Whether the pandemic ends sooner or later, it is clear that a new normal is settling into the business world and likely, for good. If I may venture a few predictions: remote working will become an ideal way to manage cost, enhance productivity, and reduce pollution. Videoconferencing will become the default mode for meetings and online training, the go-to approach to developing and enhancing skills efficiently.
Remote Work Freedom
And yours truly couldn’t be happier! For over 20 years, I’ve been banging the proverbial nail of “nomad professional” – the name I imagined to describe my situation as a remote worker. The notion came to me when I got my very first laptop. At the risk of revealing my age (arghh!), it was a Mac with a thick dark grey shell, a trackball the size of a golf ball and yes, a black and white screen. Yep… it’s been that long!
I remember unboxing the coveted tool and thinking: “Wow! I can work anywhere I want with this! The park, the beach, the airport… wherever!” I was elated. I always felt uncomfortable in structured settings such as offices or even classrooms. At school, I could never find a proper way to sit contentedly on my chair, shifting continuously until the bell finally rang to end this calvary (I went to an all-girls catholic school… re-arghh!). So the prospect of moving my work environment to places yet unexplored was an epiphany. It meant one thing to me: FREEDOM, one of my most cherished values. And since I always loved to work, combining both work and freedom meant utopia.
Back then, the Internet was emerging as a day-to-day work tool although still running at a glacial pace – and it required a wire (re-re-arghh!). I remember plugging my computer wire into hotel room telephone jacks to connect with the office. I loved working with tech firms at the time because not only did they keep me ahead of the tech curve, but also my clients were open to new technologies.
I used Skype for the first time early in 2003. Even though the connection was spotty at best, it was wild to be chatting with clients abroad from the comfort of my home, or a beachfront condo in Mexico, or the airport waiting room. Of course, “civilians” were not yet attuned to the technology, and it was like pulling teeth to convince my friends to hop on Skype. To entice them, I instigated the “Skype & Wine”, which today has been rebranded “video-cocktail.” Either way, it’s a festive way to connect when distance – or pandemics – keeps us apart.
Online Silver Linings
Finally, the world is coming to realize the advantages of remote work, albeit forcibly given the nasty Nano-enemy among us. But let us look at a few silver linings of life online:
- Less cars on the roads meaning less pollution
- Less commuting meaning more time with family and friends
- Less time lost chatting at the coffee machine meaning more productivity and focus
- Less money spent on unnecessary travel expenses meaning more money to invest in human resources development and other strategic activities
- And the list goes on (see P.S. below for more pandemic silver linings)
To me, the new online normal means fewer people look at me awkwardly when I tell them I work from home. What a relief after 20 years of the same old song! Imagine that! It is actually possible to work well, even outside an office (tongue firmly planted in cheek)!
So when the new normal came knocking, it was only natural for me to come up with a contingency plan for my university director: University closure? No problem! I’ll give the course online. I’m also excited that a greater majority of organizations are embracing virtual ways, facilitating thereof many operational tasks.
For instance, believe it or not, some organizations were still paying… by cheque (re-re-re-arghh!) or requesting hard copy proposals! Mind-blowing, right? I mean, who knew one could be still attached to paper long after emailing became the norm (now closer to becoming archaic compared to messaging) and buying online, the “new” way to purchase groceries, books and all things Amazon (Bezos is profiting massively from the pandemic). Typically indeed, human nature fears change.
Change Is Good
The pandemic has propelled us all into change mode – and from my perspective, much for the better. I believe there are 2 ways to implement change: either by making small incremental changes (usually a very long process) or by dropping a proverbial bomb, making change an absolute must (a much more accelerated way). The latter describes pretty much what happened to this planet in recent months. Without diminishing the devastating impact of the present pandemic, I genuinely believe that the new normal it has prompted will generate silver linings for one and all. Loving the change!
P.S.: A few more silver linings around the pandemic to drive the point home:
- An epic break for the environment. Time for the planet to start healing, now that humans are not busy polluting it
- A time when we are forced to think of others rather ourselves as we realize that survival is much more about “us” than about “me”
- A long imposed moment of silence when we are called upon to take stock of our lives, consider what we have, what others don’t have, what is important and what is not
- A time where we are taken to appreciate what is immediately around us, our most precious people and belongings
- A time to heal, to cleanse and to rid ourselves of what no longer serves us, whether they are things, feelings, habits, or relationships