In the normal times prior to the winter and spring of 2020, business managers faced uncertainties. It could have been changing markets, or economic downturns, or any number of common and almost predictable crises that needed to be managed. At the time, there were generally accepted processes and strategies to deal with such things. However, the onset of Covid19 and the devastation it wreaked around the world created an entirely different kind of uncertainty.
Covid-19 highlighted two things for businesses: it showed that you cannot be prepared for everything. Even though it’s been a hundred years since the Spanish Flu, something can still strike that will cause shockwaves. It also highlighted that just because something is unprecedented, it doesn’t mean you can’t manage it during the crisis and as it starts to wane. We’ve been living with Covid19 for almost 2 years at the time of this writing, and there are still uncertainties and issues that businesses need to manage. Here are some ways that you can do that effectively.
Be Aware of How You Are Reacting
Being uncertain and anxious can lead to emotional responses. This can be anger or depression, for example. If you need to make important decisions about your business under a cloud of uncertainty, you must take stock of your emotions and understand why you might be thinking a certain way. Your decisions need to be made while removing the emotional aspect from them. Are you overreacting to something because you are anxious or angry? That could lead to a huge overcorrection of a process and create even more chaos. That’s just one example.
Over optimism, surprisingly, is also a common reaction to crises. This means that someone is assuming everything is going to be fine. They do this instead of taking steps to manage the problem, which means that they do not provide any meaningful solutions or management strategies. Optimism bias means the brain is refusing to accept how bad things are or how bad they could get. This could mean that you end up forecasting rebounding revenues much sooner than is actually realistic, which will only lead to more difficulties down the road.
Be Empathetic About Anxiety
It is totally natural for a business owner or manager to feel anxious and stressed in uncertain times. Do you know what else is natural? For your employees to feel the same things. For Covid, and for every wave that comes and goes, they will experience new fears and stressors and themselves and their families get exposed, get sick, and possibly end up in hospital or worse. As a manager, you need to recognize that you are not the only one entitled to be anxious.
Make sure that your employees know that they can take the time to address any anxious feelings. Plus, they need to be able to take time from work if they or a loved one is ill, or if they feel safer isolating if they will be coming into contact with a family member who is at an increased risk. Just like you might ask your employees to be flexible during stable times, you need to be flexible for them during uncertain times.
Your employees won’t just be feeling anxious about illness. When times are tough, people could lose their jobs. Items also get more expensive as labor shortages affect the market. With all of that stress, you can imagine that most of your employees are feeling very scared. Make sure to support them every way you can, whether it be with mental health days, team building exercises, or having protections in place such as workers compensation insurance. Any stability you can offer will help ease anxiety and keep them more comfortable while on the job.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
The surprising thing about uncertainty is that it almost always invites opportunities. Take the beginning of Covid for example: many companies shifted their business priorities to offer what the public needed, such as hand sanitizer. Others switched to remote work models where possible to reduce physical contact in the workplace.
As you can see, opportunities don’t have to be purely financial ones. Many of the businesses that switched to remote work probably were considering offering something similar to their employees but couldn’t stomach pulling the trigger on the disruption to the traditional office model. However, Covid forced them into acting, and this new remote work balanced with in-office work doesn’t seem to be going away.
What opportunities can you jump on? Perhaps you will take the change to centralize operations into one office space while some are working from home. This will reduce your costs and could make it easier to manage your staff. Are there new needs popping up around the country or even in your community that you could meet? Talk to your staff and your clients to find out how you can take advantage in a tough post-covid world.
Have Strong Policies
Covid-19, more than any other recent financial crisis, required workplaces around the world to have clear policies around health and safety in their workplaces. Managers have to decide what steps to take to keep people as safe as possible while still maintaining productivity and an effective workplace environment. Do you need people to wear masks if it is not mandated in your jurisdiction? Do visitors have to be double or triple vaccinated? Do you have a 6 foot distancing rule? Whatever precautions you think are necessary or unnecessary, you need to make sure that everyone is aware of what is expected, and enforce those rules. That will reduce anxiety, since your employees will know that the workplace is safe for them.
Uncertain times are difficult times, and despite a growing sense that Covid is moving behind us, new variants and waves continue to cause havoc to society and to markets. As a business manager or owner, you need to do whatever you can to manage those uncertainties. By identifying challenges and keeping your employees happy, you can successfully navigate difficult Covid times and set your business up to thrive.
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Images from MFW Backstage: MARCELO BURLON Fall Winter 2020 Fashion Show – See the full story here