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How businesses can adapt to the “new normal” in the post-pandemic world

As businesses begin to reopen and restart their operations, it is becoming clear that the “new normal” could look very different following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our previous guides we have looked at specific areas such as reinstating business premises after coronavirus, reinstating plant, equipment and processes and managing work-related driving amid the different COVID-19 regulations.

Below we take a look at some of the more generic areas that businesses should now be focusing on as they adapt to the post-pandemic world.

Business continuity planning is designed to help return an organisation to “Business as Usual” following disruption. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in huge changes around the world, meaning a return to “normal” business operations will look very different.

As we look to the future of doing business in the “new normal”, there are four key areas of change that organisations need to consider:

  • Digitisation
  • Cyber crime
  • Supply chains
  • Health awareness

Digitisation

This can best be defined as the need for businesses to do what they do but in a new or different way – facilitated by technology.

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on business has been need for employees to work from home. This has seen previously underused technology like video conferencing software become essential for businesses to maintain productivity throughout the crisis.

Staying at the forefront of technology post-pandemic will be essential for all organisations, with those most open to exploring the advantages and future applications of technology most likely to succeed in a challenging market.

For example, restaurants that have been quick to adapt to online ordering and collection services have been able to ensure a level of income during the lockdown – simply by taking advantage of relatively simple technology to do something they didn’t do before.

Many businesses with some online presence before the pandemic will have likely seen their online sales increase during the lockdown period. While the use of online technology to take and process orders may have been a minor aspect of some businesses, it is now an essential source of income and will need to be developed further going forward.

One industry that has been quick to adapt to the new challenges is the brewing industry. With restaurants and pubs closed due to coronavirus, brewers had to quickly adapt their operations to sell and deliver their products directly to consumers.

Automation is another area that will almost certainly bring benefits to businesses post pandemic. For example, warehouses that already use automated order picking technology will have been affected much less by the lockdown than those with personnel picking orders. Organisations that have been affected by the COVID-19 disruption may therefore now be considering investing in automation to future-proof their business.

Cyber crime

It is known that cyber criminals look to take advantage of disaster events, using the disruption to identify and target weaknesses. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has given them topical and high profile subjects for phishing attacks – everything from free vaccines and virus trackers to bogus information from WHO and fake discounts at High Street stores.

As well as email phishing attacked, cyber criminals have also targeted the weaknesses associated with staff working from home and using their home networks to access sensitive data.

It is likely that working from home will become much more common post-pandemic, so businesses will need to consider these new cyber risks – particularly providing staff awareness training, up to date hardware and software, enforced updates and password management.

This will no doubt put extra stress on IT support teams, so organisations will need to consider what extra staffing and resources are needed to support an increased number of remote workers.

For more information on this, read our previous guides:

Supply chains

Supply chains are spread around the world and provide businesses with the benefit of lower manufacturing expenses. However, in the event of a major crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic contact with suppliers can become difficult. Lockdown restrictions or site closures in a different country can result in businesses being unable provide a normal service to customers.

Many businesses that are suffering losses because of this will now be looking to simplify supply chains by having their key suppliers closer to home.

A supply chain risk assessment is therefore strongly advised to identify the weaknesses in your supply chain – extending beyond your immediate supplier and looking further down the chain (e.g. suppliers to your supplier). This can help to highlight dependencies and enable your business to make better decisions, such as:

Accept: If the impact of loss of a supplier is minimal, or they could be easily replaced at short notice, a business may choose to accept it and make new arrangements.

Duplicate: Where loss of a supply could cause a serious issue, then arranging supply of the same product or service from a new supplier at a different location to run alongside the existing arrangement will mitigate the risk of the loss of one.

Improve: The situation can often be improved by moving supply to another supplier with better communications, a stronger continuity plan, or one that is simply closer to you. The potential additional cost would be outweighed by the improved resilience of your supply chain.

One result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that a lot of businesses are now keen to bring as many of the key elements of their supply chain as possible back to the UK, or at least to engage with suppliers that are much closer to the UK.

Stockpiling of key products in warehouses is also an increasingly popular “buffer” against breaks in the supply chain, with a lot more businesses now seeking to increase stockholding at new warehouse locations. However, these changes create an increased risk in respect of fire damage and theft, which also need to be considered as businesses change their operating models.

Health awareness

The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in the Far East was in November 2002, but the impact it had can still be seen in the places affected – where residents continued to wear face masks and gloves when out in public. There is likely to be a similar lasting effect after COVID-19, as people are now more aware of the risks and the ways a virus can spread rapidly.

Workplaces need to factor this in and may need to reconfigure the work environment to follow social distancing guidelines and additional hygiene arrangements.

As well as this there is likely to be higher public health investment in testing and research facilities, PPE (personal protective equipment) manufacture etc. which could provide opportunities for organisations.

In general, awareness of hygiene and public health issues has been seen to increase following a pandemic. It is therefore reasonable to expect a raised awareness following COVID-19, with businesses being required to consider staff well-being and public health matters when making decisions.

For more information on adapting your business to the “new normal”, and the new risks that might present, contact us now.

You can also download our free COVID-19 Risk Assessments here: