as entrepreneurs try to figure out how to thrive in the digital world.

Businesses should be looking to recruit freelance talent to help them with this shift. Whether you’re trying to optimise your social channels, launch a product or create your eCommerce store, digital talent marketplaces like Fiverr allow you to build a specialist team that is tailored to your business needs.

Now that in-person interactions aren’t possible, working in distributed teams and outsourcing resources have become huge parts of the ‘new normal’. Fiverr empowers people to experiment with new ways of working without breaking the bank with expensive set up costs and agency fees.

Sacha Michaud, Glovo
Sacha Michaud, Glovo

Sacha Michaud, Co-founder,
Glovo

In the ‘new normal’, flexibility and safety for workers should be front of mind. From the normalisation of virtual onboarding to the innovative use of technology to support remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how we will work in the future.

One notable transformation has been the increased number of people turning to gig working. While it has always been important, agility will be vital for business survival in the post-pandemic era, and the flexibility provided by the gig economy should be taken into consideration by all business leaders.

Another crucial takeaway from the past few months is the importance of empathy and social impact. Alongside the need for companies to keep operating, the crisis has made it clear that business leaders need to empathise with and support local communities where they can.

James Herbert, Hastee
James Herbert, Hastee

James Herbert,
CEO & founder,
Hastee

Over nine months have passed since the pandemic brought about widespread change. With things unlikely to return to any semblance of ‘normal’ anytime soon, many organisations are considering a longer term strategy. How can they keep their customers and their employees engaged and ensure those relationships prosper?

One of the greatest negative impacts of COVID-19 has been upon personal finances. According to Hastee’s research, two-thirds (66%) of UK workers have been affected by personal finance-related stress in 2020 and 41% have increased their use of credit, overdraft or loans. However, 59% state that early access to earned pay would have stopped them requiring this high-cost credit.

As the economic fallout continues, workers need liquidity to react to changing circumstances: they need to be given more flexible pay structures by their employer. An earnings on demand solution offering staff access to their already accrued earnings before payday is a simple technology-based project that need not impact business cash flow or change HR and pay technologies already in place.

At times of crisis, organisations that support their staff’s financial wellbeing will see this strategy pay dividends in terms of engagement, productivity and retention.

Tanzil Bukhari, DoubleVerify
Tanzil Bukhari, DoubleVerify

Tanzil Bukhari,
Managing Director EMEA,
DoubleVerify

The pandemic has altered our behaviour in many ways, and how we engage with online content is no exception. This year, COVID-19 has been at the forefront of complex and rapid international news cycles, with fake news and inflammatory content levels also on the rise. Our new study Four fundamental shifts in media & advertising during 2020shows that the time we spend consuming content has doubled since the start of the pandemic, from an average of 3 hours 17 minutes per day to an average of 6 hours 59 minutes.

In this context, advertising opportunities are opening up, as long as they are brand-appropriate, with two thirds (69%) saying they are more likely to look at an ad that is relevant to the content they are viewing.

But it’s not just about relevance and suitability. As we find ourselves in an increasingly complex digital world, businesses must ensure they engage consumers in a safe and compliant way. Investing in the right technologies, such as AI-powered solutions, can help navigate the new normal to protect brand reputation and power performance, while complying with consumer privacy demands.

Dr Tim Guilliams, Healx
Dr Tim Guilliams, Healx

Dr Tim Guilliams,
Co-Founder and CEO,
Healx

As a tech company, we were able to transition to full remote working with relative ease back in March. With a solid foundation of supporting remote workers prior to the pandemic, and with established working practices of running meetings and projects with a hybrid workforce, we certainly felt some of the workplace challenges less acutely than others.

Simple practices we have employed to connect teams and support collaboration across the company include moving to a weekly all-team meeting; utilising Slack extensions like ‘Donut’ to recreate those ‘water cooler’ chats; creating a ‘common language’ using semantic emojis on Slack; implementing regular wellbeing check-ins; and building in more contact time between leaders and teams across the organisation. All these initiatives help to keep the Healx culture alive.

In tandem, continuing to expand and build one’s team has never been more important. At Healx, we’ve been open to widening our recruitment beyond Cambridge, recognising that, for many, remote working is an option they now expect from an employer. As we continue to grow our team of experts, we’re implementing new onboarding and development programmes to remain ahead of the curve in this ‘new normal’.

Sergei Anikin, Pipedrive
Sergei Anikin, Pipedrive

Sergei Anikin, CTO,
Pipedrive

One of the key challenges of the new normal and this year in general has been its unpredictability. The best thing teams can do to navigate this is to practise transparency both in everyday work and when discussing long-term business plans. This is not the time to make decisions behind closed doors or to tackle problems in siloed teams.

Business leaders must accept that many things are beyond their control – and make up for this by taking full ownership of the aspects of their business that they do have a handle on.Business leaders should also improve their ability to overcome change through agile reconstruction. 2020 has taught us the value of flexibility and this is sure to remain a core requirement for a long time to come. The new normal may be a daunting prospect for some, but by adopting a fresh perspective and leveraging new technologies, businesses can use this opportunity to not just survive, but thrive under unfamiliar circumstances. Now is the time to rethink old habits, welcome change and reap the benefits of a reset to the way we work.

Brandon Oliveri-O'Connor, Procore
Brandon Oliveri-O’Connor, Procore

Brandon Oliveri-O’Connor,
Director UK&I,
Procore

Throughout the pandemic, technology has been instrumental in enabling businesses and individuals to continue with ‘business as usual’.

One industry increasingly realising the benefits of digitalisation is construction. With its work being conducted predominantly on-site but with lockdown restricting contact, digitalisation has been necessary to keep teams connected and safe. By connecting business applications and storing relevant information in one place, platform technology allows applications and tech tools to talk to each other. This means that everyone, whether they are on or off site, can have access to a single source of truth.

As companies look to support distributed working, with teams increasingly being based across office and home environments, leaders must follow a similar approach and seek out technology that doesn’t silo information but encourages transparency. This will be absolutely critical to how we all work in the future.

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