Steven's Blog

remote work

Make Your Own ‘New Normal’

The so-called ‘new normal’ is something you make, not something you predict, and if you lead a business, you should be deciding what should be your ‘new normal.’

If you lead a business, you should be deciding what should be your 'new normal.' Click To Tweet

Let me tell you three aspect of ‘normal’ that I think should become yours.

1. Make remote work normal.

Many company employees have experienced working from home and liked it. They love the flexibility to work the hours they choose, whether standard business hours or not, and that is not all. Employees working at home have found that they are more productive. They can complete their work faster and in fewer hours during the day than if they had gone into the office.

One CEO told me that the increase in productivity is so remarkable he plans to continue an option to work from home even when social distancing is no longer required, and he is not the only one. Another CEO told me that he was surprised to discover that the company’s customers liked being able to work with sales people remotely more than meeting them in-person as it gives customers more flexibility with their time. The company’s sales staff similarly reported that they were able to have meetings with far more customers in a single day working remotely and avoiding commuting and travel time.

That CEO is now examining changing company’s physical office space to one that is largely meeting rooms and hot-desks, and allowing for remote means of working as standard practice even after the pandemic is over.

So if you lead a business and are experimenting with remote work as a temporary solution, it’s time to get serious. Think of remote work as a long-term improvement to your business after the pandemic, with immediate benefits to help your business now.

2. Make innovation normal.

Innovation is a habit, so the more circumstances force your company’s employees to innovate in order to prevail through the pandemic, the more likely they will continue to innovate long after the pandemic as passed, even when they don’t have to.

The CEO of one company that owns a chain of retail shops found that he was able to push forward aggressively with an ongoing e-commerce initiative that had garnered only lukewarm support from staff before the pandemic. The drop in foot traffic in stores made the initiative more appealing, and enthusiasm built as managers and staff focused energy on it.

Another CEO whose company’s staff had resisted a new business model to sell directly to customers bypassing traditional distributors discovered newfound enthusiasm to advance the project after the pandemic pushed one of the company’s larger distributors into bankruptcy.

If you lead a business, use this time crisis to during the pandemic to make innovation one of your company’s habits. You will find that what once seemed unpalatable to employees now looks like a pretty good idea. Discipline in innovation will serve you not only during the pandemic, but also long after it has passed.

3. Make entrepreneurship normal.

Times of crisis always creates opportunity. People without a job will be seeing those opportunities as a lifeline, while others with jobs will see a chance to live life on their own terms by quitting their companies to strike out on their own.

People have lost jobs, and more will be losing jobs whether because of bankruptcy of their employer or simply because their employer cannot retain the same number of staff. When people are out of work, they still have find a way to eat, and what better way than to make your own job rather than look for one.

Yet it is not just the unemployed who will become entrepreneurs. People with perfectly good jobs quit companies to start their own businesses, particularly during times of economic crisis. Rakuten Ichiba CEO Hiroshi Mikitani left a perfectly good banking job to found his company in 1997 in the middle of Japan’s post-bubble malaise and just before the onset of the Asian Financial Crisis. Tomoko Namba had been a partner at McKinsey & Company before she left to found telecommunications company DeNA.

If you are already leading a business, you are in a perfect position to pursue the new opportunities the pandemic crisis creates– much better than those who are starting from zero. I can promise you, that if you see an emerging business opportunity resulting from the pandemic crisis and don’t pursue it, someone else will!

So don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t sit around handwringing about what the ‘new normal’ will be. Stand up, and tell others what the ‘new normal’ is as you see it, and then make it your own.