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Michele Romanow on Thriving in a Post-Pandemic Workplace

Michele Romanow smiling outdoors
Michele Romanow smiling outdoors

Entrepreneur Michele Romanow shares her expertise on the future of work, how to adapt to the new normal, and the changes that Canadians can expect to see around their workplaces as our economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you think entrepreneurship will change in a post-COVID-19 world?

E-commerce just accelerated 10 years and today everything is digital. Entrepreneurs need to be online to stay alive. I see a world where consumer behaviour has completely adapted to this new way of life — customers won’t go back to many analog ways. And just like the years after the 2008 recession, more entrepreneurs will emerge and become a part of this digital economy.

Going forward, how can small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) maintain employee morale and foster employee growth?

Two things I’ve always valued are transparency and trust. When you treat people like responsible adults and give them access to the information they need, they can make really good decisions. At Clearbanc we practice “radical candor,” which lets you challenge someone directly by having uncomfortable conversations that ultimately benefit the employee and the company. It mitigates gossip and helps you move quickly as an organization.

As employees revise their skillsets to adapt to the new normal, what have you found particularly eye-opening?

Personally, I’ve had to improve my written communication and figure out how to motivate my team remotely. It’s so much easier to communicate in person — some of our best ideas have stemmed from random collisions in the office that turn into brainstorming sessions. Working remotely has forced everyone to be better at working independently and I think that self-paced styles will benefit teams in the long term.

How can businesses maintain synergy and communication between teams that are working remotely?

So many companies are making the decision to be completely remote or to offer their employees a hybrid model. At Clearbanc we have three weekly all-hands meetings — not only to keep everyone up to speed, but also to get a feel of how our team is doing. I think encouraging a mix of Zoom calls and phone calls is important to combat Zoom fatigue. I take phone calls while I’m on my Peloton or walking around the block. You have to change it up! I see working from home as an opportunity to learn more about the people I work with. I’ve been able to meet people’s kids and pets, and to see their homes. It’s a chance to quickly get to know colleagues.

What forms of technology do you think are going to be the most important for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) going into the future?

Everyone’s talking about e-commerce, but it’s really about digital commerce now. Everything’s online and businesses need to both minimize physical contact and optimize online interactions to replace the in-person experience. Software is a huge game-changer in all this. As we continue to shift toward a digital economy, software will be automating these tasks and helping SMEs achieve maximum productivity.

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