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The New Normal: What It Means for Small Businesses and How to Adapt Digitally

By July 30, 2020December 1st, 2023No Comments

As the wave of a “new normal” washes over communities, it seems like remote work is no longer a trend—it might in fact be a reality. What began forcefully three months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic has slowly settled, but it looks like the new normal might be here to stay. 

At first, large tech companies like Twitter, Shopify, and Facebook announced work-from-home policy extensions until 2021. However, more recently Shopify and Twitter CEOs have announced that work-from-home will become a permanent solution—even after offices reopen in 2021.

CEO of Shopify: As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.”

So what does this all mean? Well, for small business owners, it means that the new normal will focus on remote work, and the transition to digital—from meetings, communications, file-sharing, and business operations—will be more vital than ever. 

To equip small business owners with the right tools and knowledge to face the new normal, we’ve rallied up the following remote working tips (and tools) to help you adapt! Here’s how: 

Set healthy work-life boundaries from home

When work life and real life sits under the same roof, boundaries can get blurred far too easily. By being extra proactive and aware of how work-life meshes together, small business owners can better leverage healthier work-life boundaries at home so that they can work and play productively. 

Here are some boundaries to set up right away if you haven’t already: 

  • Distinguish your workspace and play space: Just like you wouldn’t sleep on your desk, you also shouldn’t work from your bed. Designate your office or kitchen island as your workspace where you can build a habit to be off your phone and laser-focused. On the flip side, designate your couch, bed, or patio deck as your play space—an area where you can check your phone, read books, and relax.
  • Time-block for self-care: Reaching burn-out is a quick process as we embrace the new normal, especially when daily commutes or traveling time to meet clients are non-existent. It can become tempting to spend all this newfound time on your computer working. If you can, time-block 15-minute coffee breaks and 1-hour lunch breaks into your day to remind yourself to get away from the computer. Whether it’s meditating, reading a chapter of your favorite book, or simply doing nothing, time-blocking breaks are essential to setting healthy work-life boundaries at home.

Morning and evening routines are crucial

Setting up morning and evening routines are key to creating a structure to your day. The structure acts as a form of “container” for your day, acting as cues to both your mind and body to start or stop working. For example, starting the first hour of your morning making breakfast and coffee, as well as journaling or reading will teach your brain that this is “me time”—a sacred time to yourself and to reflect. In the same vein, an evening routine like cooking a healthy dinner, walking your pet, or doing your skincare routine can be healthy triggers to remind your brain that it’s time to stop working. 

According to a Zapier article, early risers like Square CEO Jack Dorsey and Apple CEO Tim Cook are early risers who execute their morning routines to prepare for the day ahead. Whether that’s making the bed and a fresh cup of coffee or checking emails and heading straight to the gym, setting up a morning routine is crucial to starting your day on the right foot. After all, if you win the morning, you win the day. 

Likewise, evening routines set the tone for the next day. Use your evenings as a planning session to identify daily and weekly priorities, as well as reflect on the day’s achievements. It doesn’t have to be a long process: a quick 15-minute planning session will suffice in order to set you up for success the next day.

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Stay in the loop with colleagues & clients

Human connection is so important, especially as we adapt to the so-called new normal. Using a mix of formal and informal communication is a must when working in the new normal. Some ways that small business owners can strengthen their relationships with both staff, colleagues, and clients include: 

  • Schedule brief hangouts regularly (beyond discussing workload): These can be weekly or biweekly “stand-ups” to serve as an informal catch up for each member. The whole point of this hangout is to have no agenda. Let conversations and catch-ups flow freely so that your team can enjoy the company of each other beyond just discussing work. Depending on your relationship with your clients, a brief catch-up call to talk beyond work can also be a great way to build on your current relationship.
  • Get off those spreadsheets: In the so-called “new normal,” virtual collaboration, file management, and project management tools are more important than ever. There are a plethora of free digital tools like Figma (for design and prototyping) and Trello (simplified project management) available for small business owners to keep track of tasks, as well as collaborate easily from our homes. Yes, spreadsheets can have its advantages, but it’s equally important to be aware of the available resources/tools that can bring your team’s productivity to a whole new level.
  • Bring the water cooler discussions online: Remember those days when you could walk to the cafeteria to grab a coffee, then bump into a colleague and end up chatting for 15 minutes? Yeah, unfortunately, those water cooler days are gone. However, with communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, we, fortunately, don’t need to say bye to those hangouts. Create channels specifically for water cooler conversations within Slack or Teams. 

Leverage digital tools to reap benefits

Time is precious to everyone but especially to small business owners. Running a business is no easy task. Managing clients, responding to emails, team motivation, and handling the less fancy administrative tasks like invoicing and bookkeeping are all factors that take away from the day.

As businesses embrace the new normal this year and beyond, adapting digitally, where possible, is key to long-term success. Here are some ways that your business can adapt digitally: 

  • Adopt accounting software to eliminate administrative tasks: Small business owners have numerous simple, intuitive accounting software solutions available at their fingertips. Increasingly, accounting software is embracing artificial intelligence (AI) to help businesses manage their bookkeeping. The right accounting software can help speed up the time it takes to review and categorize business transactions, help store financial data safely in the cloud so that they can be accessed anymore, and is overall a fantastic tool to relieve stress come tax season.
  • Digital project management to embrace the new normal: Asana, BaseCamp, Trello, Nifty, and are all project management/collaboration tools that small business owners can leverage in this “new normal.” Whether it’s task-related or process-based, these tools are a quick, easy, and visual way for teams to collaborate to get things done.
  • Digital note-taking: Some prefer to take notes on paper, while others do it on their computers. Both options are great, but if these notes eventually need to be shared with the rest of the team, there are great note-taking tools that can help. OneNote and Notion, for example, are both robust note-taking apps that small business owners can use to jot down information, take notes, build to-do lists, and share with the rest of the team. 
  • Personalize your productivity tunes: Playing the right tunes can have impressive impacts on productivity. Focus@will app builds a personalized sound profile based on the type of worker you are. Through tailored productive tunes for certain profiles and tasks, this app is a great tool to minimize distractions and improve productivity.

Read more:

Say hello to the new normal: Are you ready?

People and businesses of all sizes are embracing the new normal. Despite it being an ambiguous term, one thing is clear: the new normal is the start of a new digital era—one that fundamentally changes the way businesses operate. With the help of the remote working tips and tools above, small businesses should be well equipped to reflect on their business and adapt accordingly in response to this new era.

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