Reflections While #StayingHome: Adjusting To The New Normal Whether it is adapting services and products to deal with a situation, or strategic thinking for current and future challenges, it is important to learn lessons and take positive actions from the adversities that we are presently experiencing.

By Laila Clarke

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Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been confined to our homes, unable to leave except for essential reasons, and witnessing a vibrant and energetic city fall still and silent, in a mission to save lives from an invisible virus. If someone had told me this a year ago, I would have thought they were pitching a movie plot.

Many businesses in Dubai and the UAE are used to seasonal changes in their revenue and overcoming unexpected challenges, but the scale and speed of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis have left most in a spin. Some are trying to work out how to adapt their existing models to the new environment, while others are objectively reviewing the opportunities that these changes might bring.

As a face-to-face business, we have had to work hard (and quickly) to adapt our working practices and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is an instant response to an emergency. What is far more exciting is the opportunity to calmly and quietly revisit corporate objectives, and reappraise our ability to respond to an enforced change that may be a legacy for some years to come. Here are some of the ways we have gone about changing how we work as an enterprise:

1. Remote working Our normal way of working has undergone massive change. We are focusing on making sure our team is able to work remotely, and that they the equipment and means to do so. Maintaining team communication and morale is vital, so daily team video calls are being used to manage workflow and sustain face-to-face interaction. Although challenging, it has enabled us to all come together on a daily basis to discuss ideas and projects, which is something we often don't have the opportunity to do when team members are booked on shoots across the UAE.

2. Collaboration We are operating with a collaborative mindset. Now is the time to have conversations with colleagues, clients, suppliers, and even competitors to see what can be done together. While budgets have been cut and all businesses, from global corporate firms to small startups, are reluctant to spend any money, this is a time that new, innovative ideas can be worked on, and relationships built for the future. We are talking to as many people as possible to gain insight into challenges that are being faced, and how they are being dealt with through adaptation or changes in focus. By simply having these conversations, we are finding opportunities and possible solutions are presenting themselves in a way that we may not have considered before.

3. Flexibility Businesses need to look at available in-house resources and identify skillsets that can be used to help clients and businesses. We have adapted from reliance upon our core services like photography and videography to identify other compatible services we can offer while still working remotely. Projects and briefs in areas we may not have focused on previously are now seen as opportunities, and they are becoming an essential lifeline for the business. For instance, our photographers and videographers all have great post-production and editing skills, which can be utilized from remote locations. While we are unable to shoot bespoke content, we can produce alternative solutions using stock footage or animation to create engaging content. We are also encouraging and supporting our team to learn a new skill or improve an existing skill, primarily for their personal development, but it might well also benefit the business. With so many online courses available, it is an ideal opportunity to work on a passion project.

Related: Reflections While #StayingHome: Great VC Stories Have Been Born Out Of Chaos

4. Planning for the long term While the majority of our focus is on immediate actions, it is easy to lose sight of what will be needed in the future when we return to "normal." It is important to consider what the new normal might look like, and how that will affect our business. It is going to take time for individuals, businesses, and the world to recover physically, mentally, and financially. In order to thrive, what we offer our clients may have to change, and this is something that we are spending time exploring. Now is a time to address such as the basics that were so important when setting up the business, but that focus is so easily lost when running the day to day activities of that business. What the current situation has shown us already is that the world is accelerating faster than before into a more online space. With the lack of face-to-face human contact, we are relying on video calling to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe. On average, there has been a 20% increase in the use of social media apps over the past three months across the globe. As a business that produces digital content, this is something that we cannot ignore, and currently, we are adjusting our strategies to reflect this change in behavior.

One thing is clear during this challenging time: evolution is key. The COVID-19 situation has proved that businesses need to be prepared for extreme global events that may arise in the future. Whether it is adapting services and products to deal with a situation, or strategic thinking for current and future challenges, it is important to learn lessons and take positive actions from the adversities that we are presently experiencing. Once the world returns to "normal" and we resume our busy lives, it will be easy to forget what we have learnt during this period. But positivity can be taken from this experience, and it is that it has allowed us the time (which we often complain we don't have) to re-assess, reflect, and plan for the future.

Related: Reflections While #StayingHome: Takeaways From An Enterprise Shifting Gears For A Post COVID-19 World

Laila Clarke

General Manager, The Studio Dubai

Laila Clarke is General Manager of The Studio Dubai, which provides photography and videography services to high profile events, corporate, and family clients.  Prior to moving to Dubai in 2015, Laila was based in London. She started her career working in the wardrobe department on feature films before moving into the event industry.

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