Lessons learned in lockdown

As a member of the Catalyst Team, who joined Sussex Innovation last July, my entire working life has been in lockdown. Certain parts of pre-lockdown life seem strange to me: commuting five days a week; large in-person meetings; and going to in-person networking events. Rather than “back to normal”, for those that entered the workforce in the last twelve months, post-lockdown business will be a brave new world.

This coming Monday, Boris Johnson is due to set out in “as much detail” possible his roadmap out of lockdown. Of course, this summons images of raucous pub gardens, bustling restaurants and even simple handshakes, which now seem like bizarre customs from a time gone by. In reality public health must come first, and it’s likely to be a long time until things go back to normal. But will things ever really go “back to normal”?

The trials of conducting business in lockdown have necessitated innovation, as crises tend to do. These new tools and practices that we’ve had to adopt won’t just be left by the wayside, they will become part of the new world of work that lies ahead. So, from the perspective of someone who cut his teeth working remotely, what’s worth keeping around?

Firstly, working from home. Like most of my colleagues I miss the office; the interaction and collaboration with my co-workers. However, I do wonder how, prior to the pandemic, anyone got their washing done. Let alone those with more pressing domestic responsibilities. The option for flexible work, from the office and home, should be something for businesses to consider as we emerge from lockdown.

Similarly, Zoom meetings, while rightly loathed by many, do serve an important function. The idea of getting up and walking to a meeting where I’m unlikely to make a contribution seems ludicrous. There’s also some added bonuses, such as conveners having more control over the participants, and a time limit so they don’t end up running over. Ideally virtual meetings would be supplemented, rather than replaced, by in-person meetings.

Finally, lockdown has sped up many business’s adoption of online services, such as sales platforms and customer care services. This has moved much of commerce firmly into the 21st century and expanded the market of a lot of companies who no longer found themselves chained to a specific geography. The radical uptake of new technology as a result of the pandemic shows that people tend to be resistant to change until we really have to. The main lesson to be learned from lockdown is to embrace changes in technologies, in ways of doing business, before another crisis forces it upon us.

All these issues and more will be discussed at greater length in our upcoming Survive & Thrive webinar on 'The Future of the Office'. You can sign up for free here.