Back To Business (Not As Usual, Just Different)

Updated: Feb 2

✦ Can businesses not just operate but also find a way to thrive in a Never Normal World?

No doubt, it has been a major challenge for businesses in the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the rug from under the feet of the entire planet. And it continues to be a challenge for businesses. People are trying to make some sense of their lives and it has made the term 'normal' lose weight. How do we even begin to define 'normal' after all that has happened?

Yes, the world has coined the terms 'New Normal' or 'Never Normal' but what do they really mean? It seems somewhat trite, as if we are all grasping at straws.

Thing is, with or without COVID, the landscape is always changing. Change is the only constant in life. Society and businesses have to continuously try to adapt.

Businesses in Australia and all around the world did not get much of a breather in 2021 as a raft of regulations, lockdowns and reduction in consumer spending hit hard. The uncertainty, worry and fear of what the future holds is unfortunately something people are feeling in such times.

Humankind has experienced all sorts of adversities throughout history. How will we write this new chapter of our modern times? Perhaps it is kinder to allow ourselves the time we need to accept that nothing is going to return to 'normal' and while coining terms can be interesting for a while, we can also take a deep breath and take the next best step ahead.

For businesses, the willingness and ability to pivot, learn and change is going to be key to not just surviving but to thrive in this new phase. It is not something a single business does alone - our communities are a big source of comfort, support, innovative ideas and a treasure trove of skills and experiences.

Yes there is uncertainty always looming ahead but the truth is nobody has a crystal ball to be able to predict what's to come. It would be more useful to think about some useful changes businesses can implement in 2022 to put that next foot forward with confidence.

1) Community Engagements

It has been clear through the pandemic years that Community has been an important source of sustenance for so many businesses.

For Vermilion Pinstripes, an international modern sales marketing and communications agency based in Australia, Singapore and Canada, community engagement is in their very DNA. It drives what they do. Modern marketing in Vermilion Pinstripes is not about just looking at numbers. There is a huge part of the way they work that sees the human behind each business, and the humans that this business is reaching out to engage with.

At the risk of sounding like a marriage vow, communities need to come together to connect, inspire and empower each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

An example of community engagement is when Vermilion Pinstripes launched their Knowledge Sharing series in early 2020 where they gathered several business executives to share how they were operating in the Never Normal World. It was not just about picking up business tips. It was the coming together of people who understand each other's challenges and who know that it is by generously sharing ideas that everyone can grow together. When one business grows, another benefits. The pandemic has a dangerously isolating effect on the human mind, and when Vermilion Pinstripes made it possible for people to connect on a common shared interest, it provided the space for businesses to air their concerns and find motivation from one another.

Questions for your business:

  • How can my business engage with the community around me?

  • Is there something useful I can share?

  • What about partnerships and collaboration opportunities?

  • Who are the people and businesses in my community I am interested to engage with?

For more ideas on this, you can download Vermilion Pinstripes' eBook "Ideas for businesses in the never normal world".

2) Hybrid and remote work models

Working from home became the modus operandi for the majority of workers and businesses in the last two years as the pandemic forced our hand. Particularly prevalent in the white collar sector, employees have become accustomed to working remotely. While it gave some a much needed flexibility, home also started to feel oppressive where workers remained in the same four walls day after day. Meanwhile, offices the world over have been gathering dust as companies worked out their numbers and wondered if it would be worthwhile to give up rental space completely or reduce their office size to hot-desking capacity for a smaller number.

These have been tough decisions to make and will continue to be a challenge as companies find their way around the most manageable option. There are a variety of considerations depending on the legal requirements on companies in different countries when it comes to allowing staff to work from home. And individual countries and companies have to keep testing and adapting until they find a model that works.

As the global vaccine rollout took effect, it gave a bit of breathing space to companies. Restrictions were somewhat relaxed and what we are seeing is many companies introducing a hybrid work model whereby employees could choose to combine office and remote work.

This is something that experts predict will grow in popularity in 2022 although further surges in infected cases, should they emerge, may well put the brakes on. What companies need to remember is to allow a bit of flexibility to adapt to how things are at any given moment. Think of the bamboo plant - it doesn't actually break when there's a gale blowing because it's flexibility allows it to adapt to the sway. Its flexibility is its strength. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to this. Every company is different and you'll have to find what works best for you, and how you plan your hybrid model.

“Home offices will be designated for desk work while company offices will be reserved for creating a sense of belonging and company culture,” Addie Lerner, Founder and Manager Partner at Avid Ventures told Forbes.
“Many companies will offer hybrid remote work policies and pay for office spaces designated for in-person relationship building activities, such as employee onboarding, quarterly team sessions, meetings with employees from other cities and celebrating milestone wins,” Lerner added.

Questions for your business:

  • Is your office space prepped for the relevant safety or se