Jim-jams, traffic-jams and business logjams

Jim-jams, traffic-jams and business logjams

TWO weeks into ‘lockdown’ and BusinessTime in Editor, Peter Richardson, reports, not so much from the front-line as the front-room…

One of the plus points of our current stay-at-home lifestyle has been having enough time on my hands to buy The Sunday Times, safe in the knowledge I might actually have time for once to read more than a quarter of it.

Wading through it I cam across a column by Rod Liddle. It was titled, Working from home proves offices are out of date – we’re more productive in our jim-jams. Now while I profess to having never worked in my jim-jams, I read his column with an increasing feeling of ‘didn’t I tell you so’. The gist of his argument, far more eloquently put than I could ever manage, was that the Coronavirus was already showing working from home is the future, albeit spawned from a rather unexpected present.

He writes: “My suspicion – or hope – is that right now our companies, large and small, will be examining their vast and deserted offices, and the enormous bills for their maintenance, heating and upkeep, and wondering: what on earth is the point of the office anymore? They had a use once, these desolate areas of parched pot plants and plywood cubicles, patrolled by willy-waving middle managers forever calling fatuous meetings, often involving PowerPoint presentations in order to ameliorate their own crushing insecurities – but, surely, no longer.”

Now I know it’s an argument taken to an extreme, but within it there is much truth. BusinessTime in Esesx’s 2020 Vision campaign to encourage greater home-working in order to return some sanity to our chronically over-crowded roads could never have expected such an unwelcome imposter promoting our campaign, but maybe some small shred of good may come out of all this – a more flexible way or working which will help individuals in their search for life/work balance, smaller overheads for over-stretched businesses and, perhaps most importantly, a less polluted world.

Rod Liddle concludes in his column: “Here in Coronavirus lockdown, we’re experiencing a bit of what if might be like if that Victorian concept, the office, were suddenly abolished. A quieter, happier, more efficient way of working.”

I, for one, will say amen to that.

Moving away from home-working and the bigger picture of the economic turmoil caused by the virus, another article in The Sunday Times (note to self, must read it more often!) looked at how the world of advertising is likely to be an early casualty of the virus. It concluded with one of the most sensible comments – from Keith Wood, president of the Advertising Association – that I’ve heard since the crisis began. He said: “It’s important the industry sees the current time as preparation, not hibernation. It needs to prepare to re-emerge as the world re-emerges after this.”

Though he was referring specifically to the advertising industry, there’s a message there for everyone tasked with the currently challenging role of running a business. This is no time for hibernation – it’s a time to prepare for the point, as it will surely arrive, when we need to hit the ground running again. And your marketing strategy will never be more important in terms of preparing that ground.