Posted: 08 Apr. 2020 5 min. read

Lockdown and Digital

It’s a standoff, the sole desk chair is in use by my son and I have a 90 minute Zoom call to do, meanwhile he has a Microsoft Teams session with his maths teacher that is “way more important”.

Today’s lively discussion follows yesterday’s debate about the value of watching YouTube during the school day, “but they are educational” he says.

What struck me about these exchanges is that none of the challenges we were facing were about the technology. Can anyone imagine being able to work at home so effectively even five years ago?

As I write this it is almost 4 weeks since the Prime Minister instructed those of us who can work from home to stay at home. It might feel like a long time ago but since then Zooming has become an almost every day term as people realise that just talking on the phone isn’t quite going to cut it.

However, what has impressed me more is how the small businesses that surround us have pivoted, using digital connectivity as a lever to aid survival in this difficult time. This morning, I had my third delivery from a local baker, fresh pastries and bread all delivered to my door. Typically they supply the restaurant trade and were facing the prospect of all their clients being shut for an unknown length of time. A quick WhatsApp poll of friends and family and their market research was done, orders rolled in over email over the first few days and by day five the website was up and running ready for orders. Entrepreneurism, inventive it may be, but without the digital ecosystem we are now so used to there would have been no way to make this work.

This pandemic has redefined normality for billions, and it may be that like other black swan events, that it will change life as we know it forever.  Whether it’s the whole hearted adoption of digital technologies and experiences to better protect our economy, or the recognition that we all need to embrace the world around us and look after local business and our local environment. I cannot see the world returning to the way things were, but that shouldn’t be seen as negative.

We have already seen a shift in what it means to be “at” work, the future of work, and the spaces in which we work have become a topic of much debate. We have seen a massive rise in co-working spaces, a growth in office transformations as well as a shift towards much more flexible approaches to working hours. This last 10 days has seen a huge step change in our ability or more pointedly our belief in our ability to work from home. We can only speculate whether when this is over the elastic will snap back to what working life was like before for millions of office workers, but I would suggest working life won’t quite be the same again.

Back to normality my son has a virtual meeting of Scouts this evening and I am racing my bike in a virtual world. I feel pretty lucky, it might not be what we had planned and it could be so much worse but I am pretty thankful that enabled by digital technology that we can continue a semblance of normal life.

If you would like some practical tips on remote working please download our report: Future of Work: Ways of working in uncertain times.

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