Life post-covid for corporate organisations in the UK
2020 can be earmarked as a year that presented one of the greatest challenges to individuals, households, corporate organisations and even country governments. The covid-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to both private and public sectors, businesses of different sizes and capacities; all industries and sectors were affected by the impacts of the pandemic in one way or the other. Forbes (2020) highlighted the impact of the coronavirus on small businesses in the United States, reporting that about three quarters of small businesses might fold up because of the harsh impacts of the pandemic. According to Reuters (2021), Japan’s private sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the manufacturing industry and services sector experiencing reduced growth. From a broader perspective, the global tourism industry has lost about $935 billion directly from the covid-19 pandemic (Forbes, 2021); the major contributing factor to this loss was the international lockdown and ‘stay at home’ laws that were passed in different countries in the bid to alleviate the spread of the virus.
Over the last couple of months, country governments have gradually eased lockdown policies, businesses and stores are beginning to reopen even as countries around the world commence the challenging task of rebuilding their economies. The UK government lifted the lockdown fully in July 2021, this move prompted organisations to plan and strategize a return to their initial model of operation, and to some, a modification of what they were previously familiar with. This paper considers how this pandemic will reshape the operations of UK organisations post-covid.
Going forward, organisations will be revising the way they operate, it will not be ‘business as usual’, organisations must adapt quickly to the new climate. Among other areas, the following are possible ways UK organisations will change operational modalities.
- Remote Working Lifestyle
Before the pandemic, employees in different organisations were used to working the conventional 9am to 5pm daily shifts at the office. This meant employees had to plan their day ahead of time, calculate the time spent to commute to the office, and in some cases, accounting for the time spent in traffic. However, over the lockdown period, organisations have had to adapt and adjust to the new situation. Employees started working from home, organisations provided working tools (laptops, extra monitors, office desks and chairs etc.) to allow their employees perform the same tasks in their homes, as they would in the office (Office for National Statistics, 2020). With this new style of working, employees do not have to commute to a physical location, freeing up time for more valuable tasks. Organisations have now realised that they do not need to spend so much on office space since their employees can deliver the same value while working from the comfort of their homes (Harvard Business Review, 2021). Organisations are also exploiting the opportunity to reduce operating cost in the form of utilities (gas and electricity consumption), since there are fewer employees in the office (if any at all) that need space heating and lighting. Awada et al. (2021) in their research found that the productivity levels of employees were not affected by the new work from home style. Rather, productivity levels correlated with the employees’ mental and physical health status. According to Toniolo-Barrios and Pitt (2021), organisations must therefore help their employees create an effective work-life balance, disconnect from work when they need to and better manage fatigue and stress to maintain productivity levels.
Going forward, organisations will resort to a hybrid system of working, where employees alternate between working from the office and their homes (The Economist, 2021).
- Digital Transformation
According to Accenture (2021), an international technology establishment, about 7% of companies worldwide doubled their operational efficiency amid the covid-19 pandemic, and in so doing, raised their profitability to 300% of pre-covid levels. The common denominator amongst these companies is the fact that they have scaled up their digital transformation and embraced new digital tools and styles of working (ibid). One of the major changes to expect from organisations post-covid is the adoption of new digital tools that can enhance collaboration and improve operational efficiency. Technologies like cloud, automation, machine learning etc will be deployed at scale in the next coming months (Mckinsey, 2020). This is the next step that will foster the hybrid remote working lifestyle discussed in the preceding point.
- Rethinking Supply Chain
In the bid to restrain the spread of the coronavirus, country governments had to implement lockdown measures, both within the country and international movements. The restriction of international travel and shipping caused major supply chain disruptions to the operations of manufacturing companies in the UK. IT Supply Chain (2021) reported that at least 72% of businesses in the UK experienced significant supply chain related disruptions, majority of these companies are also yet to recuperate from the adverse impact of the pandemic on their material sourcing processes. BDO (2021) also reported that about 67% of manufacturing businesses in the United Kingdom plan to redesign their model and approach for sourcing their materials; considering multiple vendors for a product, this is to avoid similar supply chain interferences experienced during the pandemic, making their supply chain process more agile and less prone to insecurity. Organisations will also consider sourcing their products and materials from local vendors, rather than international suppliers. All of this is to boost the resilience of their material sourcing and reduce the chances of major disruptions to their manufacturing process.
- Adjusting Risk Element of Business Model
Pre-covid, most organisations’ business models identified and evaluated risks from sources that were well defined and known. They went on to plan mitigation actions for these risks from the repository of what they had experienced before. Risks were majorly identified around categories in the PESTEL model; changes in the political landscape, economic variations in the capital, energy or financial markets, risks embedded in social changes, technological risks, environmental and legal considerations (Yüksel, 2012; Issa and Issa 2014). However, the covid-19 pandemic presented a risk that had never been identified or prepared for, organisations were caught unawares and unprepared, this was the major reason businesses took so long to recover from the impact of the pandemic. This singular experience has shattered the boundaries of ‘normal’, expanding the scope of what is now considered possible. Post-covid, leaders of organisations will have to visit their business models and redesign their risk models, ensuring that they think of all uncertainties that can pose a risk to their operations and then develop a mitigation plan.
The covid-19 pandemic has led to significant changes on all levels of society. Country governments are now trying to rebuild their economies from the ruins caused by major disruptions from the pandemic. As UK organisations resume full operations in the wake of the lockdown being lifted, changes are expected to be made to the normal modalities of day-to-day operations. Post-covid, organisations in the United Kingdom will adopt a hybrid style of working, where employees alternate between working at home and at the office. This new style of working is expected to stimulate digital transformations in businesses, as employees will now have to be flexible in their work style, collaborating from different geographical locations. The supply chain model of businesses will also be modified to reduce the impact of disruptions in the future. Finally, the pandemic showed the frailty of existing business and risk models, the management of organisations will therefore modify existing organisational risk models and update their risk registers to capture scenarios that were once considered implausible.
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