COVID-19: Some Things Have Changed for Good

From our Managing Director, Nigel Ridpath ….

On the 13th March 2020, I wrote this article. It’s fascinating to look back at my thoughts just days before we went into national lockdown.

So what have the last seven months been like? What have they taught us? And what of the future?

The team took to working from home extremely well. Our business delivers its services remotely, so we were already geared up for that. We got into the routine of a daily 11am video coffee break, where the agenda was purposely split between work and personal life. This certainly helped us feel connected.

Productivity was just as high as it had been in the office (possibly slightly higher), but the fears around personal development and mentoring that I mentioned in my March article were borne out. It’s much harder to trust intuition, when you can’t pick up on the physical cues that you experience in a communal environment. It’s much harder to provide ad-hoc mentoring based on overheard conversations. In talking to other business leaders, I was certainly not alone in experiencing these issues. In fact, no-one I spoke to had a good answer to the problem.

The other factor, of course, was business uncertainty. Some projects that we had lined up in February/March were put on hold, but I’m glad to say that all of them are now back in play. And new enquiries slowed right down. The work we do is a considered purchase – an investment decision. It’s not a great surprise that businesses that were concerned about their futures were postponing strategic IT investment.

But in the last ten weeks, things have really changed. And for the better. IT investment is a good barometer for general business sentiment. And if our lead flow is anything to go by, business sentiment has more than recovered. My sense is that organisations feel that they have got through the worst and if they are still standing, they are in a good place. Maybe some competitors have gone under. Maybe there is a loosening of the labour market. Maybe they’ve proved to themselves that their industry is more resilient than they might have imagined. All I can say is that from our perspective, September was Cowry Solutions’ best month ever and Q420 is heading towards being our best quarter ever.

Clearly, the pandemic is not over. And as I write, there is speculation that a ‘circuit break’ lockdown might be heading our way in England soon. But I strongly believe that the major impact on the economy has now passed. I don’t want to be glib about the businesses that have gone under, or the hundreds of thousands that have lost their jobs. But if IT investments are being made at the rate we are seeing, the worst for UK plc is definitely behind us. Which means that new businesses will slowly emerge from the ashes and new jobs will be created.

So what have we learnt?

  1. Office-based businesses, like ours, can definitely operate with people working from home. But there is a toll on personal development and wellbeing that we should not ignore. A balanced approach to work location is the way forward.
  2. We need to make up for the time lost in social interactions, checking in (I mean REALLY checking in) with our people and informal personal development.
  3. ‘State of the Nation’ chats with peers in the industry are really valuable – for validation and a sense of comradery. We may compete from time-to-time, but the value of these discussions isn’t to be under-estimated.
  4. Take the time out to personally thank every member of the team for coping so well with the rapid, unexpected change in their working and personal lives.
  5. If you’re here at the end of October 2020, still standing, I truly believe you’re in a good place.

 

I’d love to hear your views on my thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Something to add? All welcome.

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