A closer examination of what the new normal entails reveals that fast digital adoption has altered the way firms operate while also delivering options for business continuity.
Recall the situation nearly two years back, the entire globe was on its way to an unfathomable and incomprehensible way of life without ever realising it. A new buzzword, “New Normal,” was coined in no time, and we all understood what it meant. Almost every business house experienced a chain reaction during this time. Whether by choice or need, everyone was driven to improve their digital technology skills. In addition to increased use of digital technology, these organisations’ survival chances improved by realigning to a few previously unimaginable notions for executing BAU. Was this also helpful in maturing the organisations’ adoption of ESG principles and moving them in the direction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)?
Paper consumption has a negative influence on natural resources. The full and complete adoption of digital technology will assist to minimise / eliminating the use of paper, resulting in a positive influence on the entire planet. Natural resources are needed to generate the electricity required to keep the physical office functioning until the last person leaves or the fuel required to get to and from the physical workspace (independent of the method of transportation). Natural resources would be depleted over time in a not-too-distant future, providing a threat of uncertainty that would have a severe impact on future generations’ existence.
This will assist organisations in aligning themselves with SDGs such as responsible production and consumption.
The concept of “remote working” came in second to digital adoption. During the lockdown, the sole alternative was to work-from-home. Organizations became aware of this and created the appropriate arrangements for employees to work from home. As a result of the increased activities of threat actors, security became a top issue in developing the methodology for working from home. As many people had returned to their hometowns because they believed it was safer to be with their families, the workforce was able to complete practically all their responsibilities from their homes, regardless of geographic location. Reduced energy bills (lower carbon emissions) and the surrender of unused rented office space were both seen as opportunities for substantial resource savings. Since anyone may work from anywhere, this opens the possibility of attracting brilliant workers across the country who are hesitant to relocate and hence out of reach for organisations. However, working from home was not the answer because few challenges, owing to human nature, would accept this idea indefinitely.
Humans are social animals and cannot continue to survive in virtually connected world for prolonged time. While returning to fully working from office might be farfetched at present, the option of hybrid model has largely kicked off in organisations. In addition smaller satellite offices spread across the city. This can also show some tangible returns for the organisation as satellite offices would attract lesser overhead (for e.g. rent or real estate cost charged to the business units) resulting in overall savings for the organisation. People will not have to undertake tedious and time consuming travel to physical office space. Travel time and energy saved could help them attend to their family needs in a better way or perceive personal interests and remain connected within their social circle. Some might even take short / long term professional courses / education to help them grow further while some may use part of this time to contribute more to their organisations.
Considering the foregoing and developing policies that facilitate flexible working models can also assist organisations in aligning with SDGs such as good health and wellbeing, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities.
Finally, the talented workforce, which has been limited in their professional journey due to the adoption of the concept of “Work from Home,” is now available across industries, primarily for those burdened with additional household and parental duties that have escalated due to the lockdown restrictions. Its possible to advance one’s career and have more opportunities to demonstrate their abilities, compete, and advance in their fields.
This will undoubtedly assist organisations in achieving SDGs such as gender equality and equal opportunity for all.
To summarise, the “Normal” of the past will never return. The “New Normal” of yesterday is being reshaped as “Hybrid,” and this will be the “Future Normal.” Pandemic was a nightmare, but it provided an excellent chance for organisations to move into more sustainable and flexible models that would enable them future proof their BAU and chart their growth route.
When taken collectively, it would have a significant positive impact on the environment (reduction in the planet’s carbon footprint), society and community (better work-life balance), and governance (Policy for employee focused working model of the organisation).
Milind G. Mungale, Executive Vice President and CISO, Protean eGov Technologies Ltd. (erstwhile NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Ltd.). Milind has 34 years of IT industry experience and recently initiated the process of mapping and planning the adoption of ESG practice and SDG alignment.