The iso teachings: What we’ve learned from COVID-19

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COVID-19, Coronavirus, The ‘Rona’. The topic that’s been dominating our headlines and lives for the past few months. If you’re in the business world, most conversations will have been around the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our organisations and economies. As we have come to settle into our new ways of working however, these conversations have started to shift. They’ve become a bit more forward-thinking, focusing on what will have changed when we find ourselves on the other side of this pandemic.

Will we simply revert back to life as we knew it pre-COVID-19, with the same ole’ practices, processes and activities? I don’t think so.

Whether we liked it or not, this experience has shaken things up in a way that we never could have imagined. But despite how wild the ride has been, it has provided us with an opportunity to re-design our world of work with a completely different lens in place.


The universe getting a little bored and deciding to shake things up with Coronavirus, via GIPHY


With Governments around the world now focusing on easing restrictions, it’s time to start thinking about what we have learned from this experience, what we want to take with us into the future and how we are going to navigate the change process.

Here are a few of our predictions.



Creatures of habit

There’s a lot of different information out there around habits and the way they form. Some studies state that it takes 66 days to form a new habit, while others conclude that 21 days is all it takes. Regardless of whether it’s 66 or 21, the time we’ve spent in isolation exceeds it.

So, what does that mean? It means that practices such as working from home, teleconferences, online catchups and remote management have all become part of our new normal.

Many ‘office’ workers have been working from home since early March. Their routine consisting of waking up, wearily shuffling from bed to the kitchen, then taking a few more (now caffeinated) steps to the makeshift workspace in their home.

People have been bouncing between the four walls of their abode all day, every day, with the only exception being a spot of exercise.


Woman looking longingly out the window

I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored.


Our new habits aren’t all bad though. With fewer ways to spice up our lives (yes, that was a Spice Girls reference), we have learned to strip things back and appreciate and benefit from the things that were right in front of us the whole time.

How many of us have friends who we’d like to see more, but never do because life just gets in the way? Or maybe we have friends that live overseas, but we’ve lost touch due to the distance?

It’s strange to think about it now, but video calls have always been an option to negate that. We just never utilised the technology because well… they were kind of weird and awkward.

But we’ve ripped the band-aid off now. No more worrying about awkward angles, double chins, dodgy internet and talking over each other. Video calls are here to stay. Even our elderly relatives have learned to use them, what a world.


Next they’ll be on TikTok, don’t let them show us up. via GIPHY


To relieve the symptoms of cabin fever, we’ve also been exercising more than ever. Even if you were previously repulsed by the idea of pounding the pavement, you strapped on your old dusty runners and left the house in the name of freedom.

Now look where you are. We’re a few months down the track and BAM, you’ve formed a new exercise habit. Due to the obvious benefits, this one can stay too.

Then we’ve got our new purchasing habits. Throughout this time, we may have needed to tighten up our belts and pop the credit card away. Our favourite cafés are not open for leisurely brunch dates and some of the stores we frequent have shut up shop.

Like our tendency to ‘treat ourselves’ became a habit, so did the reversal of it. Did we ever really need to purchase and consume the sheer volume of things that we were before COVID-19? Were we that much happier?

One thing we do know for sure is that the environment is thanking us.



Flexible Work Arrangements

Prior to COVID-19, there were many organisations that were already on the flexibility train and loving the benefits that came along with it. But for other, more traditional organisations, these types of arrangements were not considered to be feasible or even beneficial to their business goals.

But what happens in the case of say… a global pandemic? Well, many organisations had no choice other than to learn how to flex very, very quickly.

So, how did it go? Like anything, learning a new way of operating on the fly is a very difficult feat. Though once organisations started to experiment with various tools and practices that enable effective remote work, things started to fall into place.


I mean, it wasn’t that bad was it?


The world didn’t crumble, and our employee’s work ethic didn’t suddenly fly out the window while they simultaneously forgot how to do their jobs. Things still work, they just work differently. In some cases, even better.

For some, working from home is now a habit. For others, it may be the most effective way of working. By dropping their commute to the office, people are adding hours into their day to use in far more productive ways.

After being forced to trial a range of flexible work arrangements, organisations are likely to be more open-minded and continue to offer them post-COVID-19.



Business Practices

COVID-19 has also resulted in many businesses considering the way they operate and how they may become more resilient and productive in the face of adversity.

Australia is extremely fortunate as we have the technology and infrastructure to support employees working from home (even though our internet is still notoriously bad). Unfortunately, other countries aren’t so lucky, which is what offshoring organisations realised very quickly.

When COVID-19 hit, organisations who rely on their call centres situated in countries like India, The Phillipines and so on, essentially lost that entire section of their workforce due to their inability to work from home.

This left them in a bit of a pickle and caused many organisations to re-consider the advantages of having these roles moved back onshore with employees working from home to avoid the overheads.

This same situation has also caused supply chain planners to re-think their strategies.

Many companies choose to lower the cost of manufacturing by doing it overseas in say, China or India. However, overseas manufacturing does not come without the reliance on air and sea freight to take it to where it needs to go.

But what happens when something like… a global pandemic shuts down all of our distribution networks, making it impossible to import and export? Mhmmm, yep. Businesses struggle. Really struggle.


We’re up the Pacific Ocean without a paddle. via GIPHY


This experience has really made businesses think about how they can minimise risk to their supply chains and keep things moving, even during a crisis.

Oh, and of course, we can’t forget to mention all of those businesses that performed major pivots to stay in the game.

Desperate times called for some business owners to think fast and adapt their products or services to remain accessible and relevant during this climate.

Take Melbourne based, award-winning, Atlas Dining for example. They took the pivot to the next level.

Instead of exclusively offering a dine-in experience that was no longer feasible, they designed an at-home ingredients pack, coupled with an online Masterclass with the chef. Each week, a different menu became available and the ingredients were delivered to your door.

If businesses found success with their pivots, will they be here to stay as a secondary offering? Either way, this experience has left organisations understanding the importance of a back-up plan.


Change comes from both ‘revolution’ and ‘evolution’

It was nice for a while, to think that COVID-19 was a temporary glitch and that life would go back to exactly how it was before. With everything perfectly in its place, ready to resume as though nothing had happened.

But it’s time for the rose-coloured glasses to come off and be thrown straight into the bin. Or at least donated to the op-shop, we are striving for less landfill after all.


Woman with rose coloured glasses

Rose-coloured glasses are out, realism is in.


Yes, this experience has been insane, one that I doubt we would willingly go through again. But this involuntary shake-up has presented us with an incredible opportunity to sculpt our world of work into something that works for us and has the potential to be resilient in the face of adversity.



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