During the last week of February and first week of March 2020, there were the first
indications that life was about to change. Toilet rolls, flour, and hand sanitiser were in
sudden short supply, and supermarket queues resembled the week before Christmas rather
than the few weeks before Spring. As Italy and Spain locked down, and the advice came to
work from home where possible, we invested in tech and all you can eat data packages to
facilitate the new normal of working from home. And there we stayed for the next 12
As – at the time of writing – we continue to emerge into a new normal, the world of work
has undergone some fundamental changes that are likely to persist even when social
distancing has been stood down, and many aspects of Spring 2020 have become “do you
Lessons to Learn
Some early adopters of video meeting technology at the beginning of the pandemic had to
be the education community, suddenly catapulted into having to deliver National curriculum
content over the internet rather than in the classroom. Armed at both end of the teaching
exchange with a means of video connection, teaching had to become more directed. A
steep learning curve, both teaching and learning were brought into sharp focus – in every
Online courses have been popular for years, purchasing video content to learn a skill. But
now were used to the interactive element, live and as-live video sessions are becoming
equally common. Cambridge University has even elected to cancel all but easily distanced
tutorials and take teaching online until at least 2021. Necessity is currently the mother of
invention, but there is the possibility universities and other teaching institutions could – and
perhaps even should, for sound financial reasons – take content online to increase the reach
of the student body.
Meetings, endless meetings
The pandemic changed how we meet overnight. Our social lives might have transformed
themselves into online pub quizzes and communal-yet-distant film nights, but our work
meetings have also shifted onto online platforms. And there is a case to be argued that
that’s the way it should have been since video conferencing technology first became
available in the early 1990s!
The online meeting experience is intense; being faced with a sea of…faces can be
overwhelming, especially as there is always the pull to maintain eye contact with someone.
But it means that meetings can be shorter, more direct, more focussed without the need to
travel so that is surely a good thing for our productivity and for the environment.
To the Future
We are still at the end of the beginning when it comes to adjusting our lives to fit Covid-19.
However, the positive environmental impact of not commuting to our offices every day is
already apparent in quieter streets and cleaner air. Add in the reduction in business air
travel, and the benefits are not just environmental, they’re financially attractive for smaller
companies too, especially when there is likely to be a significant belt-tightening period of
financial crisis to come. Suddenly, the small company wishing to pitch to the major
conglomerate on the other side of the world can now just switch on the computer rather
than jumping on an aeroplane levelling the playing fields for some…
Naturally, we will want to reclaim lost or suspended elements of our previous lives as soon
as we can. Social distancing is both alien and damaging to us as a race, and the shared
community bonding crowd experience is a powerful lure… especially to those of us who like
to go to watch football!!
One element we are likely to grab onto, however, is continuing to work from home. Our
lives are calmer for it, our business interactions more equal. And the possibility for accessing
learning from anywhere at any time is an unexpected gift of the pandemic