The new normal: Risks and Opportunities

The positive approach is to treat the current predicament as an opportunity for improvement rather than treating adaptations as a temporary measure which will be reverted. We don’t know how long this crisis will last, and even if it ends this year, we have no way to tell if a new and more significant disaster will be waiting for us around the corner. Digital transformation is at the heart change. There are many exceptions, as not all work can happen remotely. Still, if everything we can perform remotely, is performed remotely, it will offer a wide range of benefits on a broader scale and permanently change the working culture. Unfortunately, this does pose a significant risk for businesses which depend on office worker footfall.

The “work from home” culture has come forward in leaps and bounds and thinking about this as a more long-term solution, it has many things to offer in terms of personal and business benefits:

Numerous commentators are reporting on what the “new normal” will look like as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and one thing is sure, things will not return to how they were in 2019. People and businesses are quickly adapting to new circumstances, and although many of these will revert to a pre-COVID-19 status, many more will either change back gradually over a long time or remain the new normal and move forward.

  • Large offices with 1000s of people – could be replaced with smaller offices if staff are working from home most of the time. Far less expenditure maintaining commercial premises. No need to have allocated desk space and settle for hot desks when people need to be in the office.
  • Daily travel based on 9:00 to 17:00 – can be replaced with journeys when there is a genuine need to be in the office, rather than standard office hours being a routine that has been around for a long time. Consequently, reduced stress on public transport at specific times of the day. Less travelling and improved quality of life for the workforce.

Most of this is the way it is because it started this way, and very few had the foresight or interest in making changes to working culture. Still, in response to a pandemic, significant changes are rapidly taking place to adapt and stay in business. The critical question is, when this is over, is there a genuine business need to revert, and in many cases the answer will be NO.

Permanent change to working culture can have significant long-term benefits to society include:

  • Great long-term business and personal benefits
  • Reduce the stress on roads and public transport
  • Reduce the need to expand airports and build additional runways
  • Reduce the need to add additional lanes to major roads and motorways, in favour of reallocating budgets towards the repair of existing damaged roads – includes avoiding the idea of switching motorway hard-shoulders into additional lanes

Unfortunately, there are wide-ranging risks to other business such as cafes and restaurants which depend on office worker footfall and commuting. Many chains and small businesses could quickly become unsustainable and close or need a subsidy to remain operational.

In our case, we have delivered most of our consulting activity remotely over several years. In hindsight, most of the sites visited in the UK and abroad could have been avoided if it was necessary to do so. Our response to “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” is to offer a 100% remote service while removing all the embedded costs associated with travel and overnight accommodation required for the time working face to face with clients. The cost difference between a consultant working 40 hours from home or a local office, and being away from family for up to 120 hours per week to deliver 40 hours of consultancy to clients at their premises is significant.