Written by Jane Horridge
According to the government and the media, we are 10 days away from Lockdown being lifted. What does that mean in real terms though? I’ve been watching closely all the theories and surveys which aim to inform, give hope and courage to the new world of work we might experience. There are many extremes of view though; from a picture of complete change to that of a desperation to get back to normal.
So what will the ‘new normal’ look like? It must surely now be about choice for many – the choice to work from home, work more flexibly, not travel to or for work. This will allow so many to really secure that balance between work and life – a work-life integration if you will – that has been long promised and rarely realised. But for many people who work in businesses which rely on human interaction and physical presence the future is uncertain. Human beings are social animals, that’s undeniable, but whether we will return to eating out, visiting pubs, theatres or cinemas in the carefree manner we once did is entirely unpredicatable. Even the retail experience – whether grocery, clothing or even automotive will be reimagined to work in a way which allows consumer choice and flexibility in a different way; no doubt accelerating the already rapid shift to online purchases.
There has already been a number of statements from organisations large and small around their re-evaluation of their property portfolios. Some office space will certainly still be required, but surely much less, more flexible space in terms of both lease and size going forward, perhaps leading to a increase in the growing number of co-working spaces which have been emerging over recent years. Even in education, the prestigious institutions and often buildings occupied by universities and colleges are challenged – having been forced to deliver much more online than ever before for their core subjects (with, of course, the notable exception of the Open University), surely both students and funders will question whether so much really does need to be done face to face as was previously.
All of these changes have been emerging over time of course – the pandemic has simply accelerated the questions being asked and opportunities generated. If even some can help to create cleaner air, better relationships and a safer environment, perhaps some good can come out of the tragedies and pain endured by many.