The last 16 months have brought change to our personal lives, our work lives, and our businesses. But, through the challenges, we found solutions to continue moving forward. Across businesses, industries, and lifestyles, these solutions became the new normal. As those of us in the fresh produce industry look ahead to the future, I can’t help but think of the next normal. I’ll be expanding on the “next normal” in the second part of our post-pandemic breakdown, but first, let’s check in and see how employers pivoted during the pandemic.
Companies had to act quickly in March of 2020 to keep businesses going while much of the workforce stayed home.
Of course, the produce industry saw unique challenges, yet we had to keep moving. People need healthy food to survive—there was no time to stop and recreate. We had to plow through, pivoting as needed and wherever possible to get the job done.
Employer Pivots We’ve Seen:
• Companies who traditionally resist make it work
• Some employees are anxious to go back to the office
• Many employees want to remain remote
- Surveys suggest 60–70 percent of employees want to work remotely post-pandemic
- In produce, we see this particularly in sales, but also in other more traditionally based disciplines
Flexibility and Balance
• Accommodating kids’ schedules and distance learning needs at home
• Hybrid schedules: Less time in office, but still getting that face-to-face interaction with managers and colleagues
• Less travel: Some customers are not accepting visitors, suppliers are staying home; business travel came to a screeching halt
Technology and Investments
• Video calling: Huge meetings are getting done this way; employees are meeting and more people are requesting video calls instead of conference calls
• Software/applications: Adding programs such as Zoom to make personal cell phones work for business
• Trade shows: As pandemic mandates went into effect, in-person trade shows stopped altogether. Almost overnight, the industry rallied and created virtual platforms, ensuring that product showcases, industry panels, and meetings between buy and supply were still at the heart of the industry—even if we couldn’t be there to shake hands
• Wellness: Companies sponsored online wellness programs such as the Calm app, online fitness subscriptions, and online medical and mental healthcare
• Creative interviewing: Online, in-person at a distance, masks, plexiglass, and even meeting up in parking lots and talking car-to-car
• Onboarding and training virtually: We have seen many successful hires this year, and in many cases these new hires have not yet been in the same room as their colleagues
• Reevaluating relocation: Essentially, it’s expensive out there. Prices are way up for moving, real estate, etc. Both candidates and employers are less enthusiastic about relocation right now, especially when considering moves to higher cost of living areas such as California and New York
As businesses pivoted the way they conducted themselves during the pandemic, many are now considering whether or not to keep those changes in place. Positives can always be found during challenging times—we realized how strong we are as an industry. I mean, we can tackle just about anything! Not everyone lives through a global pandemic and finds out ways to be more successful at what they do. A new kind of collaboration and teamwork blossomed during the pandemic, one that has made nearly all of our businesses stronger than ever.
JOE Produce will be looking ahead to what we’re facing post-pandemic in the next issue of The Snack, so keep your eyes to the horizon.