The New Normal is Nucco Brain’s recurring thought leadership series that puts forth our views on what the world will look like after these testing times. With the rapid increase in uncertainty and fluctuations in our work environment and beyond, we asked our team, clients, and partners to share their insights and opinions on what their ‘New Normal’ would look like.
Coronavirus is turning the world on its head. Is this the dawn of a new paradigm in the way we all work? Or will we revert to business as usual as soon as we’re let out of the house?
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, the magnitude of which we’ve never experienced before. Naturally, as we collectively adjust to the new normal, the internet abounds with predictions of how, in a post-COVID-19 world, nothing will ever be the same again. COVID-19 is first and foremost a health crisis, but will the ramifications of working from home reshape the way we work forever? More importantly, will our co-workers be able to figure out how to use Zoom without accidentally turning up to the morning meeting in their boxers, with their camera on?
The media seems to think so. Every major publication that follows consumer trends, from Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, to Campaign and The New York Times, is jumping on the topic du jour. The problem is, no one can now know for sure how things will change.
As Mark Ritson points out in Marketing Week, “Consumers are miserable explainers of their own behaviour and even more hopeless at predicting what they will do in the future.” So just because people say they’ll be more likely to let their team work from home, doesn’t mean it’s true.
One approach that can perhaps help us to predict the future is looking to other regions that are ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating technology into their lives. One example is remote learning in the USA. According to Statistica, the global e-learning industry is growing year on year, and is expected to surpass $300 billion by 2025, compared to $190 billion in 2018.
Remote learning in the US predates the COVID-19 crisis, and is an accepted way of studying for those who don’t want to live in expensive university cities like Palo Alto (Stanford), Cambridge (Harvard), or New York City (Columbia), yet still want the prestige of a globally renowned education. American colleges – notorious for their high fees – have the budget to produce the high quality digital tools needed to make remote learning attractive and successful.
This is something we at Nucco Brain have experienced first-hand. We partnered with Arizona State University on ASU Prep Digital, their global digital high school, to create VR and interactive courses. Research shows that 60% of US teenagers are not engaged at school, and digital courses can be constructed in a way that holds their attention far more effectively. ASU Prep Digital courses include live courses with teachers – proof that educators don’t have to be in the same room as their students to teach persuasively.
Similarly, the current pandemic has demonstrated that working from home does not hinder team performance, contrary to the popular belief of many bosses up and down the country. When normality has resumed, the “teams can’t work together virtually” excuses are essentially redundant.
Once again, the USA is ahead of the curve on this, with remote working a way of life for many people. Remote working has grown by 91% over the past 10 years, with about 4% of Americans working remotely full-time. The sheer size of the country – as well as the reduced costs associated with hiring remote workers – means that the United States has been forced to welcome this mode of working with open arms, much in the same way that the rest of the world has had to adapt to thinking outside of the box – and the office – during the pandemic.
Alistair Robertson is Nucco Brain’s Head of Creative Strategy, and has worked in the US for more than ten years. He points out that people in the USA are used to working from home, and recognise the benefits – both in terms of productivity and flexibility – that it affords employees, “but elsewhere, here’s an inherent buildup of mistrust,” he says. Nucco Brain is currently working from home smoothly from a technological point of view, but it’s important to remember that we have implemented a number of activities – like virtual lunches and drinks – to replace the community spirit that comes with sitting together in an office.
If the US approach teaches us anything, it’s that remote working has potential to long outlast the current crisis and potentially confers considerable benefits. Why commute for two hours a day on unpleasantly busy transport when you could be logged on earlier and in a far more relaxed frame of mind? Better for employees, particularly those with young children at home – and better in many ways for the employers themselves. As long as you prioritise the health of your team and keep people in touch through frequent communication, the physical location – whether that’s in an office or not – doesn’t matter. Happy staff equals healthy bottom-line. That sounds like a solid win-win for all involved.