Currently, there is no such thing as Business as Usual. Every day, small and medium businesses are re-inventing how they function. The most unfortunate side-effect of this COVID-19 crisis is that many small businesses have closed, and many of those will not re-open. The economic repercussions from this event will ripple throughout the landscape for decades. Only the strong will survive.
For those who will survive this paradigm shift, now is the time to re-structure your business model and build a new foundation for the future. With many employees working off-site, businesses are noticing that they may be spending too much on their overhead, and they are also looking closely at the size of their staff. In the past few weeks, we have discussed laying-off and even furloughing employees, but in this blog, we will look toward the future and offer a few things to consider while moving forward.
Many businesses will be looking to restructure their operations once we come out of this mess. One huge change will be the need, or the lack of a need, for office space. With the average reduction in staff hovering around 50%, we’re seeing lots of empty office space these days. The first instinct is to hold onto that space and await your employees’ return, but there is a very good chance most of that unused space will remain unused.
Some financial experts tell us that there will be another Real Estate crash soon, but this time commercial properties and office space will be part of the cause. Besides the businesses that close, many businesses will either give up their current space or downsize to smaller spaces. What was once nothing more than bragging rights, large conference rooms are no longer needed. Now that we’re getting used to holding meetings through Zoom, Skype, and Teams, even our best clients might get annoyed if we asked them to drive to our office for a meeting. The fact is that we now have more options, and along with those, we have to opportunity to run a leaner company.
With fewer employees actually working from the office there’s no need for all that extra space. Even if a few employees do split working at home and coming into the office, you can stagger their days and multiple employees can share the same workspace. But, the fact is, many businesses are discovering that they can keep things running without everyone working from a centralized location. What was once unthinkable is now becoming the new norm.
Another thing to consider is evaluating your employees during these times. Now is the time to find out who your ‘A’ players are. Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out to work remotely. You’ll soon discover who your top performers are and who misses deadlines or causes delays. The bad news is, you may have to let some people go. But the good news is that there has never been such a great workforce available to hire. Tough times require us to make tough decisions, and, as business owners, we need to make decisions that are best for our company.
Jason Rivas, the head of human resources for a growing California business, says he is getting a lot of questions about assessing employees during these crazy times. Jason says, “Business owners ask me, is it fair to judge my staff now that some of them are working from home? My answer is always the same: Yes, it is. It’s not only fair, but it’s also a good thing for your business.”
Jason goes on to explain, “Now, I know when you hear the phrase, spotting your A-players, you immediately start thinking, “Well, that means there are favorites in the workplace.” It’s not that. When I call the best employees our A-players, I’m doing so because they’re not necessarily the favorites, they’re just the best-playing team members. Yes, it’s possible to not like someone but, at the same time, respect them for the great work they do.”
“We need to think about this as a baseball team. There’s always the first-string that goes out on the field to start the game. Then we have second-string, third-string, and so on. Even bench warmers. We have people in the dugout, people in the bullpen warming up. But your A-players are the ones starting the game. You lead with your best, then fill any voids with other employees as needed. It’s survival of the fittest.”
As employers, we have the responsibility of making judgments and keeping our A-players on the field as much as we can. While we may have situations where furloughs, layoffs, or even temporary reduction in workforces have occurred, we always need to be mindful of spotting our A-players, and, even more important, spotting those employees who are putting in less effort.
It’s our role as business owners to make the decisions that keep our business going. We didn’t ask for this event to happen, and we sure weren’t prepared for it. But, as business leaders, we need to take actions that will shape the future. Life as we knew it has changed forever, and business will never be the same – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better than it was. Act now. Decide if you’re paying for too much office space. Figure out if you can run an efficient business with remote employees. And surround yourself with the best employees you can find. Do these things and you’ll be ahead of the competition when we come out the other side of these strange times.