Coronavirus will improve the way we live and work

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Chris Corlett replies:

COVID-19 is clearly a bad thing for humanity.

But coronavirus will change the way we live and work for the better.

Major events change social attitudes. For example, the First World War killed millions; it also brought women into the workplace which achieved radical advances in attitudes to the role of women.

COVID-19 is causing organisations to ask fundamental questions including what risks can we reasonably expose our staff and customers to?

Closely linked to this is the raised awareness of global warming, so organisations are also asking what environmental costs can we reasonably incur when we deliver our services?

Good questions, which are closely followed by what can we do to reduce risk and harm and how do we do it now? Technology will play a crucial role in the answer.

Technology has advanced enormously in recent years and, if anything, its advances are accelerating. However, there is a growing gap between what technology could do to improve organisations and what it is doing due to a lack of knowledge and trust by both management, staff and customers. Necessity will force individuals, organisations and society to change attitudes and embrace technology, helping us to bridge this gap.

Here are a few predictions:

  • Remote working will become much more common. The risk of infecting others will outweigh other risks such as not being able to closely supervise remote workers. Collaboration tools like Teams and Slack can really help people to work effectively from home.
  • Paperless working. Digital information is essential to enabling organisations to take full benefit from technology so eliminating paper and moving to secure, easy-to-use document-management systems may not seem as exciting as some of the other predictions here, but it underpins them all.
  • Video-conferencing will become the norm for meetings with colleagues and customers. Older workers and managers have often resisted it, but video-conferencing is fast, effective and efficient – if you do it right.
  • Cloud solutions will be the norm. I still see businesses with, say, 50 staff and
    only one or two IT staff running their own servers. The risk of those IT staff becoming ill will make that untenable. Cloud solutions are also usually quicker and cheaper to deploy than IT on-premise systems.
  • E-signatures will replace ink signatures – and fast. E-signatures have been legal, secure and available for years, but lack of knowledge and trust has delayed take-up. However, the ability to get documents signed more quickly and cheaply, without need for physical post and without risk of infection, means e-signatures will become widespread quickly.
  • Mobile solutions will dominate. As consumers, we want easy access to information and services on our smartphones. As workers, patients and citizens, we want exactly the same. The organisations that get this and provide mobile solutions will retain and win staff and customers.
  • Adoption of Artificial Intelligence will accelerate. This will enable many
    services to be provided by AI systems, which do not get sick and can work 24 hours a day.

There will be many challenges and unforeseen issues along the way. But one thing is certain: technology will play an ever-bigger role in our lives.

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