Here is the unabridged article appearing in the latest edition of Professional Security magazine, Vol 30/7, p34.

We are entering a new world of work and while the substance of this may take some time to emerge with any clarity, there are some signs of what we can expect. As so often, predictions are off the mark and reality will be somewhere between the worst and best. Yet, there is an opportunity to reset our working patterns and levels of consumption but adaptation will require effort if old ways are not to creep back.

Here are Resilience First’s suggestions for a restart-revive-renew agenda:

People:

  • Increased social and societal awareness. Many companies are increasingly conscious of their corporate social responsibility in the face of universal hardships with the pandemic and the government’s largess to steer the county away from the economic rocks. This will encourage a commitment to stakeholders as well as shareholders and spur a search for wider, collective resilience. This may result in a greater engagement with the wider community and local services as well as a wider role for diverse partnerships.
  • More home working. From a base of around 5% of people working from home before the pandemic, this can be expected to rise to over half for some companies, perhaps with one or two days in the office to maintain personal contact. Those with home/flat distractions or constraints may be keener to return to the office. The home focus will still require businesses to observe a duty of care towards employees and supply the right type of equipment. Remote monitoring of people at home can allow performance to be assessed but brings accusations of ‘big brother’.
  • Reduced business travel. The rapid and largely successful uptake of video conferencing, together with a reluctance to sit in confined and close proximity to others, will see fewer business-related air miles and airport usage for some considerable time. Those who do fly will see reduced schedules and a dedensification of passenger loading in aircraft and airports to help social distancing.
  • Skills fade. The need to retrain after prolonged absence will be important for people in high-skill environments such as air-traffic controllers and systems engineers. This may require on-line distance learning packages and the delivery of VR computer programmes for staff in key roles. Continuous training will have to be delivered in novel ways.
  • Revised recruitment and retention policies. Companies can be expected to reassess their staffing levels. New working conditions and team structures may be reviewed and new contracts issued as a result. Fewer permanent staff with more outliers/temps is one potential consequence.
  • Increased staff health awareness will be high and witnessed through contact-tracing, fitness, and mental-health programmes. There will be long-term repercussions from the pandemic on some people’s mental health so this should be included in any duty-of-care obligations. 

Place:

  • Reduced local services. With fewer staff coming into the office, there is expected to be a reduced need for many local facilities e.g. restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, etc. Coupled with a reduction in local and foreign tourism, this will put pressure on hotels and venues to maintain income and services.
  • Fewer offices. Greater home working will mean a reduced demand for city-centre office space. Companies may be keen to downsize and/or reduce rental costs. Demand for regional hub sites may increase with a more dispersed work force.
  • Fewer ancillary staff. As office occupancy diminishes then the need for security staff, receptionists, caterers, etc, will fall away. The number of cleaners may increase, however, with more rigorous cleaning regimes. Remote surveillance of premises in preference to guards and patrols could well intensify.
  • More service centres. As on-line traffic grows and people require better remote access and support then there will be a greater need for call/help centres to service enquires and couriers to deliver items to working-at-home locations and off-site hubs. More on-line security will be needed as people use remote access and physical security will be heightened as some retain confidential documents on home premises.
  • Consolidation of assets. As finances become tighter, it would be reasonable to expect a consolidation in certain market sectors with increased mergers and acquisitions. This may inevitably lead to larger (market dominant) organisations, with corporate concentration resulting in less competition.

Process:

  • Supply-chain diversification. Reliance on single-source or single-country supplies has revealed a weakness which will be addressed by either greater self-sufficiency or a diversification of suppliers, or both. The critical mass of production can be expected to move closer to home and cross-border business may decline. This will inevitably come at a price.
  • Increased stockpiling. Greater redundancy through better stock holdings will place an increased demand for surplus warehousing capacity. This will be reflected in a shift from just-in-time to just-in-case logistics. There will be another cost to this.
  • Consolidation of processes. The search for greater efficiency with fewer people may see a streamlining of processes and procedures, leading to a reduction in departmental silos but, hopefully, better cross-silo working.
  • Better connectivity. As the demand for data capacity increases, there will be greater moves to roll out super-fast broadband and 5G services. This will also increase energy demands and infrastructure costs.
  • Quicker adoption of new technologies. There will be an acceleration in the digitisation of processes and payments, plus an increase in e-commerce with greater on-line transactions. This may drive high-tech solutions and technological innovation. No-touch and stand-off interfaces such as facial recognition and remote registration will be preferred in an effort to minimise direct person-to-person contact. 
  • Increased use of automation. In moves to reduce the dependency on people, there will be an increased deployment of robotics, AI and neuroscience – all part of the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Green resilient recovery. Last but not least, climate change will remain a universal, mega-challenge. Recovery from the pandemic should not be allowed to worsen environmental degradation through a rush to return to economic growth at any price.

Further commentary can be found in the ‘Resilience First Guide to Resilience in our New World’, found here: https://www.resiliencefirst.org/news/resilience-guide-our-new-world