A Founders Network panel shares practical tips on reopening your workplace after COVID-19 lockdown, managing and securing the right talent, and preparing your startup for a post-pandemic revival.
Pandemics may not last forever, but they present a critical opportunity to plan for the long-term health of your startup.
Businesses of all sizes are adjusting to a new reality of remote work, different financial realities, and other effects of COVID-19. And startups in particular must prepare for a host of secondary impacts to their teams, workplaces, and overall outlook — and be ready to seize opportunities presented by the crisis, as well.
Managing a remote workforce has its own host of challenges, from adjusting to video calls in lieu of meetings to shoring up the technical side of remote operations. Many startups may also need to reduce headcount during this period, given the necessity of extending cash runways in an uncertain environment for fundraising. But the COVID-19 environment also gives rise to opportunities, namely to invest in key talent that may be harder to nail down under normal circumstances.“If you're not too badly affected, then you might be able to hire that new CTO who you previously would have struggled to secure.” - @NotionVC Click To Tweet
“If you’re not too badly affected — maybe because you’re well-funded or you’re not relying on a revenue stream just yet — then you might be able to hire that new CTO who you previously would have struggled to secure, because they’re now available,” she says.
In the full panel, Cross speaks to a range of other potential issues founders need to be aware of in bringing people back to the office. Those include how to overcome challenges presented by a confined environment; options for supporting employees’ wellbeing, including annual leave and other options for easing a return to work; and communicating to staff the steps you’re taking to ensure a safe return to on-site work.
Michelle Lamb, partner at Dentons who advises companies on employment law issues, adds a range of tips on how to transition staff back into the office, and what practical tools to have at your disposal that help startups adapt to changing business needs — whether they be safely reopening an office or planning for a strategic restructuring triggered by the health crisis.“If there are longer-term changes needed, you need to think about what options are in your toolkit if you need to make a change. Startup founders should get ahead of these issues now.” - @Dentons Click To Tweet
“If there are longer-term changes needed, you need to think about what options are in your toolkit if you need to make a change,” says Lamb. “If you need to reduce people costs, and if you’re not experienced in doing these things every day, how is that going to pan out? Startup founders should get ahead of these issues now.”
Founders are finding that COVID-19 opens up a can of worms across many areas of business. However, employee and workplace challenges are manageable if you’re equipped with the right tools and resources. Seeking advice through peer networks is also instrumental in navigating the post-COVID landscape, with founders often sharing resources on how to manage returning talent and to safely reopen for business.
Most importantly, founders and top-level executives need to be actively engaged at every level in these decisions.
The COVID-19 crisis itself may be temporary, but for many startups — even those whose revenue streams are not necessarily impacted by the pandemic — it will necessitate some longer-term strategic changes that founders need to put into motion now.
In the current environment, don’t delegate office and workforce management issues to lower-tier staff, adds Joseph Altendorff, partner in the corporate practice at Dentons who advises high-growth startups in all sectors.“These issues aren't for middle management; they're for top level management. This is a potential total restructuring of your business culture, and how it will identify as a business going forward.” - @Dentons Click To Tweet
“These issues aren’t for middle management; they’re for top level management,” he says. “This is a potential total restructuring of your business culture, and how it will identify as a business going forward. If you’re a founder or a top level management manager and you delegate this down to a middle ranker, you’re going to end up with a middle ranking solution at the top of the agenda line for how your business is going to be managed going forward.”
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