Dr. Mohammad Ali Wasim – Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
In the last year we have all come to realise that whatever plans we had cannot bear fruit. It may be surprising to know that it was not just individuals who faced this conundrum but also businesses, small and large, including societies as a whole. We keep hearing we are all in this together, but are we really?
A recent report by the BBC talks about the impact on child development and how infants and toddlers have faced significant challenges in the pandemic impacting their growth and development specially their social skills. Having a 3 year old who is about to start play group in the next week or so I can relate to the findings of the report. Similar issues have been highlighted with teens suffering from loneliness and mental health issues. Students struggling with being at home and trying to make sense of this ‘new normal’. Working adults have faced job loss, furlough and elements of losing focus facing domestic abuse causing a rise in divorce rates. Companies are struggling with their operations trying to retain staff, maintain existing business and survive. So when we say we are all in this together, it does hold true.
The things that I have discussed earlier would act as a context to the discussion which follows. We are here, we made it this far, we survived. How did we and others did it? What should be our learnings for the way forward to continue to be resilient, agile and a survivor to face the ‘new normal’.
Work From Home
This is here to stay and the more we deny it, the more we are at a loss. This is a skill a lot of us have developed over the year. Getting used to new software such as Teams and Zoom. The quicker we learn and adapt to this change the better. Organisations have seen this as an opportunity to cut down costs by getting rid of office space and individuals saving on commute cost. In addition, productivity has seen to go up. A happier employee in this scenario seems to be more productive. So, the flexible working arrangements have been quite beneficial and that is something a lot of companies are thinking of making permanent. A good employability strength we all need to focus on and develop further.
Increased Online Presence
A lot of businesses, whether large or small, have realised the importance of being online. With the support we provided at Staffordshire Business School to small business through our Survive and Thrive initiative, it was a key to their survival. The businesses need to make sure that not only do they have an online presence, but also they are able to communicate in a timely manner with their existing and potential clients. This trend has also been followed by small and local businesses where they have all signed up to delivery apps and other such platforms due to the risk of losing business if they don’t do so. This is also linked to the rising use of social media as a refuge and also connecting people together mechanism in these strange times, helping people cope better who would have been otherwise disconnected from it all.
Streamlining of Supply Chains
It was surprising to find out as consumers of global products that a lot of our products come from the same sources. This shock to the system took place when a major chunk of shipments stopped to large economies such as the UK and USA. This realisation of over dependence on China and other players in the market made companies shift to explore alternative suppliers and to re-align their supply chain. Some countries have also benefitted from this where the textile exports of countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh went up significantly due to the pandemic significantly impacting China at the start.
Another major shift was the move to card payments rather than cash, which has benefited many businesses, but has impacted others which were purely cash based. These are also the same businesses who have been unable to benefit from the furlough scheme in full because they were not fully part of the financial system they could not make use of the government scheme. This impact was seen across the UK to a number of Taxi, local shops and takeaway businesses who were unable to move to the new developing cashless environment due to the pandemic. All these examples provide us the opportunity to stop and think that the world has changed for the better or worse only time with tell. The key to our survival as individuals, organisations and societies is adapting to the change. Learning from our experience in the last year and evolving to see what can be done in a better way. How can we become more prepared and have the right contingency plans in place. The 1st wave was a shock to the system and we were all in it for the first time. We were all better prepared the second time round. Hoping that things continue to improve and with the roll out of the vaccines and people being more cautious we won’t be hit with a 3rd wave. It is all about taking a moment to reflect on how much we have come through as individuals, companies and society as a whole.
The light at the end of the tunnel is there and we all can make it brighter by reflecting on our strengths, learning from others and having a positive frame of mind. As Rumi rightly put it:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi