No one can deny that 2020 and the pandemic that we are still dealing with affected almost every aspect of our everyday lives. No one saw this coming, but after a year in recommended isolation and working from home, it may be that we are never going back to how things were in 2019. As much as returning to the familiar would be a welcomed change after this past year, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that we can forget 2020 happened and go back to how things used to be. Accepting the old normal is gone should not be a low point, though, as progress may be rocky, but it usually creates a better result than staying with the status quo. A new normal is coming once we finally put the pandemic behind us, but there are ways we can get ready to embrace the new normal when it arrives. Change is inevitable, but you can meet the new normal with preparation and cautious optimism. Here are a few ways you can get ready to adapt and thrive in the new normal.
New Learning Style
Whether you have been working or learning from home this past year, it is a good idea to get used to that system. Many workplaces are not returning to physical in-person offices and embracing more remote work after seeing the success last year. This does mean that new employee training or learning new tasks will take place online with virtual learning. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with virtual training, it does make the process more complicated. It is much harder to convey information when not in-person. Humans talk faster than we type, which is why person to person communication is central in agile systems, but technology has some ways to make the process easier. Video calls help get closer to the in-person feeling and improve communication, but it is still not a perfect replacement.
In these situations where video calls are not cutting it, it is time to turn to more comprehensive documentation and shareable files. However, relying on training documents means relying on the person who wrote those instructions. If your technical documents and instructions are straightforward and easy to follow, they can significantly help with training. The flip side is also true, though; poor quality training instructions will only make the problem worse and create more confusion. There are some perks to online training and learning. Since all training is done online, the sessions can be recorded and reviewed later without needing anyone else’s help. All company shared documents are in a central place where any employee can look at them for a policy refresher. If training documents are also added to the central access point, employees can train themselves to some degree if they want to learn a new task.
Planning In Place
The future is still unknown, and no one knows precisely what the new normal will look like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start working on plans now. Since many businesses are staying remote even after the pandemic ends, you have plenty of time to work on more formal policies and systems compared to when the pandemic first started. Take the time to think about how you want the rules of remote work to function, what extra things you need to consider since everyone is in different places, and see if there are any lingering issues you can now fix. Add a safety management system, digital literacy checks, and a healthy work-life balance to keep your employees safe and happy even if you don’t see them very often.
You can plan as much as possible, given what little hard information we know about the future, but part of your plans should also be the ability to adapt to whatever comes next. The future is not guaranteed to be smooth sailing, so having a plan in place to deal with unexpected change is a good idea. Consider what could happen in the near future and long-term and what would need to change to adapt appropriately. As last year taught us, anything can happen, so it is better to be ready for the possibility than being blindsided yet again.
Part of that readiness for change should focus on the economy. In-person shopping is at an all-time low, and online shopping is at an all-time high. Certain products that never got attention in other markets are now in high demand. You can control and prepare within your company, as you should, but the larger world may have different plans. You may have a decent handle on things right now as you plan for the future, but be aware almost anything can change, and that aspect of your business must adapt.
Everyone wants to get a firm grasp on their life after last year, but as lovely as that dream sounds, it is unlikely to come true. We are still in the midst of change, and more change is coming soon. While the pandemic may end this year, we will be living in a new normal by then. This new normal is not bad, but adjusting to the change takes time, effort, and skillful navigation. Get employees ready for the new learning style of all remote work, but have a plan in place to support them as things are bound to go wrong. Think about what you can change and improve before the new normal arrives in earnest, so you have a solid foundation to continue adapting to change. Be ready for change and embrace the new normal as we all try to find our footing and move forward.