If you have grown to loathe the term “new normal” over the last two years… you are not alone. It tops the list as the most hated buzzword in the US! But we hear it over and over again (much to the annoyance of virtually everyone) as we return to business as sort-of-usual in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. While the world of work is normalizing in many ways, business will never be the same.
Seismic Shifts in the World of Work
COVID threw everything into disarray; suddenly, we were masked, “self-isolating,” “sheltering in place,” categorized as “essential” or “nonessential” (more abhorred buzzwords to come out of the experience!). We were quickly over Zoom and gaining a whole new level of respect for our children’s teachers.
At the same time, the home industry was also dealing with soaring demand, pandemic-related supply chain logjams, extended delays, and shortages of key materials and supplies – not to mention workers. After operating in “crisis mode” for so long, this became… Yes, the new normal.
We may be rid of the masks (for now), but many of the changes created, or accelerated, by the pandemic are not as transient. They have fundamentally impacted how we work.
3 Key Ways Business Will Never Be the Same
Because we didn’t have enough acronyms before! WFH – Work from Home – is here to stay, at least for many folks. According to Pew Research, 59% of those who can do their jobs remotely are working at home all or most of the time, up from 23% pre-COVID. The majority of these people do so by choice, rather than necessity.
As home industry professionals, more of our clients are likely to be part of the WTH force. Demand for improvements, upgrades, additions, renovations, and remodeling will stay strong over the next few years as they seek to create the most comfortable, convenient home/work environment. While demand will ebb and flow as is the nature of the beast, the preference to work from home will remain for millions of US employees.
Are you among the WFH crowd? Many of us in the industry do so at least part of the time and often opt for a hybrid WFH/office mix. This leads us to another significant way business has changed: technology.
Accelerated Use of Technology
While many in the home design and construction world had started to introduce technology and virtual tools to their arsenals and offerings, the pandemic certainly accelerated the rate at which they were integrated.
Adi Tatarko, co-founder and CEO of Houzz, says that the pandemic was a driving force in pushing the industry to fully embrace technology. “[COVID] completely changed how people wanted things now. Immediately, despite the shortage in supplies. I think the adoption of all these tools and technology became even more critical for both homeowners and professionals.”
Tatarko adds, “Now, we’re seeing high adoption of [tech tools] because homeowners are demanding it that way. ‘If you come to my house, I want to get that proposal with 3D images now, with a full guarantee of what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to work together.”
We have seen peers and clients embrace technology as a means to increase efficiency, convenience, communication, safety, and comfort. For example, ACo, which specializes in cabinets, flooring, and kitchen and bathroom remodeling, offers virtual tools that empower clients to achieve the results they want. Their virtual design process features apps that allow homeowners to take accurate measurements themselves, share ideas, create mood boards, try different flooring options with the flooring visualizer, experience their design with VR, and more – all in the comfort of their own spaces.
G&G Custom Homes, a premier Indiana home builder, also offers an immersive virtual customer experience. Using BuilderTREND, a web-based service, homeowners can track their selections and spending, access their project schedule, review budget information and documents, view images, approve change orders, and contact the G&G team directly anytime – from anywhere.
Technology does not replace the craftsmanship, the workmanship, the quality, the care and meticulous attention to detail that home industry professionals pour into each project – rather, it supports it and helps us deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Business as Unusual: Flexibility and Innovation
Perhaps the most fundamental shift in the work world is just that: our ability to shift. According to AFFLINK, a network of hundreds of distributors across North America, “We are no longer in the ‘new normal.’ We are in the ‘Great Pivot.’” As one AFFLINK member put it, “Without realizing it, we have become much more resilient.”
So have clients. When faced with months’ long waits for doors, windows, sofas, appliances… and just about everything else, for example, home industry professionals have responded by managing expectations, keeping them fully informed, and maintaining open lines of communication – online and in-person. We take steps, such as ordering supplies earlier than they would typically and storing them securely until needed or urging clients to have a plan B in case plan A is unavailable.
We cannot control the supply chain, but we can give clients a realistic idea of what to expect. Their timeline may not be optimal at this point – but it should be as accurate as possible. When informed, they understand. They really do.
We have also come to realize that anything can happen and that we need to remain flexible to respond. So far, home industry professionals have done a stellar job not only managing a world in flux but in continuing to meet (and exceed) client expectations in the face of heady challenges.
No, business will never be the same… But we’re not the same either. With greater resilience, agility, empathy, and innovation, we have the opportunity to define our “new normal” and leverage the opportunities for growth.
Let’s do it together. Learn how joining a community of like-minded home industry professionals can help you meet today’s challenges – and prepare for tomorrow’s successes at Home Artisans of Indiana.