As we put this issue of PA Life to press, restrictions have been lifted, but the so-called ‘Pingdemic’ has begun, with hundreds of thousands of individuals being asked to isolate, leading to retail, hospitality and many other businesses being affected by this dreadful virus once again.
We live in hope that lockdowns do not follow and, of course, deaths and cases of Long Covid. Not even the experts can predict what is to come over the next few months, but with an increasingly double-jabbed adult population, the signs are certainly brighter than they were just a few months back at the start of 2021. But let us look at what we’ve collectively learnt over the course of the pandemic to date.
Well, firstly – as both the subject of our PA Profile, Orlaith O’Brien and of our PA Life Club interview, Stacey McEwan have said – this time has proved beyond doubt that many people are more than capable of working productively and efficiently outside of the office.
We’ve happily dropped the commute, and we’ve embraced a better work/life balance. The challenges of home-schooling aside (please let that never return!), we’ve enjoyed having more time with our families (well, mostly…) and the opportunity of hanging out the washing inbetween tasks shouldn’t be under-estimated.
There is no substitute for meeting people face-to-face; being able to judge responses and monitor body language, for starters. But, at the same time, we have discovered that not every meeting needs to be in person; many meetings really can be done via Zoom or Teams – we’ve had to do just that over the past year, after all.
We’ve also learnt that the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the mental wellbeing of many of our friends, colleagues and associates. We hope that, with restrictions lifting and a gradual return to the office for many, this will help those who have suffered and are continuing to suffer.
Similarly, the return to ‘normal’ will mean anxiety for some and we need to recognise that, for every individual eager to get back to the ‘old’ way of life, there is another who is panicking at the thought of sharing an office kitchen and a lack of social distancing.
There will be things that we have to re-learn, too, not least how to interact with colleagues on a more regular basis – in person, and outside of a video screen.
But many are predicting that working life will not return to ‘normal’ – and for the better. Report after report show that most people simply don’t want to return to the office for five days a week. They want a hybrid way of working, attending the office a couple of days a week; working remotely for the rest of the time.
And why not? We have all proved over the past year that working from home works for everyone. Employers get more productivity from their staff; we have a happier home life, the opportunity to walk our children to school and back (and sort out the washing), and avoid the time-wasting and budget-sapping commute.
Now THAT’S what I call a New Normal…
Lisa Carter, Associate Editor