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To be (in the office) or not to be (in the office)

Hamlet never had to deal with pandemic restrictions.  Thank goodness.  He had other issues to tend to.  And yet the return to the office is a question currently facing many of our professionals and academics alike.  I have heard that, when entering the lockdown, a number of consultancy projects were put on hold or stood down altogether.  When and how will that work restart?  The impacts on the academic world have caught the headlines, on aspects such as school exam grades and university intake.  It would not be surprising to find academic research has also been affected.

 In our search for a return to normality, we may have to accept that it will be long haul, and some of our definition of normality may have to change.  The charity I work with has been through an interesting experience.  We have several thousand carers looking after people with disability and learning difficulties.  As a workforce, embracing latest technology was never a top priority for our staff.  However, in order to cope during the pandemic, they have adapted and started using video conferencing, emails and smartphone apps.  A significant change that would have taken years to achieve has been accomplished in a matter of months.
It just goes to show that we can overcome ingrained habits and attitudes if we put our mind to it.  I remember some time ago, after I had left the world of academia and started on my career as a management consultant, I returned to a social gathering of my former research peers.  Much of the conversation centred on recent developments in the field of solar physics.  As I was out of date and struggling to keep up, my fellow academics quickly came to the conclusion that my move into management consultancy had been the equivalent of a frontal lobotomy.  When I later recounted the episode in work to my consultancy colleagues, their reaction was one of derision, coupled with comments like "academics, what do they know about the real world?".
As a keen advocate of diversity and inclusion, I always try to promote the concept that diversity takes many forms beyond just gender and ethnicity.  And the more I champion this cause in my various Board roles, the more I realise the importance of inclusion.  If we really want to get the best out of academics and management consultants collaborating, maybe we need to add "inclusivity" to our new normal.
Malcolm McCaig
Associate Director

Thursday 24th September 2020
Hands on typewriter