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We must not return to our old ways

We must not return to our old ways

Wednesday 01 April 2020

We must not return to our old ways


Life in lockdown has proven we are capable of ways of working we never thought possible before - it's crucial we don't go back to our 'old ways' when the crisis is over.

That's the view of HR Executive and public speaker Richard Summerfield, who has spent the last 10 years on global EXCOs and Boards of high-growth businesses.

In his first column for Express, the former IoD Young Director of the Year explains how islanders should prepare themselves for the 'new normal'...

"Right now, we are in a coping and risk mitigation mindset, with everyone needing to rapidly adapt to new ways of working and living, staying productive and in many cases staying alive, be it physically, psychologically or economically. 

In many cases, individuals and companies have been exposed by the Covid-19 crisis for being ill-prepared for working outside of a fixed computer terminal in a safe office environment. It soon became clear that a lot of people had not yet competently moved into the world of mobile apps and social connectivity, and many companies had not created a culture or technological framework where working outside an office was possible or culturally acceptable.

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Pictured: "It soon became clear that a lot of people had not yet competently moved into the world of mobile apps and social connectivity."

As we all know, this brutal truth hit home towards the end of February, and initially created a high amount of fear, panic, anger, blame and denial  – all entirely predictable when people are faced with a shock or big enforced change. 

However, roll forward 5+ weeks and the landscape is already incredibly different.

Almost every citizen is now engaging with mobile collaboration tools and improving their productivity from home. Businesses are still managing to get stuff done without hours of face-to-face meetings and committees. And - whisper it - some workers are already feeling more liberated and creative as a result.

There are clear signs of a new long-term attitudinal change to how we work, and, as we know from any change cycle and conditioning theory, things will never go back to exactly how it was before. We therefore need to be extremely careful about plans to ‘go back to normal’ in six to nine months time, as ‘normal’ is not ‘life before Covid-19’.

This is a crucial point to plan for…. Put simply, leaders need to prepare their businesses for the ‘new normal’, and not how to move back to the ‘old ways’.

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Pictured: "Leaders need to prepare their businesses for the 'new normal'.

What everyone is actually going through in this crisis is ‘conditioning’. A mental rewiring. Creating new habits, new norms, and a new map of the world.

As with all conditioning processes, the more you practise the ‘new’, the quicker the ‘old’ fades into the background. Regardless of how scary the change was at the start, or how resistant you were to it, the thought of going back can become equally worrying. 

Every month we get into new practices associated with working and living more remotely and autonomously, it will be another big step to ingraining new protocols that people start to accept, and in many cases want, rather than the classic and increasingly defunct ‘nine-to-five sitting at a desk’ regime of many. 

The key word that I will leave you with is ANTICIPATION. Individually, collectively, corporately.

Amidst the crisis, the winners of tomorrow will be the ones who are finding the time to plan for the emerging model of working and living, and these will indeed be the stronger of the species for future growth and survival."

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and not of Bailiwick Express.

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