It’s no secret that COVID-19 changed the world in widespread and profound ways, impacting every sector of society. Latino small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) were no exception, especially given that Latino-owned businesses account for 34% of growth over the last 10 years compared to just 1% for all other small businesses*. Within a period of two weeks, the world changed from a 9:00 – 5:00 office culture, to one in which everyone built home offices to indefinitely work remotely. Businesses were now facing challenges amidst unprecedented disruption, loss of customers, cash flow issues and rapid shift to remote work. In this environment, flexibility and resilience proved critical assets. The path to prosperity begins with technological adoption, including a pivot to hybrid work, mastering new tools and skills, and an increased focus on security. As economic recovery begins, SMBs will be the driving force of economic prosperity, and growth engines in a new digital marketplace.
According to the Microsoft Annual Work Trend Index, a survey of over 30,000 people in 31 countries, many fundamental shifts took place in the past 12 months. Time spent in meetings more than doubled (2.5X) globally, and 40.6 billion more emails were delivered in February 2021 than the same month in prior year. Despite productivity going up, people have understandably struggled with work/life balance, including when to take much-needed breaks and overall mental health due to lack of variety in one’s daily setting. In a typical workday, 39% of global workers feel exhausted, while 44% of Latino workers report feeling that way, and 58% say their company is asking too much of them at a time like this (vs 37% global avg).
However, with some of these difficulties came unexpected bright spots. Rapid transformation to hybrid work environments, combining the best of remote with in-person dynamism and communication, allowed companies to stay productive while also managing employee wellness. Tools that escalated these trends include video calling, cloud computing, AI, and more.
This was evident in the case of Core Fitness Miami, a Miami, Florida-based business, which adopted a hybrid work model in 2020 once faced with the challenge of maintaining business continuity and productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s willingness to try new things and experiment led them to work closely with Microsoft and adopt new hybrid solutions that fostered greater teamwork as well as the growth of their business. The use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 help employees stay connected and train clients from afar during the pandemic. The story and the company’s successful journey towards hybrid work appeared on Telemundo’s “Un Nuevo Día.”
In terms of wellness, as people navigated unprecedented stress, balancing childcare, and working from living rooms with barking dogs, something else changed; work became more human. Nearly 40% of respondents said they feel more comfortable bringing their full selves to work than before the pandemic, and one in six became more vulnerable by crying with a colleague. For the Latino community, 57% of workers want more in-person time with their team post-pandemic and 63% of business leaders are more likely to be planning to redesign office space for hybrid work
So, what should Latino SMBs do to address these disparate trends and set themselves up for success in the near future? Here are two critical areas to get right:
- Hybrid Work– too often companies debate binary options, such as fully remote work or fully return to 9:00-5:00 office environments. The best path is often somewhere in between, mixing elements that elicit high productivity but also foster a happy culture. Successful leaders will need to methodically develop action plans that empower their employees for hybrid environments, bridging the physical and digital worlds.
- Rebuild Social Capital– culture is not a “nice-to-have,” but rather a business imperative and employee wellness is a fundamental way to boost morale and even productivity. Bumping into people at the office, grabbing lunch or gathering at the proverbial water cooler is incredibly important to building meaningful connections. When you lose this completely, you risk impacting innovation. People who have experienced stronger work relationships have also reported more positive perceptions of workplace culture. Companies like Microsoft have made strides addressing these issues through technology like Microsoft Viva, an employee experience platform that empowers people and teams to be their best, bringing together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights into the flow of work. With Viva, Latino SMBs can foster a culture where teams are empowered to be their best from anywhere, anytime. Leaders of the future will compete for the best and most diverse talent (including diversity of ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, age and more) and should put a premium on social wellness programs that can assist each group uniquely.
Prior to the pandemic, many business leaders were mired in antiquated ways of doing business and comfortable with the status quo. The consequences of the pandemic have been unimaginable, but one bright spot has emerged: all SMBs received a much-needed wake-up call to evolve for the new digital economy. The reality is that we’re no longer bound by traditional notions of space and time and should discard the notion that people need to work in the same place at the same time to be productive. Successful leaders of tomorrow should emphasize hybrid strategies, social capital, and employee wellness. If we can be experimental and empathetic, the future of work is bright in more ways than one.
*Source: 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report released by Stanford University https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/publications/state-latino-entrepreneurship-2020