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  • Writer's pictureJohn J Lowe

Strange Viral Times

Updated: Jun 1

I read that a large restaurant outside Dublin, has closed and the premises have been converted into offices which instantly sold out. The appeal was for people who wanted the opportunity to work locally avoiding a commute to the city.

The CEO of Barclays ‘cannot see the sense’ of rehousing the 7000 Canary Wharf staff back into their offices. RBS have informed their 50,000 staff that they should plan not to return to their offices prior to 2021.

And google are asking their 200,000 employee to work from home until July or longer next year. And now KPMG, Facebook, Pearson, Coca-Cola, and Vodafone see 2021 as the earliest target date for their staff returning to their offices. Sweden has now proffered the same advice though they were held as the model of ' work as normal '

The government is facilitating the planning process whereby High Street retail units can be converted to residential. Last year (ahead of Covid 19) my daughter-in-law spent 2 weeks in August working remotely via her laptop in a French orchard under an apple tree.

It seems that previously the criteria for working at an office location was not so much based on good management strategy but more on the whim of the Board.

And I cannot see the ‘jolly’ of taking a business or first-class flight from Heathrow to New York for a meeting being a credible decision. The so-called advantage of establishing a personal association cannot be justified in the place of a skype, zoom or team meet considering the subsequent £5 - 7,000 saving.

Prior to lockdown I was on the DLR travelling from Greenwich to Heron Quays and was amazed at the number of new, high rise offices and flats about to be completed. Commercial property must take a severe hit in these changing times. Not everyone of course can work from home and we are still on a journey with an unknown destination.

As I outlined in my blog ‘Home Work’ working from home does not suit all personality types. In fact, the Supporter and Influencer personalities types crave interaction. Lockdown is lockout and meeting via an inanimate screen does not compensate. It is a too restrictive and to them a too artificial form of communication. The Influencer for example particularly enjoys being centre stage and talking. The screen does not accommodate or allow for these real life experiences.

Working remotely is not a new phenomenon and some companies have been embracing this modus operandi for several years. “There are many more people working from home...” has been a well-used cliché for some time. And yet this phenomenon should be reflected in travel and greater availability of vacant seats on trains. But as I arrive at Victoria or London Bridge Stations at 6.30 am they are crowded with people queuing for platforms or ticket barriers.Seems a contradiction and I am still looking for an answer.

Money will be the biggest decider in terms of the Covid legacy. Will employment hold up? Will more high value commercial property be converted to residential? Commercial properties can be a significant part of investment portfolios and a downgrade could have a very negative effect on pension funds. We are in a rapidly expanding high tech environment which can facilitate remote working. Banks have constantly been promoting their excellent personal customer relationship. How good that relationship is will now be determined by a internet link.

From September I shall be conducting for the first time my one to one leadership and career coaching sessions with MBA students via Skype and they will be embarking on a new blended learning curriculum. 

I have just described a litany of observations from my perspective as Business Consultant and Career Coach. Some people will embrace and enjoy change. Others will be concerned as to where it is all going. I am also Chair of our local Beacon Good Neighbours and we have had the opportunity to bring some joy and reassurance into the lives of the lonely, disabled and worried.

For some the new normal will be the new abnormal and the lockdown will be their lockin. Working from home can create a sense of isolationism and the anti-social norms of elbow knocking and ' keep away ' can be a difficult adjustment.

For others the thought of not having to run the engine to deice the windscreen whilst they grab a coffee and then to find that their train is cancelled and the next one running twenty minutes late is a relief beyond description.

Lets see if there is a surge in terms of office blocks converting to residential and our boarded up high street becoming a haven of activity whereby shop premises become a home or offices for the locals who need to get out of the house but without the de-icer.

And as a head-hunter and career coach I may have to add an additional criteria when conducting interviews ' Would you prefer a role which is office or home based?

Strange times-and we look forward to the time when elbow touching can be replaced by a hand shake or even a hug...without a mask. Steady on!!

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