I don’t think the pandemic changed the world.
The world is as it was going to be – we just got there faster. COVID accelerated some existing trends – and in our space, as a digital marketing consultancy, those were around the ascent of online retail (including Direct-To-Consumer), the integral role of social media for information dissemination, and the primacy of technology in everyday interactions.
TikTok could not have achieved the cultural role it has, so fast. Twitter could not dictate newscycles, despite its user base being an unrepresentative slice of Britain. Facebook could not be accused of driving anti-vax sentiment. Retail sales, even outside of lockdowns, have settled at 1 in 3 pounds spent being online. 2026 came early.
Our purpose is to create what comes next for organisations – i.e. a digital-centric world of customer engagement, demand and brand/reputation management. So in this respect, the pandemic shifted lots of organisation’s thoughts into the territories we operate in. For many organisations, social media became a lifeline to stay connected, internally and externally.
When it comes to the role of the office, we believe it’s likely to also net out where it would have been without the pandemic, just quicker – it’s just not everyone’s adjusted yet. We began, 6 years ago, and from day one ran what would now be termed ‘hybrid’. Because it was the logical thing to do – we used Slack for all internal comms, empowered people to work anywhere BUT stressed that nothing replaces being together in-person, as a team, and with clients. Many traditional organisations have needed the pandemic to realise what space is for, what technology is for, and how to best combine them. Our approach has always been ‘work from the best place that day, and if in doubt, go to the office so you can engage with colleagues’.
Making Space Work Harder
We heard extensively from our team how important they found being physically together as soon as it was removed from us. That’s made us double-down on the role of physical space, to promote collaboration, camaraderie, and chat. Yes, CHAT. When it comes to engaging and entertaining clients, you want space which promotes chat. The lighter, looser, less structured communication which promotes understanding and sparks possibilities. It’s our firm belief that professional services firms will have to work harder than ever with their physical space and clients – in a world in which it’s easy to say ‘let’s zoom’, you will need something great to coax someone out of their door.
Even if the frequency of client/consultancy face to face gatherings diminishes somewhat, it will underline the importance of hosting well, an art often overlooked in recent times. Likewise with colleagues – we believe we will see a reversal of the push to pack the bodies into ever smaller spaces, and instead to creating spaces which maximise employee enjoyment. Yes, in short, I’m an advocate for pool tables, bars and proper showers, amongst other things.
We all have, or will develop, a heightened awareness of the importance, and benefit of meshing the physical and digital. We need to, it’s only going to continue. However, there is one ‘future trend’ I’m very, very sceptical of… The so-called ‘metaverse’ is a nice PR trick for tech execs looking to spin innovation for shareholders, but in practice, why would you create a digital version of a workplace, rather than go there? What digital replica of a physical experience has ever matched the original? Why would you create a digital version of the real world?
We make our living via helping people adopt digital communications, and are passionate advocates for the internet. We are equally passionate about the role of real-world engagement, and don’t see bytes and megabytes replacing bricks and mortar. Whatever the metaverse promises.
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