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This summer, I celebrate 25 years at MicroScope – and after having gone through the millennium bug, 2008 crash and watched with horror the events of 9/11, I really thought I had seen it all.
Then along comes the Covid-19 coronavirus and in the space of a couple of months the world changes and we are all thinking of how to end this pandemic.
What makes me feel more optimistic about this crisis compared to some of the other events I’ve worked through is that this is not of IT’s making, unlike the millennium bug, or caused by economic problems like the crash of 2008.
Of course, there are going to be economic consequences, and firms have already seen millions wiped off their share prices. But underneath it all, the need for technology is even more pressing than before. Customers now need remote working solutions and improved security, and retailers will be crying out for help in innovative ways to reach customers who are reluctant to visit stores.
Long-term though, this might be the moment when many businesses look at the structures and operations and ask themselves whether they are really digitally ready. There has been a lot of talk about the need for transformation, but the questions being asked now are real and not hypothetical, and customers need to find answers.
A friend of mine works in finance and because of the sensitive nature of the data he is handling has up to now never been allowed to work from home. The virus has changed that, and for the first time he is being put on a rota that will force him to spend two days working remotely.
I cannot imagine he will simply go back to working nine-to-five every day and commuting into London from Kent on the train once he has seen that there is an alternative. He is not going to be alone, and it’s because of him and the many like him that there is hope that positive change will come out of such a difficult situation.
Remote working is clearly the most obvious area where change is happening and likely to be permanent, but this has been such a profound moment that the change could be more widespread.
After the danger has passed, and the sooner the better for all our sakes, you have to wonder if work will ever quite be the same. The drop in global pollution levels caused by the virus are welcome for those who seek a remedy to the climate crisis, and could stir serious thoughts about how to avoid a return to the dangerous behaviour of the past.
Then there is the further blurring of technology designed for the workplace and home. It is hard to see workers that have had to rely on their own hardware, phone and broadband have to go back into an office and accept slower and more cumbersome alternatives.
There might also be a slight shift in the generational divide. The current focus is on protecting the over 70s and making sure the most vulnerable are safe. In the workplace, the theme for the best part of the past decade has been the need to bend over backwards to appease the needs of the millennials. This might cause some of that generation to view their older peers through more sympathetic eyes.
Whatever happens, the wish for us all is that our loved ones remain well and we can all get back to a sense of normalcy. The channel has always been a people business and now perhaps more than ever we need to look after each other and make sure no one is an unnecessary victim of Covid-19.
Read more about the coronavirus
- Event cancellations and travel bans are spurring more companies to embrace digital tools to support remote and flexible working arrangements.
- The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has issued a public alert and fresh guidance as more cyber criminals get wise to the lucrative potential of Covid-19.