By David McGeough, Director of International Marketing, Wrike

While it’s still too early to predict exactly how the current global downturn will differ from that of previous recessions, there is no question that the impact will be equally as substantial. The closure of all non-essential businesses has led to substantial declines across multiple industries, resulting in a major collapse of the UK economy.

One thing this has forced us all – on a global scale – to consider, is the way that our businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. Whether it is re-evaluating existing products and services, changing customer communications, or getting creative with reduced budgets, organisations no longer have the option to do things as they always have.

Championing change from the top

In times of uncertainty and disaster, employees will immediately turn to the senior personnel for reassurance, encouragement and guidance. That’s not to say that the CEO or exec team has to have all of the answers, but that every leader within the company understands the vital role that they play in adapting the strategic direction of the business.

First and foremost, CEOs will need to get creative. While usually involved in longer-term goal-setting and calculated planning, they will be required to step out of their comfort zone and focus on different ways to transform and save their business.

This includes thinking innovatively about how to maintain and promote similar ways of working that employees are accustomed to. Certain teams may be used to working very closely together on specific projects, for example. With staff now having to work remotely, it’s down to the CEO and leadership team to implement ways of working that mean employees still have access to similar levels of interaction and collaboration. Not only will this help keep business running as seamlessly as possible, it also ensures that employees still feel as though they are able to do their jobs as they would in the office.

The remote workforce repositioning

Despite remote working not being a completely new concept for most organisations, entire workforces are now logging on from home. While this mass-adoption may have posed a few initial challenges for both businesses and employees, it’s extremely likely that the current work from home ‘experiment’ will cause a permanent shift to remote working, even after normality returns.

In a recent survey from Gartner, nearly three in four (74%) CFOs and finance leaders said they will shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanent remote positions once the pandemic ends. As offices begin to reopen in the weeks and months to come, we will find that some companies will continue to adapt their working structures, potentially even deciding to incorporate new remote working requirements into staff contracts.

Regardless of the way in which businesses may choose to adapt their working practices longer-term, it’s critical that they have the right tools in place to be able to support and enable employees that are working remotely now. When selecting and implementing these technologies, companies should prioritise solutions that enable staff to interact efficiently – regardless of where they are based – as well as maximise productivity and collaboration.

By investing in these technologies today, organisations are also setting themselves up for success in the future, rolling out scalable solutions that can grow as they do.

Impact on tech investment

Profitability in times of crises brings finance front and centre, especially as key performance indicators (KPIs) fluctuate and strategic priorities change. As a result, enterprises have started to focus on performance as a matter of urgency. Leadership teams need to fully understand exactly how budgets are being spent, and the specific return on investment (ROI) that is being generated from each outgoing.

One area of the business that will no doubt come under scrutiny when attempting to cut costs will be technology spend. This is down to the majority of CIOs and IT teams likely having spent more than originally planned this year, in order to support the increase in people working from home. Longer-term, however, spend on modern and innovative technologies will stop.

Mostly part of broader digital transformation strategies, a lot of this budget will be seen as a nice to have, not essential. We can expect these initiatives, and the planned headcount associated with them, to be delayed or cancelled altogether. While necessary to help organisations quickly bounce back, this will no doubt have repercussions for the planned innovations that were set to go ahead.

Halt on new hires

Unfortunately, it won’t just be investment in technology that is impacted by the current crisis, with new hires also either slowing down or coming to a complete halt. In some cases, organisations have already had to make staff redundancies and there may well be more to come as the situation continues to unfold.

However, there are some positives that can come from this, as we are faced with a unique opportunity to up-skill and re-train. Many individuals in event-based roles, for example, will have seen a complete shift to webinars and digitally-held conferences. These require completely different skills and will result in new experience gained.

We’ll also see skills such as digital media and demand gen explode as organisations switch up their strategies and deploy new tactics. Once the economy picks back up and companies begin hiring again, we may well see some skills gaps in certain areas. What is certain though, is that those with a willingness to explore new things will come out the strongest.

With so much uncertainty still lurking, it’s difficult to say what the business landscape will look like in the months and years to come, due to the impact of coronavirus. What we do know, however, is that large economies around the world are being affected by the epidemic, therefore it’s likely that this recession could be the worst we will witness in our lifetime. Businesses should prepare for the worst and hope for the best, putting plans in place for the future that can help them, and the economy, get back on track.