After the pandemic, we can't go on working like this

One of the many outcomes of COVID-19 will be a reconsideration of how we work and consume technology.

Five years ago, I wrote a little end-of-week rant about the declining standards of business etiquette with a series of suggestions as to how business meetings and the like might be made less awful. It was intended somewhat in the style of Jonathan Swift's satirical A Modest Proposal as a provocative, offbeat-to-absurd set of alternatives to the way we work now. Today, I take no pleasure in saying, it seems pretty relevant.

Among my ideas, I recommended:

"No handshakes. Shaking hands with a person who has been travelling on the London Underground is like welcoming in the Grip Reaper to your living room. I recommend a simple, frictionless salute, perhaps in the style of The Prisoner."

Today, shaking hands is just about finished, unless you're a world leader. No pecks on cheeks either; not even a hug. We express respect or fondness differently with an elbow bump or ‘namaste' pressing together of hands. It's a small thing that has become a matter of life and death and it has made me wonder about what real behaviour changes will take place when the pandemic is under control.

Weather events, atrocities and so on have in the past led to relatively minor or short-term changes. When London hosted the Olympics there was a successful campaign to reduce peak time travel, for example, but the good example set no precedent. However, the likely protracted effects of the virus will surely see us rethink the ways in which we live and work. Out of present darkness we will find better options that are safer and saner. Technology provides the platform for change and the following is a list of some of those adaptations that may come.

 

The end of presenteeism. My career coincided with a massive change: the freedom for many of us to work from where we are most effective. Today, more of us will be ‘WFH' than ever before as we attempt to balance the needs of business with family care and mandatory, quasi-lockdown environments. It may be that the virus disposes of the last vestiges of feeling the need to show up for the sake of appearances. Certainly, we have all the tools to help us make the transition. The big enemy is inertia and ‘always done it this way' thinking.

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