What a year 2020 has turned out to be! I don’t think anyone could have predicted quite what was in store when we all wished the New Year in. I had so many different plans and hopes for 2020 which all seem insignificant now compared to what we have had to manage, personally, professionally and most of all, compassionately. Despite the horrific virus, with so many who have lost loved ones or those themselves recovering from the virus, we have all learnt a great deal and witnessed a huge cultural and societal shift almost overnight.
I think of what occurred in early Spring as a ‘jolt’ – a forced break in our busy, regimented lives to reflect and dig deep into ourselves to bring out our resilience, reflecting on the priorities that really matter. Something that we tended to overlook, happy with the status quo of life, not wanting to change the flow or take risks of being bold. There have been some great examples of resilience and pragmatism in the world in business, witnessing change projects that would usually take months, if not years to complete turned around in a matter of weeks. Moving whole workforce’s from ‘pigeon holed’ call centres to the kitchen table. Has it been considered the security of the data being processed or the mind set change needed, when big brother’s not watching? How can you control what’s happening with the data you and your consumers entrust your staff to process on a daily basis?
It’s no longer unusual to hear children playing in the background when speaking to your bank, would we have been happy with that before lock-down? Or knowing a housemate or their partner is listening to your mortgage application being made.
So what does the future hold? I think we’re all a bit sceptical of that question at the moment and tentative with plans beyond the next few months. What we do know is that the world has changed and will never be the same as we knew it, which is a sad statement to make, but also one that should fill us with hope, to embrace the opportunities that we’ve all uncovered. The company that used to refuse anyone from working from home as they “couldn’t be trusted” – what a strange statement to make, if you can’t trust your employees then there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Yet, the traditional boss that favoured presentism over efficiency and work life balance has been forced to take a leap of faith to avoid bankruptcy, allowing employees to work from home, keeping safe and protecting others.
Whilst it sounds like a light bulb moment and an easy transition, it hasn’t been for many, juggling home schooling with conference calls, working off the end of the kitchen table and having your home become your office, the children’s school, your new social life venue – with more video calls on top of those at work, but now with friends and family, explaining to your elderly parents how to Zoom, who still haven’t figured out the settings on the Microwave! Yet they can now have a video call with their friends in another country because they’ve had to learn and adapt, or be left behind. Through all this experience of the past few months we have become more connected and interactive than ever, whilst isolating and distancing ourselves from each other. You can already imagine the confused look on the next generation’s faces when learning about Covid-19 in history lessons! Things that we took for granted or never even thought about as important have now become our lifelines, the broadband connection, the internet speed or simply connecting with others over a phone call.
What we do know is that the lights have stayed on, National Grid balancing the network with unprecedented drops in demand, the ATM’s still worked and we can call our bank, our online deliveries were still dropped off in enough cardboard boxes to build a city and we never did have a national shortage of toilet rolls! Every business has had to think how they would persevere and quickly adapt to a new and much different way of working, from wearing face masks, diversifying into new products or services to moving entire data centres to the cloud, all at record speed and probably from the end of that kitchen table that used to be the dumping ground for work bags, lunch boxes and car keys after the long commute. Now there is a break in the pandemic, at least for the UK, we all start thinking of ‘returning to normal’, the corporate bellow of ‘it’s BAU’… the new usual. This now makes businesses plan for the longer term, if working from home has been successful, employees enjoying a better work life balance and mental health, efficiency and productivity hasn’t fallen and the overheads have reduced, there is a tick in each of your business priorities – the Customers, your People, the Processes, and your Finance, why go back! We’ve now made that leap of faith to uncover what businesses could have only wish for. Moving to a flexible, agile environment focusing on quality rather than quantity, I’ve said for many years it’s the quality of the work that you deliver, not where you do it that makes a business resilient with people who want quality in their lives, rather than quantity and micro management.
Whilst the temporary measures and sticking plasters to keep businesses running during the pandemic are exactly that, temporary. The regulators and enforcement bodies have even themselves been thrown into chaos, suspending investigations and being pragmatic to ensure the economy can survive, but that’s all time limited and retrospective scrutiny will emerge over the next few months. The pride of that business attaining their ISO Standard for Information Security based on their old set up now hangs in question as to whether it’s still valid with home working and data now held in the cloud. All of the work and effort with GDPR only 2 years ago having to be reviewed to see whether the principles are still being met – how can you secure personal information in someone’s home? We’re waiting with bated breath for that unsuspecting business who didn’t think of the true impacts of remote working to have a data breach, the confidential papers put in the recycle bin or the kids English essay written on the back of someone’s old medical notes as scrap paper. Discarding the once powerful servers that held all of the company’s information, now the data is held on a cloud, into a skip in the car park of the now redundant office. As our way of life has changed, either for better or worse our approach to managing business will have to.
Let’s look into that future, a sustainable and resilient economy in a post Brexit world (remember that old argument!) with old office blocks becoming data centres, parents being able to pick the kids up from school whilst web chatting with a customer and the family car being just that, rather than the mobile office that costs more to run than we spend on our loved ones. Let’s all take that further step into the unknown to rebuild our future and economy with resilient, secure and adaptable platforms to withstand another wave of Covid or whatever the world holds instore for us and the next generation to come.