A Changing World of Expectations?

Coronavirus and business expectations

The world has changed with coronavirus in many different ways.

Some changes will outlast the crisis; but others will soon be forgotten.

What is clear is that the past week has thrown up some interesting issues around expectations.

These are applicable to all businesses.

Individual Expectations of Business

Social distancing is as a benchmark of 2m space between people. The government asked people to work from home and schools were finally closed. Millions heeded the call, but thousands still behaved as though it was some sort of bank holiday and overran the typical destinations.

Was it an expectation that social distancing did not apply to them? Or was it a communication issue? The headline was heard and translated as we don’t need to go to work, while the crucial detail of ‘why’ was ignored. Similar confusion reigned over what are key businesses and key workers because people don’t hear the detail.

Expectations and assumptions clashed again over working from home. Here office-workers found that they need discipline and organisation to avoid adverse impact on their home life and still achieve their outputs.

All above required better communication by understanding what the audience hears and expects.

Financial Measures Systems?

The Chancellor announced a raft of measures targeted at business rate-paying companies and employees. These are fundamentally different than anything that has gone before.

Yet some businesses expect to be able to ring up and access the free money simply. And this despite it being clearly stated that the local council will contact the business rate-paying company directly. Just consider for a moment whether Councils already have in place the staff and systems to deliver this new service? For PAYE the government website states explicitly HMRC does not have these systems.

For the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme most see the headline 80% support to the company for the pay of furloughed PAYE employees. We love the backdating to 1st March and may understand it runs in the first instance to the end of May.

Few consider what a furloughed employee actually is or how to create that status in a way that is legal and ethical. Reducing someone to 80% of their pay is usually a breach of contract without the express agreement of the individual. In this case no one can set an end date for the reduction. So should companies pay the normal 20% on top and get reimbursed for the 80%? And if the reduction then leads to unfortunate redundancy what happens?

All require patience, recognising the good intention; but being prepared to wait for more clarity as the system develops.

Coranavirus Learnings

This massive external event fundamentally shifts expectations. It’s not business as normal. It’s not see the headline and expect action and solution. These are broad not narrowcasts. Extraordinary measures overwhelm current systems. These were not designed nor have the flexibility to cope if we continue to only consider the individual, who wants it now.

The individual wanted toilet paper and loads of it so the many missed out. Or did they? As supplies come back into the shops, few have experienced the complete absence of loo roll. Systems will cope and the majority will benefit if we remain patient and flexible.

Perhaps we can move back away from the ‘now’ and ‘me’ cultures. This means understanding that communication or marketing is not always simple. As businesses we also need to ensure that our systems are flexible enough to change tack, but also robust enough to handle unexpected demand which may result from poor communication.