The Covid-19 pandemic plunged the country into an economic downturn that hadn't been seen since the Great Depression.
But U.S. unemployment began to settle in May, after topping out near 25 percent, and many businesses are planning their transitions back to physical office spaces as social distancing mandates are loosened.
Still, this hasn't been easy for anyone. It has forced all companies, regardless of size or sector, to reimagine what operations will look like in a post-Covid world.
There's a giant pause taking place. And during it, resilient organizations have reset; they've aimed to optimize their talent, enhance efficiency, and find silver linings they can apply moving forward.
What will the post-Covid workplace look like?
1. Remote work policies will become a competitive advantage
"There is no question that becoming world-class at being remote is going to be a competitive advantage," said Mike Zani, CEO of the Predictive Index. "If you are remote-friendly, you can get the best and brightest anywhere."
Indeed, according to a Politico survey, Covid-19 has changed the modern workplace for good. Now it's a matter of inspiring employees to buy into a remote-friendly workplace and engaging them with the right tools. Some businesses were already 100 percent remote before Covid-19 and operating at peak efficiency. Others are still trying to figure it out.
"If you're a company that wants to surround yourself with major league talent--and create a major league team--you can hire and recruit from anywhere," Zani said.
An added bonus? Employee loyalty. "People can live where they want, in a beautiful place, a rural place. They can move back to their hometowns. The company that enables you to do that, you're going to have a lot of loyalty to," he added.
Companies have had time to figure out who can do what from where, and in many cases they've uncovered operational inefficiencies.
2. Collaboration will take on new forms
Many companies that have been historically resistant to remote work cite lost opportunities for collaboration as a reason. Technology has rendered that argument largely moot.
Every company will need to figure out what works for them, and it's not an overnight process. But there are plenty of tools that enhance collaboration and guard against the malaise that's started to set in, as referenced in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Miro, Jamboard, and Slack, to name a few, serve as viable stand-ins for whiteboards and sticky notes.
Certain people will take to remote collaboration more readily than others.
"This might be the dawn of the introvert," Zani said. "Extraverts might need to find new pathways to get that true energy from others in a meaningful way, and it may not always come from work."
To continue to get the most out of their people, companies will need to make a concerted effort to understand their behavioral drives. Not everyone can be managed the same way, especially not in a fully or partially remote work environment.
3. Look for leaner, more efficient operations
According to the Predictive Index's "Surviving an Economic Downturn" guide, the companies that flourish post-Covid will be those that have figured out the ways to maximize productivity and engagement (remote or otherwise). In many cases, they'll be doing so with people wearing new hats. Those who don't reconsider their organizational design will be left behind.
Maybe that means a new outbound marketing strategy, or amending the terms of an office lease to accommodate 30 people at once instead of 100. Perhaps meetings take on different forms. Still, there's work to be done, and organizations are playing around with one-way solutions offered by Soapbox or Zoom, which enable impromptu one-on-one meetings.
"There are going to be opportunities to reorganize, and people are going to realize that smaller teams are better," noted Zani.
Uninterrupted by water cooler talk and fly-by management sessions, many teams will be more efficient. But leaders will have to be creative and intentional in the ways they inspire their people, encouraging autonomy while still actively engaging.
The post-Covid workplace will put a premium on efficiency and agility. And the companies that have done their work early are better positioned to smoothly transition into it.