May the force be with us?

May 2020

Maurice Goldstone

CEO

Does anyone else feel like they coined the phrase ‘new normal’? When I reflected on April 1st about how organisations could or indeed should approach hiring remotely, we had just come out of the longest March on record (it’s official) and were coming to terms with home schooling, feeding ourselves, feeding others, and how far from a stranger 2 metres really is.

Now, with April 2020 finally over, I’m interested in the ‘next normal’.

At Allen Lane, like most businesses, we’ve made some challenging decisions which support our aims of both safeguarding the business and crucially ensuring that we all have amazing jobs when we return to life as we knew it.

I suspect however that life as we knew it will never return – and that isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been impressed by the effectiveness of home working and the attitude of everyone to make it work. I haven’t missed the commute but I have missed the interaction with colleagues. I have enjoyed (too much) the fact that I don’t need to schlep to the alley every time I fancy a coffee or snack; although as a consequence I am nervous about the fact that I think my suits will have shrunk during this hiatus.

I was having a WhatsApp debate with friends about whether the days of vast, expensive London offices are behind us; whether remote training is the future; whether international business trips need happen again and as old school as I am, I think it’s important to not get carried away. You can’t replace hands on training and acculturalisation with zoom; Microsoft teams won’t ensure an effective induction and the long term impact will be limited instead of amazing; skype for business will diminish the quality of and concentration during a team meeting, board meeting, appraisal, pour your heart out panic chat, brainstorm etc… My table tennis won’t improve sat at home every day and I’m proud of the fact that Lester Fernando hasn’t beaten me for nearly 2 months now.

I hope that the “next normal” balances what lockdown has taught us with what will always work best, I hope that, as a former sceptic, I don’t forget how effective and liberating home working can be. I hope that our appreciation of key workers is never taken for granted as before. I hope that unnecessary former habits (such as long-haul flights for meetings) are overhauled to drive improved performance, support the environment, and to get our own balance right by prioritising happiness and mental health.

None of us are immune to the impact of the coronavirus. Whatever our political affiliations or assessment on how the UK is dealing with lockdown vs other countries; maybe we can all recognise that this is the one opportunity to make life better in future, to make the next normal better than what we knew normal to be like.

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