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  • Lawrence Bailey

I’m trying to work out what the new normal means

There’s currently a lot of talk going around about the new “normal”.

It’s only understandable that we should be thinking in such terms. After all, evolution has hardwired us with the ability to adapt as a species – and if this trait sometimes falls foul of stubbornness and stupidity, well, that’s nothing new either.

For myself, I started out the year with a whole bunch of plans. These have largely been ditched since lockdown and the aim now is to see out 2020 in relative safety, along with those I love.

Like so many others, I’m also thinking about how I should modify behaviours when things finally lighten up. Besides pondering if I’ll ever feel safe on a plane or a cruise ship again, there’s the issue of how to get back to business.

I’m a relatively old hand at remote working. That said, I firmly subscribe to the belief that there’s really no substitute for actually being there.

What I mean is that it’s important for me to be sat in that busy coffee shop at the Village Hotel at SA1 so I can pick up on the buzz of pitches being made and deals being done.

Similarly, a walk along the seafront with the team responsible for restoring Mumbles Pier is essential to appreciate the scale of that ambitious regeneration project.

When I ‘accidentally’ wander into one of the Bay Studios soundstages for a sneak peek at the latest production, it has to be in person. How else do you get to physically touch the set that has transformed Studio 2 into a harbourside with a full-size fishing boat floating on a cellophane sea.

Equally, there’s no virtual alternative for the kind of on-site engagement needed with clients in the construction business, especially if you’re going to gain first-hand understanding of the myriad challenges they face as the nation tries to keep afloat.

Each of the firms on our books massively depend on customer contact as the bedrock of their business – and that’s where everyone is struggling at the moment.

A few temporary ‘fixes’ look likely to become permanent. My guess is that greater acceptance of video-conferencing means I can wave farewell to the erratic rail service between here and London. Phoning in my abject apologies as the train sits idle at Reading station is something I definitely won’t miss.

Indeed, it’s remarkable how necessity has nudged the advisory groups to which I belong towards a productive grasp of online technology. Meetings are a lot more polite too, albeit slightly distracted as we check out each other’s carefully arranged home office backdrops.

This social distancing phenomenon has modified working practices in unforeseen ways. One of my collaborators tells me a new 3D mapping service using drones has actually boosted her land survey business. I must say I’m dead impressed by what I’ve seen of the product so far.

The renewable energy firms who use our services likewise predict a significant industry-wide shift. They reckon consumer demand will remain on a par with present levels but that the future involves smarter generation methods.

Past experience has shown how these guys know what they’re talking about. They’d developed contingency plans in the event of a global pandemic way before anyone had even heard of problems in Wuhan.

However, as I update the SA1 Waterfront Business Club website, I’m still wondering if even the tentative chat about a resumption of near-normality come September is realistic.

Will we go back to handshakes and relaxed networking anytime soon or are we likely to endure life on hold in our pre-vaccine limbo for a while longer?

Don’t ask me, I just work here.

For all the bold statements to be heard at the daily briefings, we’re still victims of happenstance to some degree and there are plenty of uncertainties out there mixed with new perspectives to remind us what’s actually important in our lives.

Maybe that’s what the new normal should be about too.



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