With the pandemic hopefully coming to an end, and as we begin to adjust to the new normal, there is much anxiety throughout our lives about how things will play out. Will people return to the office in great numbers? Will the economy bounce back? Will we stop compulsively streaming Netflix and Amazon? Here are my predictions for the upcoming era:
- Many of the people who say they want to work 100% remotely will soon find themselves being left out of key decisions and then start coming back to the office at least a few days a week. If you’re not in the office decisions get made without you. No one is trying to exclude you. They just make decisions at the end of other meetings, or passing in the halls. It was one thing when all the meetings were on Teams or Zoom. But with some in the room and some remote it’s different. And if you’re not there, you’re out of luck. Anyone wanting a stake in decision-making is going to find themselves back in the office at least a few days a week.
- Companies risk developing an in and out culture. Those in the office may end up with one culture, and those who are out of the office, mostly or completely from home, may end up with another (or thousands of others). It’s going to be crucial that we think through how to continue to keep the corporate culture relevant to people working far from their colleagues.
- Masks and hand sanitizer are going to cause problems. CDC advice and local regulations may soon no longer require masks, but some people are still going to want to wear them. And it’s probably good if we all wore them when we have a cold or other bug. That’s been the norm in Asia for years. But some people are going to be put off, wondering “Why does Mary wear a mask around me?” Others are going to complain that Lou has a cough and isn’t wearing one, “and by the way, has he been checked?” And “Dave keeps offering hand sanitizer to me, and I wish he would stop. My hands are clean.” We have new rules of the road to figure out.
- We will discover a lot has slipped through the cracks. No big news here, but as supply chains got disrupted and new vendors onboarded during the pandemic we couldn’t do all the due diligence we might have. As a result, there are bound to be gaps found in how the vendors were vetted. It’s time to perform a vendor risk assessment and start re-checking new vendors, starting with those in the highest risk areas. Which leads me to my next prediction:
- Much of the rest of your risk assessment will probably be out of date. If you haven’t updated it since the pandemic began, now’s the time. Even if you did update it to reflect the pandemic, it’s time to rethink it in light of post-pandemic realities.
- It’s going to take time for in-office work habits to return. We got used to work-from-home dynamics. Using that break between meetings to put in the laundry. Running errands at lunch and ending the day a bit later. When people return to the office they’re going to have to reestablish office-style work habits (and clothes). That’s going to take some time.
- In the new normal compliance will be fully up and running again before the business unit. We’re a lot less likely to be dealing with the logistical nightmares the business unit has. Don’t get too far ahead of them, expecting their work to be back to normal. But by the same token, let the businesspeople know that we won’t be a roadblock to their progress, and that we’re back at work and ready to help. It’s a great opportunity for compliance to get more involved.
- Recruiting is already the new risk area. With companies struggling to staff back up, there is going to be a temptation to fill the holes in the recruiting chart as quickly as possible, even if means looking the other way at a few things, and deciding not to check candidates out fully. That’s a prescription for disaster down the road. Work with HR to make sure that proper due diligence is still being done, especially if you’re in a sensitive industry or a government contractor.
- People will still be people. We’ve learned a lot from this experience. We’ve learned to appreciate the importance of essential workers and treasure our families. But people still do awful things. We see that plenty on the news. So be prepared both for your colleagues to appreciate each other a bit more, and to still do the wrong thing.
- We will miss our friends giving us freshly-baked loaves of sourdough bread. We won’t miss emails that refer to “these difficult times”.
Those are my predictions. Have some predictions of your own? Agree or disagree with my predictions? Share your thoughts below.