The COVID-19 #newnormal won’t be business as usual

Jan Coetzee

Namibia, went into lockdown several weeks ago, our Government’s firm and swift response has so far kept the number of infections very low. Thankfully no deaths have been recorded either and Namibia may come out of this quite well. Certainly not discounting the damage to the economy or the closure of the schools and social activities that these necessary steps have caused. Eventually the economy will recover, kids will go back to school, but COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on our society and how we life, work and play. How we work is what I would like to focus on in this article.

Recently parts of the economy opened up again and with strict social-distancing and the wearing of masks, we no longer have to stay away from offices or places of work. Although we can now return to our offices and organisations that pay our salaries, it is not as simple as that. The five week hiatus from the office has meant that people have managed to find innovative ways of doing their work from home. There was suddenly an array of ‘applications’ available to make working from home possible, efficient and effective. Everyone was ‘Zooming’, collaborating in Microsoft Teams, kids when able, were accessing Google Classrooms and in the evening Houseparty was used to go for a ‘virtual beer’ with colleagues and friends. This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the digital options are endless.

To be honest, these applications didn’t just appear out of thin air, they had been around for some time, but companies were unwilling, unable or just not set up for remote working. That changed in a heartbeat in the ‘new normal’ that everyone is talking about. But, what really is the new normal? Is everyone going to the office at exactly the same time normal? Making everyone work within the parameters of certain hours of a day normal? Is renting and servicing very costly office real estate for the employees normal? Well, it all used to be, however that has all gone out the window, just like handshakes, hugs and crowded spaces.

Companies and organisations are realising that the ‘digital transformation’ that is going to take place at an incredibly accelerated pace is a good thing. The ‘new normal’ will relinquish some ‘perceived power’ that bosses had over their employees, replacing it with personal responsibility and accountability, less micro-managing. Allowing people to work from home, have flexible work hours and meetings can be conducted online through the various virtual meeting applications. The employees just mustn’t forget to be dressed when on a video-conference, when working from home. That is all part of the ‘new normal.’

Organisations might be at different levels of readiness to implement digital transformation into their business, however employees are definitely ready for the new normal. A sensible strategy would be for organisations to consider their readiness from a number of perspectives namely: Organisation and People readiness, Information and Technology readiness, Partners and Supplier readiness and Process readiness. Another essential aspect to consider, one which will possibly change the world around us forever is the need for less offices and reduced physical footprint.

People working from home, flexible hours, flexible work spaces creates less need for large and expensive offices and parking facilities. The ‘new normal’ will be anything but normal and Namibia can be part of that change. In fact it is imperative that it is part of that change. Whether it is embracing digital transformation, the need for social distancing creating less need for offices. The ‘new normal’ will create a brave new and hopefully healthy world. I for one cannot wait to embrace this holistic transformation that is taking place.

Stay safe Namibia.

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