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FOCUS FEATURE


THE NEW NORMAL “Businesses are going to move away from being in a


single location, so they might choose to replace landline phones with using software like Microsoft Teams as their phone system – meaning they can operate from anywhere in the world.” A rapid uptake of cloud adoption to enable agile working


and remote collaboration also equates to a greater emphasis on cyber security. “Some organisations are using systems in ways that they


weren’t originally designed for,” says Lee. “Companies with a 20% remote workforce all of a


sudden have 100% of their people working from home. “While they would have had security provisions in place


for the 20% element, now the scope is much bigger. “They’re using their computers and devices on home


networks so security is effectively becoming borderless, which means organisations need to think much deeper about having some level of protection for both inside and outside the office. So we believe this situation will be a real catalyst for change.”


From “furloughing” and “flattening the curve” to “social distancing” and “self-isolation”, 2020 has thrown up numerous new words and phrases for us to over-use. And while the “new normal” is flavour of the month in


the business world, it doesn’t have a fan in Mark Robinson. The managing director of Creative62, a creative brand


agency he founded in 2007, says: “I really don’t like the phrase ‘new normal’ because it’s suggesting that things have to change. “If that’s the case, why am I getting a client asking me to


meet up in person for a coffee soon? “The only difference is I’m going to suggest we have


more online meetings so we increase the frequency of communication, but that’s just an evolution rather than having to invent a new normal. Don’t overlook getting back to what you did before because that works too. If you challenge yourself too much to not be normal, then you might overlook what works well.” He uses the example of restaurants that have pivoted to


offer takeaways during lockdown. “But it doesn’t mean they should only ever do takeaways


again because that’s not why people went there in the first place,” adds Mark, who has worked alone in the company’s Enderby office since day one of lockdown but admits he is looking forward to his five colleagues returning. “We just need to be careful about how we change our


brands because we could end up changing the entire dynamics of our business.”


Like Mark, RSM’s Leicester office partner Kevin is eager


for a return to the world he knew before, but recognises it probably won’t look quite the same anymore. “Even if there’s a vaccine, I’m not entirely sure offices will


ever be the same again,” he adds. “People’s working practices will clearly change based on


this experience and a large proportion of people will not be working in the office five days a week. “A lot of employers weren’t very open to flexible working


but this will act as a catalyst to do that, which is a good thing because it creates trust and enables people to take more control of their lives. “So we could come out of this positively, but no doubt it will change how people look at work forever.”


Air IT CTO Lee Johnson


Meridian Digital Solutions has installed temperature-reading sensors at workplaces


James Taylor (pictured), CEO of East Midlands recruitment firm Macildowie, highlights five key themes he expects to see during the economic recovery relating to people in businesses.


1. HR HAS BECOME THE FIFTH EMERGENCY SERVICE We already have the fire, ambulance, police – and AA as the self-appointed fourth emergency service – but HR is going to be the fifth. The world of HR has been so dynamic because we have been figuring it out as we went along. No one knew what the world ‘furlough’ meant five months ago and now it’s the most used word, after ‘unprecedented’. The HR director has become the chief executive’s right-arm man or woman, rather than the finance director.


2.SUCCESSION PLANNING WILL NEED TO STEP UP A GEAR There’s a heck of a lot of people in their 50s on executive leadership teams who have really rather enjoyed the feeling of semi-retirement given to them by working from home. So I believe the ‘new normal’ won’t just create new jobs, but it’s going to create a potential hole in business’ succession planning as senior leaders take retirement when their companies weren’t necessarily expecting that to happen.


3.FLEXIBLE WORKING WILL BECOME THE NEW NORM The ‘new normal’ will mean employees are expecting greater levels of flexibility as opposed to having flexibility imposed on them. Pre-lockdown,


46 business network August/September 2020


working Monday to Friday was fine but actually, as chief executives, we’ve realised it doesn’t really matter which hours people are in work. Let’s take that ethos and adopt it within whatever the ‘new normal’ is. Let’s not impose restrictions on employees but let them decide how they work.


4.WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER People will feel less guilty about having childcare duties. Workplaces will focus on outputs, rather than inputs. In the old world, those who were seen to be working the hardest climbed the corporate ladder quickest, whereas in the new world it’s those who are working the most efficiently. I don’t think we’ve ever really shaken off that feeling of having to work hard to go far, but that could now change.


5.MORE EMPHASIS ON TALENT RETENTION People and talent will be a strategic point on board agendas. I don’t mean that just for recruitment, but in terms of retaining your best people. Do a business culture audit – ask your best people what they’re thinking because they’re thinking it anyway. If you don’t, then you’re at risk of not meeting their needs – so get closer to your best people and involve them more.


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