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It’s been months and months of uncertainty and upheaval. Across the nation, businesses are trying to get back on track even though the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak is not yet over.

What’s the new normal going to look like? Here are a few ways that the global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way U.S. companies do business:

Being prepared for the unexpected has taken center stage. In good times, it’s easy to let the process of identifying and effectively managing potential risks slide. And we had good times as a nation until early last year! The U.S. was experiencing the longest economic good times on record — starting in 2009 — until it was abruptly stopped short by COVID-19. The outbreak has once again put the spotlight on being prepared for the unexpected and making organizations more resilient. As companies get back on track, they will undoubtedly be beefing up contingency plans, developing risk management and asset protection programs, re-evaluating insurance coverages, studying alternative ways of doing business, diversifying supply chains, and making plans for a host of unexpected events.

Telecommuting has taken hold. The percentage of people working remotely increased dramatically with the advent of social distancing. There’s traditionally been a lot of skepticism among business leaders about telecommuting and many have been reluctant to invest in initiatives that support remote work. But during the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies found that remote work was a success — employees not only are happier working at home at least part of the time (as countless studies have shown), they are as productive, or even more productive. Remote work is something research has supported, but experiencing it firsthand makes all the difference.

Companies will make innovation a priority. There are so many examples over the past year of companies trying innovative new strategies to stay afloat — and succeeding. There are the local distilleries that shifted to making hand sanitizer, the fitness studios that developed online classes, the grocery stores that expanded into grocery and hot meal pickup/delivery, and scores of other businesses that found new revenue streams and customers by getting creative. Companies had to learn — or revisit — how to be adaptable, nimble, and innovative. And many succeeded in ways they never would have imagined. Those that have had success with innovation in recent months are likely to continue to focus on innovation long after the COVID-19 threat is over.

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