It’s a testament to what humanity can achieve when we work together that vaccines for COVID-19 are already being administered. While it’s a cause for celebration, it’s important to remember that it will be a long time before we reach worldwide herd immunity (if ever). As procurement professionals, we know that the success of these vaccines will depend upon a massive undertaking of procurement, logistics and distribution.
As 2021 progresses, we’re likely to see more countries join the ‘Zero COVID’ club and the COVID bubble expand across the globe. But there’s no point kidding ourselves – the pre-COVID world is gone forever, especially when it comes to the workplace.
The new work environment
Many businesses are not coming back, and some industries aren’t either. But in their place, new enterprises will rise. For procurement, the post-COVID world – while challenging – is full of opportunities.
You can’t put the work-from-home genie back in the bottle, which in itself presents a massive opportunity. Office space was often lumped in the ‘too hard’ category when it came to savings, with associated costs such as energy use making it hard to address. But COVID has shown that working from home is not the pipedream we once thought, but an achievable reality. Many workers prefer it to the office as they found their mental health improved along with their efficiency and overall quality of life.
However, for every introvert who enjoys the privacy, there’s an extrovert who hates the isolation. Others, too, found their homes poorly set up for work. As such, many workers will be desperate to get back to the office, and there will even be some introverts who crave a mix of home and office days.
The bottom line is that the modern workplace exists in no singular spot. Our teams will be spread out more than ever. As procurement professionals, this new existence will be a challenge for us. We need to facilitate the digital transformation of organisations so that we can support the changing demands of working from home. We also need to re-negotiate real estate space to take advantage of falling demand, while creating an office environment that fosters a positive culture for those working onsite.
Keeping it close when we’re apart
While working from home alleviates some problems, it also creates headaches. So much of office culture revolves around networking, so how do you foster deep relationships when you are working remotely?
McKinsey found that during COVID, remote working made procurement processes less effective. Team meetings, supplier site visits, negotiations and other face-to-face interactions that make up a procurement professional’s job either went virtual or went away. Now that negotiations are largely virtual, many of us are discovering that we didn’t know what we had until it was gone. We took for granted the advantage face-to-face discussions bring. Learning to negotiate over Zoom has challenges that many of us are still wrapping our heads around. Now is the time to brush up on the basics and ensure that you are effectively reaching agreements of mutual interest.
COVID-19 has changed the world, in many ways irrevocably. Its impact will only be accurately detailed by future historians. But we don’t need to wait to know it has changed the procurement workplace for good, and no vaccine is going to take things back to the way they were. Nor would we want it to.