Four Predictions: Multiple Scenarios
The impacts of the virus and lockdown can be seen in four key areas of life:
Ways of working and use of technology
Pace of life
On a spectrum from temporary blip to a radically changed future, in which everything is dominated by concerns about personal (bio)security, we need to be ready to consider how to adapt and adjust not once but repeatedly.
The important element is to recognise that this, almost certainly, will not be the last crisis we face as a society; we will not necessarily return to normal operating models in many walks of life.
After Covid, further pandemics and the effects of climate change or other global events may continue to challenge us and demand a more flexible and agile mindset.
At the beginning of lockdown, we made four predictions. We share them on the basis that they are characteristics of one scenario among a host that might be possible in a future that was never certain but right now might be more fluid, uncertain and, therefore, more malleable than at any time in most of our lives.
Four Predictions: One Scenario
Resistance to use of technology to facilitate new ways of working will diminish dramatically as a result of force of circumstance and the quality of the experience of working on-line will improve as people make the best of a bad situation and improve their skills. This will become a capability that will make it easier to collaborate on-line than to travel with all that travel entails (and costs). The potential benefits in terms of space efficiencies are already being anticipated in many institutions but the underlying change could well be that on-site experience design becomes dramatically more important. In a post-Covid world, providing you have decent facilities and space in which to work at home, there’ll be no need to travel to work to sit at your desk or work in a meeting room but creative processes studio-culture/”war-gaming”/scenario planning/project workshops/training and development initiatives, etc which require more immersive experiences and less transactional/formal processes may become the real purpose of coming to campus. We’re already seeing, with clients who have never video-conferenced with us before, a dramatic improvement in the quality and efficiency of meetings as people engage differently via technology. Post-isolation though, the craving for contact and for more meaningful interactions outside the home/home-office will still be there. Through the lockdown we will learn which are the activities that require and most benefit from face-to-face interactions and prioritise those in our post-Covid approaches. We will also learn who amongst our colleagues are genuinely productive and essential; visibly busy is not necessarily productively busy.
Travel will become less about the commute and more about the experience (after airlines, rail companies might be particularly worried – volumes down and expectations up). This could be a really significant potential change – the grind of commuting is not something that perhaps many of us will miss and it has opened up scope for exercise and spending more quality time with family. How many people will clamour for more flexible working patterns and will leave their desks/offices unoccupied even after the virus passes?
The change in pace of life will make a number of us wake up and realise the headlong rush is fine up to a point but actually there are nicer ways to spend the day – a 9-day fortnight or 4-day week  actually works and it can be sustained especially if social distancing reduces the capacity of our offices, buildings and transport networks dramatically. We could see shift systems and other devices to spread the temporal load on our spaces over a much longer active week . There is the potential that many people will not be so keen to see lockdown lifted if it means a whole-hearted return to the rat race.
The green dream of a more sustainable planet may come closer but the catalyst will be innovation and enforced changes of behaviour. At the moment, there are few flights, few journeys and we are all consuming less. That may continue. Alternatively, the post-crisis period, including the aftermath of a serious recession, could lead to a resurgence of demand and over-consumption as the pendulum swings back. Consumer behaviour may not change completely when enforced lockdown lifts (although increased personal concerns about biosecurity may well force people to differentiate better between their needs and wants) but it will be strongly influenced by a radically different market in which innovation is much prized (because of the post-virus bills, including higher taxes, and damage to the supply-side as businesses go under). In the middle, surviving firms will have to be leaner, which also means leveraging technology judiciously. New firms will also emerge; crises and recessions are great catalysts for new venture creation and the shifts in supply and demand could be more seismic than at any time. There may also be skills shortages as people give up work or step back from the rat-race or because a very different skills mix is needed.
We have developed some additional Scenarios which can be found in the Resource Section