Well I wasn’t expecting that!

When I wrote down my musings on the new lockdown back in April last year, I wasn’t expecting a whole 12months to have been seen solely through a COVID lens, and to still be in the spare room (now officially Daddy’s office).

As we settle into 2021, I thought I’d revisit my previous blog and reflect on my experiences since that glass half full ‘war time spirit’ of the early weeks of lockdown 1…

It’s not new anymore

Ok, I am one of the lucky ones. Didn’t get furloughed, haven’t had COVID, nor have my loved ones. I am not ignoring those less lucky than I, I am sympathetic, for many, circumstances range from tough to tragic & heart-breaking, but I want to reflect on those members of the workforce who kept in their jobs, and how we’ve pulled together and coped, and how this enforced change, I think, has rewritten the rule book.

The novelty has well and truly worn off, but despite being forced into the new ways of working, in the main, we’ve proved resilient, capable and, for many, much happier with the work life balance. I won’t do a full week in the office again.

It didn’t take long to find a new rhythm and adapt. My alarm goes off over an hour later than it used to and my evening starts 3 minutes after I close my laptop. I don’t feel guilty about a mid-week glass of wine, I’m exercising more than ever and we have the time to cook healthily and eat as a family. I do miss workplace banter and the Friday after-work pint though, and the nuggets of useful information (and gossip!) you overhear in the office. MSTeams just can’t cut it. I think Clare might like me out of the house a bit more than our current arrangements though!

Back to work…

With hindsight, those of us in work adapted to their new worlds effectively. Eton Bridge’s networking events moved online and they have proved to be a great way to maintain the informal connections we all crave and benefit from. We’ve been able to take the pulse of our trusted network in an informal manner every week, with clients, candidates, and colleagues from board room execs to project managers. We’ve enjoyed the pleasantly surprised HRDs and business leaders reporting that ‘people are actually as productive, if not more so, working from home’. We’ve seen CFOs wry smiles at ‘how year-end went more smoothly than if the team were actually in the office’, and we’ve shared challenges and ideas on many previously uncharted hurdles – like zoom-fatigue, how to start a new role remotely, or how to launch a transformation programme virtually…

From speaking with clients right across the breadth of industries and sectors, whilst there were some ‘right place, right time, right business model’ winners, it is fair to say the majority of businesses had an unexpectedly challenging 2020. Q1 – positive. Q2 – a bomb went off (metaphorically of course) and all efforts were inward-focused and operational in nature. Q3 – survived Q2, in shellshock, having a breather, expecting more to come. Q4 – go, stop, go, Christmas.

We are now well past the “New Year buzz” and I think the optimism remains well-founded. Au revoir Trump, no more Brexit uncertainty and we have an under-promise over-deliver vaccine programme. Business confidence is on the rise.  It seems blaming 2020 for 2021 results isn’t ok, especially if there is no intervention from leadership – either increasing efficiency and reducing cost, or pivoting model/market to increase revenues. I think we will see M&A ramp up, especially cross-border, and divestments of cash-hungry, or non-core assets; tech-enabled transformations, previously delayed, are back on track. Customer journeys, digital journeys and increasing process efficiency are all in focus too. As we move through 2021 I expect to see a continued upward trend in transformation activity and in the demand for external expertise to make it happen.

This is my closing sentence from the last blog:

There aren’t really many positives about a global pandemic (without a vaccine), especially not while “things will get worse before they get better” but (glass half full remember) when we see the peak (or at least feel confident where and when it’ll be) and when we can see light at the end of the tunnel (no matter how long the tunnel might be). There’ll be good news and upside to add to the community mindedness, positivity, and team-spirit, which have burned so brightly so far….

..and here’s my update:

We now have a vaccine, things will not get worse than they are now, my glass is still half full, I think we’ve seen the peak and there is a brighter and bigger light at the end of the tunnel. The community-mindedness, positivity, and team-spirit burned so brightly all year and I think it is here to stay.

Not long to go now, hang in there.  Good times are around the corner – I think we’re heading for ‘the roaring twenties no2’….and I can’t wait!

Ben Cowan

Partner
Interim Management
Business Transformation


Ben specialises in senior level (£500 – £2,000 per day) interim management recruitment within Business Transformation, supporting organisations through significant periods of change.