A famous saying goes ‘Circumstances don’t change people, they simply unmask them’.

For once, happily, the mask reference is metaphorical. Regardless, the point is a powerful, valid, and timely one. Beyond the immediate challenges to health, and to life itself, the pandemic has asked questions of everyone, everywhere, from industry and science, to education, retail, and supply chains. However perhaps most significant has been its effect on families and communities.

A brave new world. For everyone.

When the dust from the COVID crisis finally settles, and its societal and behavioural impacts are examined, what will almost certainly be clear is that it has dramatically accelerated the adoption of technology into daily life. Even before the pandemic the digital age was reimagining every commercial and social territory from dating to driverless cars. But when everyday activities, such as going to office or visiting the supermarket, were abruptly halted, demographic groups who had historically resisted technology, and more specifically digital communications, were forced to confront their fears and pre-conceptions.

And guess what. A huge number of these reluctant digital tourists have become happy and settled residents. Many, even after the lock-downs were eased and stores re-opened, have stuck with their ‘new normal’. Discovering, perhaps, that the user experience was simpler than they had expected.

Merchants have also been forced to consider creative and diverse ways to bring their propositions to their customers, and continue to serve their communities. From on-line personal trainers to restaurants becoming takeaways, to survive has been to adapt. The common theme, however, has been the critical importance of communication.

freemove connects businesses

So, where next?

There are already signs that some are beginning to consider that in the future a city lifestyle will be too restricted, and are heading out to live among greener landscapes. This could reframe expectation of what a varied, fulfilling home life will consist of, encouraging people to pursue new activities. And the further afield people go, the more vital connectivity will become.

Meanwhile, businesses must think hard about their employer proposition, balancing flexible working with cultivating of a sense of shared vision and collective purpose. Employee surveys invariably reveal the critical importance of a sense of belonging to the business. As for how businesses continue to remain relevant to the communities they serve, there will be increasing focus on developing propositions which allow customers to continue doing the things they enjoy, but from home.

Supply chains have also been impacted by the pandemic. Whilst global on-line brands such as Amazon have fared well since COVID, a population with lower mobility may well lead to a resurgence in local business communities. A shortening of value chains, in which local business create and distribute product within a smaller area, may also be witnessed in the event that the transportation of goods becomes more restricted.

FreeMove. Guiding the connected world through change.

The FreeMove Alliance is dedicated to supporting each of these areas of change. Members have published their commitments aimed at ensuring their clients can provide the services their customers need at this vital and uncertain time.

Telia Company has clearly stated its mission to enable companies to keep their businesses running, friends and family to stay in touch and to enable people to not only to care for their own safety but also to take care of each other. As data and voice demand have surged, they are focusing on ensuring connectivity and maintaining high network capacity and performance so that life can go on, people can stay in touch and work and businesses can remain active.

And to support the new cohort of home students and home workers Telia are providing help and guidance to individuals and businesses on digital transformation and how to ensure online safety.

reconnecting businesses after the pandemic

Harnessing the post-COVID opportunity

The pandemic has helped to show how, with the help of digital transformation, it is possible for many aspects of our home and work lives continue almost as normal, despite the entirely abnormal circumstances. Nonetheless it also raises an important and much wider conversation. Many of the adaptive changes have, by necessity, been quick and tactical, and carried out locally. They may not have given consideration to anything other than short-term survival.

The full benefit, both to society and the wider economy, will only be felt if the changes are holistic, structural, and do not leave certain groups or areas behind. Organisations without the resources and capability to invest in digital transformation and harness its benefits could find themselves left increasingly behind. Similarly, remote working employees provided with an ‘always on’ connection to their office could quickly find themselves burned out and disillusioned as their work-life balance is compromised.

It is therefore critical that this invigorating new wave of technology adoption is made accessible to all. With the active participation of Governments, businesses and citizens, technology must be made inclusive, flexible, and supportive of new lifestyles, new education models, and new services.

Throughout the world, businesses and individuals continue to work hard and made sacrifices to weather the COVID storm. This too shall pass. The FreeMove Alliance is playing a central role in the provision of support and resources to help businesses and their customers adapt to both short term need and longer term change. With a clear and strong strategic vision, and a commitment to national and international co-operation, it may eventually be possible to say that part of the virus’ legacy was a profound and positive change.