The Great Beyond with AJS

As September rolls around there is the inevitable talk of flowers blooming (at least in the Southern Hemisphere), baby birds flitting about and promises of brighter and happier times filled with sun, laughter, and watermelon juice dripping down our chins. 

Inevitably there are songs that we associate with these moments. 

Some of the songs are unexpected, almost prophetic. 

And this one is no exception.

R.E.M’s The Great Beyond – 

It’s this line from the song – “I’m looking for answers from the great beyond” – that has us all abuzz.

Because this is where we find ourselves – In the Great Beyond. 

We have come through the worst of it, moving beyond what the last 2 years has wrought upon us. We have suffered, we have survived, we have remained faithful. 

It’s been heavy, it’s been hard and sometimes never-ending. 

But finally finding ourselves in the Great Beyond, we believe that we can all say – in unison – that we are over it!

Born again and ready for the next chapter 

Let’s be clear, we are not saying that COVID has disappeared completely. Nor that we have seen the last of it. That may be slightly naïve. But we have read that in all likelihood what was once a pandemic is now being managed as an endemic disease that will fluctuate seasonally (and as more variants are spread).

Slowly becoming more manageable (and more liveable).

So much so, that excited onlookers attended the most eagerly-awaited historical event of the year in Venice which opens with a procession of 16th century boats along the Grand Canal. There are 300 athletes that participate in the Regatta with thousands of supporters cheering from the Grand Canal. A truly spectacular sight. 

And (in a way) quite symbolic. 

It’s the first Regatta held in Venice (without any COVID restrictions) since 2020. And that’s saying something. Italy was one of the worst-hit countries in the EU by COVID, only opening its borders to all tourists as of 1 July 2022.

And now, as we transcend into a new season around the globe (both physically and metaphorically), it appears that COVID is just something we will all have to adapt to and live with for the foreseeable future. 

Not disappearing entirely but becoming more normal. Like getting the flu.

And that’s ok. Especially considering where we have come from. 

That said, it’s the next chapter that we are excited about. 

No longer citing the overused term the “new normal”. We are way beyond that. It’s now the Next Normal. The Next Chapter

The Great “Beyond the Pandemic”.

A shift in thinking

We cannot deny that we have all learnt a great deal – about ourselves and the world around us. We have all come out of this phase of our lives a little wiser.

The workplace is no exception – the parameters of work have changed. 

There has been a major shift in how we think about the workplace and our places in it. 

And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

One of the first things that comes to mind – in this context – is the remote work environment shift. It’s not that remote working wasn’t around pre-COVID. It has now just become normalised.

This ability to work from anywhere has done away with traditional physical boundaries and borders. Talent and indeed business opportunity (and growth) can be found anywhere. Because we can look beyond physicality being able to work virtually anywhere.

And this presents a load of opportunities. 

A change in corporate culture

Employees have asked more from their employers. Working from home, has enabled employees to dictate what they want from their employers and what they don’t want. 

Changing traditional “corporate culture” into more of a supportive culture.

The article titled How COVID-19 Has Changed The Way We Work For The Better, discusses this in more detail – 

“For decades, we have been engrained to believe that 9 to 5, office-centric work was the best thing for business. As employees have been forced to work from home, and companies have had to embrace this change, we’re experiencing a change in productivity and employee freedom.

This shift in working life has encouraged businesses to take only the best parts of office culture, and free employees from inefficient processes and bad habits. Leaders are switching their focus from office culture to a more supportive culture, with a new focus on how to improve the lives of employees while still getting the best from them.”

As a result of this supportive environment – where employees are getting more of what they want – they are more productive.

The article Surprising Working From Home Productivity Statistics (2022)supports this statement – 

“A study by Standford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increase productivity by 13%. This increase in performance was due to more calls per minute attributed to a quieter more convenient working environment and working more minutes per shift because of fewer breaks and sick days.

In this same study workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and attrition rates were cut by 50%.

77% of those who work remotely at least a few times per month show increased productivity, with 30% doing more work in less time and 24% doing more work in the same period of time according to a survey by ConnectSolutions.”

We recommend reading Working From Home Increases Productivity, Are Workers More Productive at Home? and Tell your boss: Working from home is making you more productiveto find out moreon increased productivity, overall wellness and job satisfaction of employees due to work from home and flexible working conditions.

The result? Employers have changed their tune from office centric to supportive centric – giving employees work-life balance and flexibility. Supporting and encouraging employees. Something that has been a long time coming. 

Mental health awareness is – because of this supportive culture – also on the increase. Companies around the world have made huge strides in prioritising their employee’s health and wellbeing (both physically and mentally), aligning their corporate culture more closely to the personal values of its employees. 

A trend that we hope will continue even as we enter the next normal. 

Deloitte authored an interesting article on encouraging employee engagement. Read it here.

But lockdown didn’t just bring about work from home situations, an improved work-life balance or taking mental health seriously (all admittedly good things), it had other surprisingly good outcomes –

What else has resulted from lockdown?

A crash course in technology  

There was no choice. It was a sink or swim situation. Employees (and their employers) had to adopt technology. They had to develop new skills and gain knowledge (fast) in how to work effectively from anywhere. The legal profession is no exception to this. It was either embrace and incorporate tech into your company, store data on the Cloud or close your doors. Permanently. And there is no denying that all these new skills gained, and tech embraced has helped businesses continue to thrive after lockdown ended. It was a crash course worth taking. Some would even argue that it should have happened sooner. 

Prioritisation of Cyber Security  

Remote working has resulted in an expectation of access to platforms and set ups to enable a “work from anywhere” attitude or put differently, an expectation of productivity from anywhere. 

Powered by the remote work and hybrid models, employees expect to be able to access all their files required to do their jobs effectively regardless of their physical location. And whilst this great, it can cause a bit of a headache for IT departments who need to ensure the security of sensitive information and data. 

There is thus a pull between productivity of employee’s vs security of data. 

This is where companies need to take a step back and assess the primary risks facing their business. From there, there should be a full evaluation of all new tech brought into the company that supports the remote/hybrid shift and audit the security of these applications. Once companies know what’s what, they can determine the best strategies and mitigations for addressing threats while simultaneously balancing employee productivity. 

Therefore, bringing focus to and investment in cyber security (which is crucial nowadays).

An interesting read on optimism in the tech space is The Next Normal in Technology: A Cause for Optimism by Carey L. Oven and Scott Buchholz

A complete business transformation

We highly recommend a read of this article titled Business transformation in the ‘next normal’. But the one area we would like to emphasise is this – 

“Businesses can no longer solely focus on financial data to assess their performance, drive long-term strategies, and generate sustainable value. They must effectively engage their employees in strategy conversations, create a culture of performance and accountability, and allocate resources in ways that ensure efficient and effective execution of the business strategy. Essentially, people will be the key to business success.”

It’s a lead off mental health being taken seriously, but companies are finally taking cognisance of the fact that their employees are their greatest assets. They need to be nurtured, looked after, and engaged with when making business decisions.

From the above article, there are 7 key practices that businesses should implement to drive performance include – 

1.     “Have a clear line of sight between activities and strategy to help employees develop ownership and accountability.

2.     Factor in environmental and social impact into business values and day-to day decision-making to attract and retain talent.

3.     Engage employees with developing and refining business strategies to meet strategic objectives.

4.     Combine responsibilities for both strategic goals and functional excellence to sharpen performance.

5.     Improve cooperation and coordination across functional silos to optimise decision-making and resource allocation.

6.     Align personal objectives and incentives with organisational strategy at all levels of the business.

7.     Connect external and internal information with financial outcomes to ensure effective decision-making.”

The article The future of work after COVID-19 by McKinsey & Company is also an extremely informative read focusing on the realities faced by businesses (and employees) in this “next normal”.

We have discussed some of the outcomes resulting from COVID. 

Undeniably positive. Undeniably informative and ensuring that there is no going back to pre-COVID days. 

Most of our so-called Spring Cleaning was done during lockdown. Throwing out the things that no longer worked for employees or for businesses looking to not only survive the pandemic but thrive long after it becomes an awful memory.

Innovative approaches were adopted, innovative technologies incorporated, and new ways of working encouraged. 

All positive outcomes.

If you have any questions on how AJS can support you and assist you with incorporating legal technology into your practice – get in touch with us

We would love to collaborate with you as you enter this next normal!

– Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS

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