There is broad consensus that some of the changes to working practices resulting from lockdown will most likely become permanent after COVID-19 is finally brought under control. However, where there may be less agreement is over which of the changes – possibly accepted out of necessity and fear for the future – should remain in place when the danger has passed, and choices are once again based on individual circumstances and preferences.
What we can say with certainty is that, amidst all this disruption, technology has been the clear winner. Many businesses have been forced to adapt in order to survive – some, like online retailers, have positively flourished – and workforces in general have been receptive to new processes and working practices. But companies and people are not the same and, for some at least, the novelty of working from home may eventually wear off.
From a purely business perspective, the arguments in favour of working offsite are compelling. Experts like management consultancy McKinsey tell us that many people feel “liberated” by avoiding a long commute to their workplace and can achieve a better balance between their working and domestic lives. And (or so the argument goes) because they are happier, they are more productive.
More fundamentally, experts are telling us that working from a plush office in a City centre – once thought to promote corporate culture, productivity, closer collaboration and prestige, no longer makes commercial sense. Indeed, for health and safety reasons alone, is it still wise to cram hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees into one building? The jury is out, but right now the value of trophy offices in prime locations is falling dramatically. Companies across the globe are rethinking their businesses.
From our perspective, we are using the latest technology to communicate effectively internally, and with existing and new customers, including making virtual presentations complete with full technical details. In the same way, we are managing to recruit senior personnel without meeting face to face and to sponsor a forthcoming international conference (EIC vEEC) – something that we would have thought impossible only a short time ago.
Arguably even more important, we have taken the opportunity to strengthen our IT infrastructure and improve security at a time when cyber-crime is on the rise. We are luckier than most – we have not had to adapt because technology has always been part of our game.