The adage “hindsight is 20/20” is fitting since, with the introspection of a year, we can now fully appreciate all the ways that the year 2020 has forever changed the way we work and live. Very swiftly, the pandemic demanded a rethinking of the workplace, as companies struggled to adapt to the new normal. For business development leaders, this change presented numerous challenges, from the shift in customer priorities to the move to primarily virtual interactions — and the future is still largely unknown. According to the latest McKinsey Global Survey from January 2021, respondents were divided over what’s to come. Of global survey respondents, 44% reported they expect economic conditions to stay the same or get worse over the next six months, compared to 56% who expect it to get better.
Regardless of how the pandemic continues to play out, it’s clear that we will never go back to the pre-pandemic world. In many ways, this is in thanks to the incredible adaptability that we’ve shown. Employees have demonstrated they can work just as efficiently — if not more so — from home, using new platforms and tools that enable teams to bridge the physical distance. The virtual environment has also revealed new benefits, such as the ability to reach more customers and schedule more touchpoints from the comfort of home.
While no one knows exactly what the new, post-pandemic environment will look like, we’ll surely be turning to the latest technology tools to help overcome new challenges. With that in mind, here are my personal tips and mantras to surviving 2021:
1. Use video technology tools to maintain consistent engagement.
Pre-Covid-19, the person at the other end of my conference call was working out of a hollow conference room on speakerphone. Now, strangely, with video calls becoming the norm — Zoom’s daily meeting participants grew from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020 — my calls are often face-to-face, even if the other person may be thousands of miles away. I’m embracing this change as a way to grow even closer to my customers while enjoying all the non-verbal interactions that I previously missed.
2. Don’t settle for subpar connectivity, or your interactions will suffer.
While a strong internet connection has always been essential to the modern workforce, equipping teams with the right tools became even more vital to enable a remote organization — often without the benefit of an on-premise IT staffer. Reliable connectivity today includes both the infrastructure — such as new 5G-enabled phones and tablets — alongside working with providers that offer fully kitted equipment. Offerings of multiple ways to connect are important, too. For example, LTE or 5G, so employees aren’t cannibalizing their home networks, which are often supporting multiple family members one at one time. Most corporations can’t compete with the amount of data my kids consume.
3. Find ways to streamline and get more from your existing tools.
Many companies acted instinctively during the pandemic, adopting readily available solutions to ensure the work didn’t stop. We’ve since moved beyond that phase, into what will enable businesses to thrive, not just survive. That includes shedding tools that aren’t facilitating productivity in favor of those that can do it all. For example, you might be surprised to learn that Microsoft Teams can receive inbound and outbound calls, removing the need for a separate desk phone. I personally have not seen or used my office desk phone for almost 12 months and have completely transitioned to using my laptop with HD quality voice for all business calls, hosting customer webinars and participating on industry panels.
4. Embrace the tech that brings you joy.
While the work-life balance has been incredibly difficult for many during this time, I’ve found new solutions to help address those personal challenges as well. For example, I would not be as productive as I am at home without my Bose noise-canceling headset, which allows me to focus and transform my home office into a place without family and home distractions. Bonus: They pair with my laptop for taking calls and block out my dogs barking in the background! I also love my SideTrack monitor, which attaches to my laptop for a second screen. Find the tools that give you that semblance of your former life and sanity back.
While many of us thought 2021 would bring a fresh start, we’re not out of the woods yet. However, over the past year, we’ve built up a unique kind of resilience and dedication to finding new solutions — whatever the challenges are thrown our way. We’ll continue to get through this year like we did the last — by embracing new ways of doing business, staying safe and remembering that we’re all in it together.
This article was originally featured in Forbes.