As COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant confrontational impact on the global economy with governments around the world implementing various fiscal measures to mitigate its effects and provide relief for businesses and households, the measures taken by African governments have significantly differed on the areas of focus, comprehensiveness and multi-stakeholder-ship relativeness.
Despite the doom predictions that Africa’s projected GDP growth of 3.2% for 2020 is now expected to fall to -0.8% due to the enforced partial or total lockdown of economies brought on by the pandemic, the commencement of a new-normal within the corporate space as the start of a whole new experience with a matching need for businesses to adjust and re-strategize is not unnoticed. Prior to now, the response to the pandemic took a sudden toll on business leaders, but today, every player in the corporate world, from CEO to junior employee must face certain realities including the fact that our industries, careers, work culture and roles have changed. This cannot be denied.
As a region, Africa for the first time perhaps has the opportunity to re-write its script, leveraging this new normal bursting with opportunities and un-explored business landscapes with experts projecting new levels of productivity for businesses.B This is however not to under-anticipate the burdens of its uncertainties as real fears of a rise in social inequality loom across, ultimately putting pressure on governments to become more versatile in managing the welfare of their citizens.
COVID-19 had compelled firms to rapidly embrace remote working b presenting a unique opportunity to embed new ways of working in preparation for the ‘new normal’. Despite the existence of robust frameworks, strong employee demand and proven benefits, at the beginning of this year, the reality of new ways of working was yet to be widely adopted and optimized. However, over the past two months, companies have shifted abruptly to remote working arrangements, in some cases literally overnight.
A trajectory of this new behavioral pattern suggests that this was typically viewed as a temporary measure to ensure that firms and their employees could continue to operate effectively in the short-term, laced with a sense of ‘uncertainty’ until the eagerly awaited end of lockdown was announced and businesses could resume. But as the weeks gradually passed and government measures adjusted to the reality of the pandemic, there has been a matching comprehension that this new way of working is likely to persist for the longer term.
The first rapid response phase is a business continuity driven adoption of remote working albeit sudden and unplanned – this stage has been famously completed.B To follow intrinsically, would be for businesses to consider the second phase of adapting and enhancing in order to optimize ways of working with a clear focus on enhancing the effectiveness of remote work, maintaining employee wellbeing, upskilling teams on remote collaboration to ensure key milestones are still hit, and ensuring that tooling is in place to allow teams to do their jobs. These should not be ‘sticking plasters’ that will leave institutions with a COVID legacy to solve but rather robust strategic enhancements.
Finally, the third phase is the transition into the ‘new normal’ that will emerge post-COVID – 19, and the potential pivots required as part of that journey. Central to that is a re-imagination of what the workforce of the future looks like and an openness to embracing a new model of business as usual. B
Business leaders and drivers may seem to have their work cut out for them in providing direction and balance in this new world but in reality, everyone must play their part. Corporate organisations need to adopt specific actions to sustain productivity.
Some of these actions are to:
- Ensure that teams are thriving rather than surviving in the new environment and if not, create the culture, instill the behaviors and implement the tooling they need deploying structured approach. It is also essential to protect teams’ mental health and wellbeing paying attention to key elements including ergonomics.
- Maintain productivity across key programmes by rapidly deploying agile systems and ensuring high-risk or critical programmes are kept on track.
- In parallel, plan proactively for the re-integration of those elements of the workforce whose return is business critical. Resist the urge to wait for government mandates to commence scenario planning and also take time to evaluate options.
- Finally, grasp the opportunity to reimagine the art of the possible. Organisations can emerge from the crisis with an enhanced employee value proposition in place alongside a fresh perspective on cost reduction opportunities
As Corporates in the African region emerge from the initial and any subsequent lockdowns, businesses will need to strike the optimal balance between adhering to government guidelines, respecting the desires of their workforce and delivering on their own goals. Those organisations that grasp the opportunity to re-assess, re-engineer and re-imagine their workplace proactively will be best placed to offer a differentiated employee value proposition, and will also reap the benefits of increased efficiencies and ultimately a significantly lower cost base.
Article culled from Capco Digital