Many organisations will be navigating uncertain waters as we head into the new year. Leadership teams are beginning to understand the limit of their people’s fatigue and ability to handle uncertainty. Confidence levels are at an all time low (mostly from staff who question their jobs security).

Despite these facts, there are many positives that have come out of 2020’s challenges. There are many lessons we can learn from the response and management of the pandemic that can be translated into best practice and day-to-day resilience in the new year. 

5. Working from home / remote working

‘Virtual’ has very quickly been adopted as the new norm. Resilience experts predicted the need to remain agile years ago, but could not put an event or time on it. Millions of people were already remote, but now it’s official, standard and required.

Although many of us are coming back into the office, the new year is likely to have a working from home policy as part of their plans. Some are predicting that some of the largest businesses in the world will move all their staff remote to save millions on office leases.

The policy you cover for this needs to address the critical steps you need your team to take should a disruption occur.

Fortunately, 2020 has been a year of enhancing the infrastructure, practicing, and validation of such an exercise. But we must now make it standard in 2021. Effectively embodying a strategy into your plans will require preparation and research. Including:

  • What IT systems have been implemented in 2020, and have these been tested for vulnerabilities?
  • What IT systems need to be in place and what are you doing about private network vulnerabilities between staff?
  • As fire season approaches, what are your plans on loss of staff or communications depending on where people are located?
    • Remember, your 2020 secondary locations may, for the most part, be redundant in the new year.
  • Will output and targets still be met and how will you manage this with your team?

There is strong evidence that the need to commute to work produces more positive output and energy from staff than working from home. After time, the small distances between bed, the kitchen and the dining room table/workplace fatigues and dampens the positive energy you need to be productive.

To combat this, organisations are coming up with innovative ways to keep staff engaged, They’re keeping an eye on the data and taking it seriously.

4. Validation of suppliers

In a recent, private survey by the Institute of Directors, 14% of those surveyed said they were “unsure of the preparations their suppliers had taken” for a disruption in the new year. 9% said any faults could most certainly end their businesses. 

The larger businesses around the world are now asking their suppliers to provide hard evidence of their resiliency, validation and awareness of threats. Many go as far as asking for ISO 22301 accreditation or training for their leadership team should they wish to maintain a contract. 

Tenders aimed at smaller businesses are the same too. There will be more enthusiasm on business continuity and the ability to manage a crisis confidently. 

Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to provide the same should your clients reach out to renew contracts. If it’s you that is the client, you need to make it absolutely clear to your suppliers that they need to provide validation and evidence of their strategies. 

The repercussions of missing this in the new year could be devastating to the business, but more so, it is almost always your responsibility to rectify for your customers, not the third-party supplier who failed to provide the products or services. 

3. Business trips will pulse, then climax

Similar to the purchasing pulse many high street retailers saw shortly after the lockdown, business trips will also do the same (especially when international travel is accessible).

For a short period, many professionals will hit the skies to conduct their business; and places like Airbnb who were relying on it long before COVID.

But similar to the retailer’s pulse, there will be a sharp decline in the consistency of travel.

In a business development setting, this could mean your lead is seeing more people, quicker. It could mean that getting the attention and buy-in from the recipient is harder (particularly with language barriers). The older generation are twice as likely to struggle with demands and etiquette of virtual meetings – thus setting off an unintentional bad impression.

To combat this, you need to consider:

  • Remaining professional on Zoom. Spend time researching how to provide a great Zoom experience despite the distance. This includes:
    • A good connection.
    • No personal items in the backend, but no white, blank walls.
    • Have the camera at eye level (not looking up at your face).
    • Test the mic and overall audio quality (or buy a basic new one), or
    • buy a webcam kit and avoid your built-in gear.
    • Good, warm lighting (avoid the sun coming through the windows at midday).
  • Privacy – not everyone wants to be on camera. If meetings are virtual, they’re likely being conducted at someone’s home. Make it clear that camera is optional. 
  • Keep the meeting open to new recipients so others can join.

2. Bigger disruptions than COVID-19

The pandemic has been one of the largest disruptions in recent history, but it is by no means the one and only of this scale. Although we’ve built fast and effective responses to pandemics, many have neglected the need for strong resilience in other areas.

For example, in the same Institute of Directors survey, members were asked if they had a cyber plan in place and what their processes were for this. 28% said yes, while another 40% said it wasn’t of high concern. That’s a concerning response.

With many staff going remote and offices closing up, the need for cybersecurity is the largest it has ever been. You can see the sheer scale and consistency of cyber attacks via this website.

It’s cyber that reiterates a key consideration for the new year, many organisations cannot handle an isolated disruption alongside another. 

COVID-19 affected people in a variety of ways, but for the most part, it was a shared disruption we all navigated together. Where organisations have really struggled is the handling of two or three crisis events. Some simply can’t handle the pressure involved to deal with many disruptions as we seldom train for such a thing. 

Although it’s rare, it’s very possible. Cyber, weather related events, another outbreak, political disruptions, these are all possible and as leaders we must begin to practice for the worst and hope for the best.

1. Culture is everything

It may seem cliche, but having a good working environment is going to be crucial to getting through the next year. 

As the world dives deeper into a recession, your people’s personal lives will be taking a hit too, and it’s important to remember and plan for this. We may start seeing shorter workweeks (commonly adopted in New Zealand and Europe). We will see more casual work attire, more flexibility on working locations and more people needing holidays/annual leave. 

While there are a few businesses letting their staff go, there are double the amount looking for new opportunities and roles. You need to retain good talent while we head into the new year, and that will mean providing some exciting and rewarding initiatives for them. 

The human element of a response is everything, if your team does not believe in a resilient culture at your organisation, they will not react in a positive, effective way during an emergency. Begin building a resilient culture into everything you do that sits on a foundation of support, trust and continuous growth. When you couple this with wider measures like offering shorter work days, casual wear and opportunities for personal development, you will get great results. 

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Whatever the new year brings for you, remember to be ready, responsive, and resilient.