Hopefully this weeks announcement will allow us all to start charting a course – albeit probably a slow course – to normality, however that normality won’t be the one we were used to. The ‘new normal’ will I’m sure, be very different to the ‘old normal’ with measures we’ve adopted during lockdown likely to have short and long-term effects with many becoming permanent features of business life:
- Greater tech dependency – we’ve probably made a 5-year leap by being force to adopt technological changes that might have taken years to adapt to – that’s surely here to stay.
- Homeworking – we’ve tried it and its worked. We’ve developed trust in the systems and in each other. There’s likely to be a continued period of homeworking and then phased return, but I’d bet an element of homeworking remains a permanent feature of office life.
- Handshaking – in the last couple of weeks before lockdown we stopped shaking hands – it’s an antiquated form of greeting, originally intended to demonstrate to your acquaintance that you were unarmed. As we’re now all mindful of virus transfer, I wonder if it won’t return?
- Rush Hour – If we return to work with staggered start times, as is being widely predicted, will this lead to permanently altered work patterns – and perhaps the end of the rush hour?
- Interest in each others welfare – to me this has been one of the most striking features, many of the emails I now receive, start by asking after my health and that of my family – phone and conference calls likewise. Exposure to COVID-19 has given us all some commonality and has encouraged such exchanges. I hope our increased interest in each others wellbeing is a continuing feature.
- Careworkers– in their various forms, are perhaps some of the most undervalued members of our workforce - that seems likely to change. Will that be accompanied by a greater willingness to fund the NHS and social healthcare and a greater recognition of the value of workers in that sector? Will the goodwill develop into permanent change?
- The High Street – the movement to on-line shopping was already very advanced, but is COVID-19 the death knell for the high street? The route map to lockdown removal and particularly the lifting of restrictions on the high street might determine this one – will we rush back out to the shops, or do we now prefer shopping from home.
- Suits – Conference calling from home has seen a relaxation of work wear. For the first couple of weeks my colleagues wore shirts, but as lockdown has gone on and we’re becoming more relaxed, more casual wear is prevailing. Will we go back to more formal attire, or now that we realise it doesn’t matter, is this the new norm?