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Understanding Business as Usual (BAU) and How to Transition

Keeping a routine work environment is a key component of maintaining a smooth, efficient workplace. The term business as usual (BAU) serves as a shorthand for this sense of routine and efficiency, with all its implications regarding workplace culture. However, when you need to make changes or implement a new policy, it disrupts business as usual.

Change is to be expected in any business and is a normal part of remaining competitive. As a manager, it’s essential you try to understand and address employee concerns so you can effectively transition to a new business as usual.

Creating a plan to manage the transition to a new BAU process can help maintain morale and reduce turnover in traditional offices and remote teams alike.

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What is business as usual?

Business as usual is an umbrella term that covers all standard, day-to-day business operations, such as:

  • Staff members carrying out their daily tasks, as defined by their job description
  • Outcomes or deliverables resulting from projects that are integrated into the daily operations of the business
  • Tasks deemed crucial to running the daily operations of the business
  • Tasks carried out to fulfill terms of contracts or agreements

Any change in BAU could encounter resistance from your teams. This could happen for many reasons. For example, people may not understand the changes. Alternatively, they might disagree with them and simply need time to adjust.

This is often exacerbated by differences in perspective. The big-picture view of a leader can make it clear why the change is necessary, and the close-up perspective of employees can give them insight into the challenges they might face when implementing the changes.

Transitioning to a new business as usual requires an open dialogue between leaders and employees to communicate the necessity of these changes, improve upon existing systems and keep employees motivated.

Related: How to Make Distributed Team Meetings Engaging and Actionable

Examples of common changes to business as usual

Any change to normal working practices could be considered a change to BAU. Some examples of changes an organization might need to implement include:

  • Changing employee shift patterns to reflect new opening hours.
  • Changes to employee responsibilities. For example, a helpdesk team that typically handles phone calls might expect employees to also answer live chat tickets.
  • New workflows or procedures, such as adding a QA step in the middle of an existing manufacturing process.

Each of the above examples may be met with resistance for various reasons.

  • Employees may have sought a position because of a specific shift pattern that fits around their personal routines and family responsibilities.
  • Some help desk staff may feel confident handling phone calls but less confident in a position that requires them to be a fast typist.
  • Experienced members of the manufacturing team may have valid concerns that the QA step may interfere with the production workflow in ways the leadership has not foreseen.

Considering these concerns and addressing them clearly and calmly is key to getting team members on board with the new business as usual.

How to get your team to embrace a new business as usual

Even changes that are unlikely to cause problems may be met with resistance. While you should listen to employee input and weigh its merit, it may be useful to employ the following techniques to help bring employees on board with a new BAU.

  1. Ensure each member of your team understands their role and responsibilities. Every person involved in the organization should understand how they fit into the bigger picture and why these changes are necessary. You can foster this sense of perspective through strong, open communication from management to employees.
  2. Communication is the heart of any organization. From a big-picture perspective, management should arrange meetings from the team level upward to ensure everyone can begin moving forward together. However, meetings and communication from the top down aren’t enough to ensure effective communication. Maintaining a healthy back-and-forth between different departments will help your business refine the new processes and methods it’s implementing.
  3. Consider nominating experienced members from departments that may be affected by changes to BAU to act as advocates for the new processes. These employees can offer feedback from the perspective of front-line staff and be trained in the new processes early on. They can then use this knowledge to help others in their department adapt to the changes.
  4. Regularly request the input of any department that’s going to be impacted by a proposed change, and ensure they’re capable of executing your goals. For instance, imagine one change to BAU is that every employee is issued a laptop they can take home for work. While this may sound innocuous, it presents an added workload to the IT department. Ensure your IT department is prepared to manage this expanded technical network before moving forward.
  5. Start the communication process early to allow key stakeholders to feel involved with any changes. Soliciting feedback from people who are involved with the current BAU and getting a good understanding of their current workflows is important. The information they provide will help you avoid potential objections early in the process.

The difference between BAU and project work

BAU and project work represent separate facets of business operations, with some key differences:

Project work:

  • Unique in plans, specifications and deadlines
  • Introduces a new or changed product, such as a company-wide rollout of new technology
  • Produces the product in a finite, set time period, such as a company setting a deadline for a company-wide rollout of new technology
  • Delivers specific output once and is then complete, such as a one-off large-scale tech installation project that doesn’t become part of BAU

Business as usual:

  • Seeks to maintain the same action steps day-to-day, such as daily routines and processes
  • Repeatedly produces products or deliverables as part of everyday operations, such as a factory that produces only one type of product
  • Aims to continue to improve the output produced by normal business operations
  • Delivers the same general output every day

When a project concludes, its deliverables are generally integrated into business as usual. From there, the cycle may start over again with a new project.

FAQs about business as usual

The answers to these frequently asked questions about business as usual can help you understand more about BAU and the impact of changing it.

What does BAU stand for?

BAU is an acronym that stands for Business As Usual. The term refers to the usual operations of a business.

What is the definition of BAU?

Business as usual refers to any situation where the operation of a business is proceeding as normal. The term is quite broad and covers everything from processes to opening hours. Changes to BAU may be planned or may occur due to external issues such as bad weather or supply chain issues.

What are some business as usual examples (BAU examples)?

Some examples of BAU include:

  • Shift patterns and opening hours
  • The processes employees are expected to follow
  • The equipment used during day-to-day work
  • How bonuses are calculated and awarded
  • Job descriptions and employee responsibilities

Why do some employees need time to accept a new BAU?

There are several reasons why employees might hesitate to accept organizational change, including:

  • They need time to process the new normal and how it will affect them and their daily routines.
  • They don’t agree with some specific details of the change.
  • They don’t understand the change or the reason for it.

Leadership can’t ignore these problems. In some cases, employee objections may be valid and managers could benefit from listening to the objections and making changes to the new process. In other cases, the changes do need to be applied, and managers can help employees accept the changes by addressing their employees’ concerns calmly and compassionately.

How can management help employees accept new BAUs?

Managers can help employees accept a new BAU by giving them plenty of time to get used to the idea of a change before implementing it. For example, a workplace might be planning to implement a company-wide technology overhaul which will affect how each employee conducts their daily business.

To make the change as seamless as possible, communicate with employees as far ahead as possible before the implementation. Offer training in the use of the new technology. Aim to give employees around two months to get used to the new systems and mentally prepare for the changes.

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