Earlier this week I was given responsibility for a vitally important delivery to my daughter’s home – my grandson’s most cherished toy that he would “need” to play with that evening. Whilst driving off having completed my mission, I reflected on the fact that this house is currently the location where important company audit and national policy decisions are being worked on. As I continued to drive back towards home, observing how many cars were parked outside residential properties on a weekday, it struck me that these are doubtless the principal locations of the likes of corporate finance teams, pension fund boards and a whole plethora of key economic functions. A very different nationwide industry picture to that which had existed just 6 short months ago.
So our economy, in common with many others globally, has re-located and re-designed itself in an attempt to maintain its heartbeat.
We read and hear so much about the damage being done to our city and town centres as offices have emptied, but we tend to think less about the new vibrancy being experienced by multitudes of housing estates and indeed rural areas all around us. The longer office locations remain closed, the more we need to concern ourselves about their future usage, or so we are told. This undermines their long-term viability and of course their hitherto recognised valuations. Consequently, the story goes, our economy shrinks.
But doesn't this balance sheet have another side? Surely all these residential properties that are now doubling as homeworking spaces are being impacted by what they are morphing into? How long before we see three bedroomed semi-detached homes, for example, coming on the market as a mixture of residential and office space, with the potential implications for their valuations?
We are also reminded how important it is that offices become re-populated so the myriad of restaurants and coffee shops that depend on them can be saved. But another future is possible - we may see mobile or perhaps even permanent eateries appearing in more and more residential areas, assuming this trend is not already underway?
Perhaps this all seems too much a stretch for us to imagine as our likely future-state? Maybe so, but history informs us that successful organisations are typically the ones that seek to either cause change or drive the emerging trends they see unfolding in front of them. Hoping that “all of this will soon be over” and that we can return to some imagined previously normal equilibrium state feels dangerously like a losing strategy.
Right now, if you’ve not already done so, it probably makes more sense to begin imagining a future where our interactions with each other, within our organisations and with customers, shall change profoundly from what we used to know.