Kevin Dale from takes a ‘glass-half-full’ look at some of the positives emerging from lockdown and how the experience can lead to a step change in business thinking.

The gift of time and perspective

Do you remember the feeling, when that two-day course, trip or seminar was cancelled at the last minute? Having front-loaded your ‘to do’ list and smashed through the tasks all week, you suddenly found yourself with two free days, or time you thought you’d never have. Such gifts of time are rare and, if nothing else, this virus has been a windfall here. 

Meanwhile, we have also been pulled out of our comfort zones and forced to adapt. It’s like one of those team-building games, where a bunch of strangers have to manage limited resources on an imaginary island. But this time it’s for real.

This perfect storm of lockdown time plus a quirky environment is fertile soil for new ideas. If we spend just a fraction of our new found time gazing into our navels, a new set of policies, strategies or business models will emerge. Here are just a few questions to kick it off…

How many companies will revert to the same old policies and practices after lockdown ends? Which firms haven’t extrapolated the benefits of remote operations: smaller office spaces = lower overheads and flexible homeworking = happier staff…?

Who hasn’t yet realised that remote organisations can fish for staff in a global pool, as location is no longer an obstacle for candidates? More hot-desking, more flexi-time, more results-based contracts, anyone? Or, if we have proven that we can run most parts of our business remotely, why wouldn’t we look to outsource more to countries with highly skilled, but lower cost talent pools? 

Of all the benefits of remote working, who would have thought we could achieve all of this and increase productivity at the same time? According to Wire, the collaboration platform, “A survey of 500 business decision-makers in the UK, has found that over half (53%) say they’ve seen either an increase or no change in productivity since lockdown measures were enacted”. 

One key reason is that we have all been awarded the gift of time as individuals. With fewer hours spent travelling to and from work, for example, our staff are time rich! Productivity has improved because staff have more time to do their jobs – and without close supervision, they’ve shown they can deliver too.

Which firms post lockdown will be able to park those assumptions of the ‘natural laziness’ of employees, trusting instead that staff do have their interests at heart? Isn’t it time to measure people on delivery rather than physical attendance?

Your new balance of time

Whilst we’re all familiar with a personal income/expenditure tally, why not take two minutes to do the ‘math’ for your new time balance sheet…

No commuting – that must have saved you at least 10 hours a week. No client or supplier visits – there’s 5 hours of traffic jams avoided. Add 10+ hours of those interminable meetings that you no longer have to attend and, you’re up 25 hours per week already! 

Deduct five hours for the new virtual meetings or maybe just two, since you’ve mastered the ideal attendance mode: muted / no camera / speakers-on allows you to continue with real work, whilst following the gist of virtual discussions.

If you need to contribute, it’s microphone on, quick chat, hit mute then back to your other screen – yes, the one where you’re actually getting stuff done. Tuning in and out of meetings wasn’t possible in the days of presenteeism. We had to stifle the yawns and sit through the lot, playing bullshit bingo to stay sane. 

On the plus side there are now more people at their desk, i.e. not in meeting rooms, or to & from offices. This means faster resolution of queries and fewer multi-recipient, multi-threaded email chains. Whilst office banter is a sad casualty, there’s far less aimless chit chat. Not many will miss the time and hassle of booking meeting rooms either, or waiting in corridors for the next slot. Let’s add another 2 hours for all this to that weekly time bank, perhaps?

Ok, you might still need to offset a bit of home schooling/childcare (for a few weeks yet) -10 hours, letting the dog out -2 hours, making your own lunch -2 hours, receiving home deliveries, -1 hour perhaps. But the balance will be in your favour. You should have at least 10 more hours to play with and this is what allows you to get stuff done – both personal and company ‘stuff’. 

Time is a strange commodity. Whilst we never seem to have enough of it, we’re also pretty undiscerning when filling it up. Arguably, the best time of all, thinking time, is that rare luxury enjoyed once a year on a deckchair – or it disturbs our sleep patterns at 3am. If you haven’t refilled your clock too hastily during lockdown, you should have bought yourself some time for reflection.

Finding positives in a crisis

Coupled with the novelty of our environment, we have both the time and the spark to kickstart that strategic review – whether it’s directed at your personal goals, the department or your business is up to you.

It doesn’t require too much of that thinking time to conclude that our operating models should change and that, for many areas of our business, we should not be bouncing back to old routines. Whilst the words virus and lockdown tend to be associated with doom and gloom, the gifts they bear of time and perspective should be cherished.