What is Business as Usual (BAU)?

At a glance

Business As Usual (BAU) is a term used to describe the normal, day-to-day operations of a business, including the execution of actions necessary to keep it running smoothly.

Published on:
June 21, 2024

Understanding Business as Usual

Organizations, especially small businesses, run most efficiently when there are transparent processes in place. Business as usual, or BAU, is a term that refers to these processes, standards, and routines being set in such a way that adherence to them allows a business to run. Managers will expect all strategies and workflows to be carried out as previously communicated, without significant disruptions. This is particularly important for small businesses, as it ensures consistent operations and helps them stay competitive in their market. 

Some examples of day-to-day operations that could be referred to under the umbrella BAU term include:

  • Staff completing tasks outlined in their job descriptions
  • Meetings as needed to move prioritized projects along
  • Outcomes from projects that have become necessary for operations
  • Projects that must be completed as per the terms of a contract

Business-as-usual standards may change over time depending on demand levels, new business directions, staff changes, etc. For instance, a change in business direction may require a shift in the types of products or services offered, or a staff change may necessitate a reorganization of roles and responsibilities. Operating at “not business as usual” implies a departure from the norm due to unexpected events, new projects, or the need for BAU realignment. Strong leadership and clear communication are essential for smooth operations during abnormal times.

Business as usual (BAU) refers to the routine processes, standards, and workflows that ensure smooth operations. Deviations from BAU due to unexpected events or new projects require strong leadership, communication, and adaptability.

Challenges and Considerations

Any time a new standard is implemented, a digital tool introduced, a role added to a team, or anything that could shift day-to-day operations may change what your organization refers to as “business as usual.” This can cause some resistance from employees, as change is often hard to implement. For example, employees may struggle to adapt to new tools or processes, or they may feel overwhelmed by additional responsibilities. It's important to anticipate these challenges and provide the necessary support and training to help employees navigate these changes.

Some common cases where BAU standards need to change include:

  • Shifting employee responsibilities to reflect added business needs or implement new tools
  • Changing employee shifts around to reflect new operating hours
  • Implementing new workflow procedures, such as a final review phase before publishing marketing materials
Adaptable organizations often need to change BAU standards, although it can be challenging to communicate necessary changes to teams and implement them smoothly.

Best Practices for Small Businesses

Clearly defining team roles and responsibilities is crucial. Everyone in an organization should know what tasks are expected of them on a daily basis and how they contribute to the company’s larger goals. There should be an understanding of the scope of work that each team handles and, when someone is out, to whom specific duties fall. Small businesses should especially be mindful of that last part, as when a small team member is out, their absence is strongly felt. This is because every task, no matter how small, contributes to the overall BAU and, ultimately, the achievement of the company's larger goals.

Maintain strong communication within teams and across departments. When changes to BAU need to be made, assign trusted teachers responsible for transitioning teams to the new processes. During deviations from BAU, clear and timely communication is key to maintaining confidence and reassurance among the team. Finally, team members' feedback should be solicited to ensure that the tasks and workflows asked of them in the current BAU are sustainable in the future. Implement changes as necessary, and as always, communicate early and well. 

Small businesses can ensure that BAU workflows remain sustainable by communicating clearly, assigning trusted individuals to manage transitions, and soliciting feedback across departments. 

Main takeaway

Business as usual (BAU) is an umbrella term for the standard routines that keep an organization running smoothly. Adaptability, a key trait that empowers businesses to handle deviations from BAU, is crucial. Strong leadership, and clear communication are also essential when deviations from BAU occur, whether due to unexpected events or new projects. For small businesses, clearly defining roles, maintaining effective communication, and soliciting feedback are essential to effectively managing transitions and sustaining BAU workflows. Implementing these practices can help ensure smooth operations.

About the author

Casey Pontrelli

Casey Pontrelli is a multi-talented professional with a background in content creation, branding, and social media marketing. Whether writing for a newspaper, eCommerce website, B2B startup, or a marketing agency, she has taken her strong background in journalism and turned her focus to SEO and content marketing. She’s written about everything from boutiques to cars to small businesses, and enjoys most when she knows her writing has had an impact. When she’s not writing up a storm or creating attention-grabbing social media posts, Casey enjoys hanging out with her partner and three cats, Eddy, Larry, and Marcus, going on long walks in the Green Belt, and, predictably, reading.

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