Sustainable Businesses: Future-Proofing Your Business - Business Media MAGS

The New Normal

Sustainable Businesses: Future-Proofing Your Business

The pandemic has shown that companies should be more resilient. But how, asks James Francis.

The past 18 months have forced companies to rediscover their focus as they worked to survive and recover. Concepts such as resiliency leapt to the fore, begging the question: how can a company future-proof itself?

The short answer: Don’t consider it a destination but as a continual culture, says Paul Barker, senior manager and OKR coach at Step Advisory.

“The concept of future-proof is an illusion. You can say you are future-proofing, but in a year’s time, are you still future-proof? Are you ready for what the future holds, because what you predicted a year ago now looks totally different? You’re never going to reach that point. It’s a mirage. Your strategy needs to be emergent and evolving continuously. Strategy is important and needs to be considered. But if that strategy doesn’t evolve, it’s going to be nullified within a matter of months.”

Indeed, there is a more appropriate phrase for future-proofing, says Thinkroom Consulting’s founder, Catherine Young, “We’ve been working with future-proofing all along, but we call it a growth mindset. It’s that, ‘I can change if I need to’ attitude. Those who have an agile, flexible, and continuously learning mindset future-proof their businesses for the ups and downs.”

Until recently, future-proofing was associated closely with adopting digital technology. But those days are gone. Barker points out that practically everyone had to leap forward into digital, morphing it from differentiator into the new baseline. “Suddenly, within a matter of weeks, everyone was online. That technology shift has fast forwarded. What some predicted would happen over the next 10 years happened in six months. Companies have been forced into adopting technology and digital tools.”

All things digital now being equal, future-proofing relies heavily on the execution of strategy. Step Advisory is a big proponent of OKR (Objectives and Key Results), a collaborative, goal-setting approach to strategy. Strategy, Barker explains, “is much more of a direction. You know where you want to go, and you set up a direction and move towards it. And you need to have pit stops on the way to see if you’re moving in the right direction. That’s where the implementation of healthy business habits is key – ensuring that you pause, refocus and reflect at regular intervals.”

A company’s culture and leadership makeup is as important, notes Young: “Future-proofing is really based on the founding team – the first 10 people that they’ve employed around them. That sets the culture of any business. And if those guys have an agile growth mindset, they’re almost future-proofed for whatever disaster comes, or exponential growth.”

Office of the future

What does striking a balance between working from home and returning to the workplace look like?

Kirsty Schoombie, Paragon Interface senior associate, says that striking a balance between the at-home office and a physical workplace is likely to create the “hybrid office” –  the compromise between remote working and being office-bound. This “new normal” provides the opportunity to reimagine the office of the future. “With social distancing, sanitising and mask-wearing likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s important for workspace planning to take this into account,” says Schoombie.

This, she says, can easily be done by reducing the number of work stations and placing them further apart, while also increasing the number of couches for social seating, for example.

Added to that, Schoombie says we’ll also see:

  • Wider corridors and doorways and additional partitioning
  • Office furniture is likely to evolve in terms of fabrics and advances such as foldaway desks. Also, no-touch doors
  • Increased use of stairs to reduce crowding in elevators
  • The use of materials such as silver and copper in surface finishes due to their antimicrobial properties.
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