The time for urgent change is NOW!
Watching a student on TV burning her A level results notification, I realised just how much things have changed since March 2020. We are questioning everything. The pillars that hold up society, as we have known it, look distinctly wobbly. This is not a negative or pessimistic article but I do believe we need to stop and think about just how we intend to move forward.
It's hard to drop one message and immediately pick up another
I noticed too that Sadiq Khan has been exhorting workers to return to the office and ‘Save The City’. He says that working from home creates a ‘BIG problem’ for the capital city. This is quite a turn around seeing that he spent weeks encouraging travellers to remain at home and avoid using the underground especially just a few weeks ago. It will take time for people to discard the old messaging and adopt the new.
We need to change what we do and how we do it right now.
Yes, there are many small businesses in London, and across the country, on the ‘critical’ list, but maybe this is the moment where we change what we do and how we do it. However, I don’t believe for a moment that this action would save the situation. The world is different. Even looking back at some notes I realised I’d made a profound decision about something in February this year. I realised that I felt completely differently about the world back then and it seemed so far away. Even with enhanced cleaning in transport hubs and testing people have seen an alternative and are not keen to jump back on the treadmill.
This pandemic has accelerated change that was already happening
That aside, I know that companies, organisations, small businesses and sole traders have all had to cope with a 360-degree pivot. Some big companies have switched from offline trading to remote working. Without this pandemic no one would have contemplated doing anything so drastic in such a short space of time. Yet, we have made profound changes to how we work and amassed considerable new skills at the same time.
We knew that jobs and skills were being disrupted, we just got pushed out of the plane when we weren’t really expecting it
Executives knew that skills shortages would ultimately affect them but it seemed a long way off and the thinking and creativity required could be parked for a while. Not anymore. We need to re-skill and we need to think again about our roles, our capabilities and our capacity to move forward.
So, that’s why Sadiq Khan’s comments left me feeling a little unconvinced
We are on a massive learning curve and our learning landscape has morphed into something quite different. For a start many workers are scattered and are more in favour of a hybridised approach to office working and presenteeism. For example, colleagues have said how incredibly productive they are when they work from home. That of course depends on what the working environment is like. If you are juggling childcare or lack of space it can feel very different.
Cut commute times and productivity should rocket
Having abandoned full time office working myself some years back I have always wondered why the status quo has been largely left unchanged, up until now. That’s why I have been fascinated by the development of a hybridised form of office working. This all makes sense as for some working from home saves travel time and the disruption of ‘going out to work’ when the day will be spent locked in an office undertaking Zoom, Teams and Skype calls. If you add up all the individual commuting times many office workers undertake then the country’s productivity could skyrocket if we used these hours to work at home.
London is now experiencing what the rest of country went through decades ago
Obviously with such massive change and pressure the more creative and agile we can be the better and make changes wherever it is possible. We know that many places rely on an influx of office workers for their businesses but in the north the closure of large industries demonstrated how the economy has to morph; now it appears it is London’s turn as well.
Working remotely is not possible across the board
I work in recruitment specialising in the food industry and I know that for some of the roles I recruit for it is difficult to make home and remote working a possibility. If you are a production manager, then it is clear that your work belongs in a factory. However, the ability to work remotely when it is necessary and appropriate would not be a bad thing and would make a difference to work/life balance and also what can be achieved.
I think the key thing here is to be open-minded and flexible in how we approach work
We don’t know what will happen with respect to Covid. We know that another full lockdown is highly unlikely.However, we need to do everything we can to mitigate the stresses of this pandemic. Working from home, keeping our distance and increasing our productivity are all excellent strategies to keep us all safe and doing our bit for the economy. What do you think? Are you going back into the office as a matter of conscience or has home working proved too seductive to give up?