The world has changed - there's no doubt about it. We may not have become accustomed to it, but "social distancing" has become the phrase of 2020 along with "self-isolation" and "stay at home". We all have a yearning of times gone-by, simpler times, AKA December 2019.
Recently, we've heard a lot of talk about 'getting back to normal'. But can that really happen and do we even want that to happen? Of course people want to get back to spend time with family and friends and be able to go out whenever we want wherever we want. I'm not talking about the personal normal, I'm talking business normal.
The Covid-19 crisis has challenged business beyond breaking-point. Its challenged us in ways we never dreamed of and forced us to operate, innovate and overcome. Some of these actions may serve us well in less turbulent times. Here are 3 areas I think will change for the better.
Video Conferencing - like you, I've attending thousands of telephone conferences using tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom and a minuscule percentage of those ever used the video camera. I don't know why, but that 'share camera' button never held any attraction to me or anyone else it seemed. Not anymore. Any potential embarrassment about the state of my hair, lack of clean-shaved bonce or the fact I didn't press my shirt are long-gone. Video conferencing brings you together with your colleagues in a way that audio-only could never do and we've not only adapted, we've embraced it. Long may it continue.
Working from home - it wasn't that long ago that for many managers "working from home" was some sort of colloquialism for "not doing any work". Despite hundreds of well researched studies on the benefits to individuals and companies from allowing staff to work from home, many still regarded it as a perk and not serious work-mode. Don't get me wrong, many enlightened companies previously embraced this work method, but it wasn't the case for many. Once things do start returning to 'normal' I predict that many companies will start reviewing plans for their big office buildings and campuses and start weighing the benefit of having, at least a proportion, of their workforce never returning to the office at all and staying at home.
Shared Office Space - following on from the Working from home movement, there is a natural knock-on effect on the large commercial properties and existing complexes is inevitable. But, I think there is another type of office that will benefit hugely - local, shared work-spaces. At first glance this may seem contradictory to working from home but shared work-spaces offer the best of both worlds for employers and employees. Having space that can be leased by the desk rather than by the square-foot with flexible meeting spaces and conference areas gives companies an enviable benefit to the balance sheet. For individuals, having an office space can offer a quiet work area and a level of colleague interaction that is controlled and flexible
So will our work-worlds ever fully return to 'normal'? No, I don't think they will, and we will all be better off for it.