Has ‘Business as Usual’ left the building? by Stephen Hall, 30th July 2020

Anyone who has worked in the technology industry for a while will tell you, the debate on ‘Remote working’ has enjoyed a pretty healthy track record when it comes to dividing a room.

No matter what side of the debate you fell however, come the lockdown on the 16th March, all bets were off. ‘Business as usual’ was politely shown the door for time already served and across the country, thousands of businesses were forced to re-invent themselves overnight.

And here’s the interesting thing – in the main, the ingenuity which most have shown by adapting to a remote culture has been pretty awe inspiring.

No matter who I speak to, customers, partners and colleagues, the consensus seems that most people have been more productive, meetings have been more focused, actions clearer (because they’ve well.. had to be) and dare I say it, people happier.

It’s not just me right? That’s got to be a good thing and it’s making (what once passed as) ‘Business as usual’ look positively pedestrian in contrast.

To add in some check and balance, I also understand that I’m remarkably fortunate to work in a very progressive company and industry; so even when the unimaginable happened, we were able to both continue to work as normal but we were also able to help thousands of other businesses do the same thing.

Ark is one of the few, if any, data centre companies who exercise Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery with their clients every 2 years. We create challenging scenarios which test all organisations planning and operational preparedness for challenging turn of events – like a pandemic preventing access to the data centre sites.

So, when one of the worse-case scenarios happened, we were all ready to adapt into our practised routines. The Government were very quick to support Ark and Crown Hosting in designating staff as Key Workers and Ark were able to proactively support our clients in assuring them, and those that depended on their services, that we were fully open for business and no services were affected. Good, clear, concise communications – works every time.

Communicate, communicate again and then once more just for good luck.

It really highlights the best aspects of working for a SME organisation. Total focus on our clients and the continuity of service, total focus on our people and total focus across the whole support infrastructure. It puts us, and our customers in the strongest possible position to adapt and help others do the same thing.

Now I think that’s something to be immensely proud of but given the circumstances, I also think there’s strong merit in understanding why.

In addition to detailed preparation, I honestly believe it’s because we’ve been rejecting ‘Business as Usual’ for as long as I can remember. Our whole approach is built to support, acknowledge, prepare for and dynamically enable change.

Our team live in a world where work is an activity, not a building. I wouldn’t call it the evolution of a ‘remote culture’ but one of ‘empowerment’ and I know many other businesses who share the same ethos – so whatever your opinion in the ‘Remote Culture’ debate, I’m not convinced it’s going anywhere soon.

And therein lies the rub – when the dust settles and we pat ourselves on the back for weathering a pretty hairy storm, I wonder how many companies will race back to the office to walk around on the same bit of carpet in the name of normality?

These big empty or semi-occupied buildings with huge infrastructures, security solutions designed to protect assets sat in an office…they’re all starting to look embarrassingly redundant at a time when businesses are both looking to streamline costs and (let’s not forget) proving they can collaborate from every corner of the globe…and doing it well.

Now, in the wake of the unimaginable, Business Continuity is likely to be back on the agenda for most (and rightly so) but ‘How we spend our time’ should also be keeping every business both awake and on its toes.
How can we empower people to be happier and more productive? Well, the answer does not lie by going back to how things were, that’s for sure.

Already, companies like Twitter have overtly stated that their employees can ‘Work from home forever’ and they won’t be the last.

This pandemic may not see the death of the office but if we’re going to take and benefit from the learnings these last few months, it should see its role significantly re-written.

This much is for certain, at a time when ‘Business as Usual’ has left the building, a company’s culture and future won’t be defined by bricks, mortar, bean bags and pool tables rather how well it empowers its people.